Harvard and Athletic Recruitment

Can anyone advise me on how athletic recruitment at Harvard works as it feels very opaque. A coach recently reached out to my daughter (unexpectedly) and said at the end of the call that if she was interested she should write an essay that he could add to her academic file. If anyone has experience or understanding of what this should/could be, it would be very helpful. We’re rather confused and want to make sure she does her best.

Is your daughter currently on the waitlist at Harvard for the class of 2025? If so, adding an essay or coach input might help move her to the top of the list. If your daughter is a junior in high school or younger, the request seems unusual and is worth a follow-up call with the coach. We experienced one high academic LAC that required an essay as part of the pre-read process, and my son still gives me grief for making him write that essay. I doubt this is the reason for the request, but we had the distinct impression that some schools wanted to hear “You are my #1 choice” before they would show their cards (In relationship terms, they wanted to hear “I love you” before they would say “I love you, too.”)

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Thank you. I think you are right - I’m guessing that this part of some pre-assessment screening that occurs before regular pre-reads. Perhaps in a test-optional world, there is a need to screen every other way possible. I guess they still have to meet the usual Athletic index hurdles but with less data to assign a score adding complexity.

What year is she? Is this a sport where Harvard is nationally competitive (eg. crew)? Has she been recruited at other schools?

When I was looking at Harvard, I reached out myself to the coach, then I had an unofficial visit. After that, we talked and he told me that I would not be offered a recruiting spot (not surprising based on my skill) but I was promised a recommendation letter on my application, which didn’t end up coming through. I never wrote essays for any recruiting purposes.

Thanks for your thoughts…I agree it seems strange but I think its all part of the covid-recruiting strangeness. She is in a niche sport so maybe some coaches do things differently. She really liked the coach but I think its a complicated recruiting process, and highly competitive too of-course!

Did your daughter get a clear explanation of the recruiting process from the coach that included discussion of pre reads, official visits, and/or formal admissions support and a likely letter? I’d be curious how the coach explained the role of this essay in all that.

Any other Ivy and I’d say this is a sign your daughter isn’t in the pool of recruits likely to get support. But I’ve heard consistently strange stories about Harvard in the sport I follow, and from athletes I know well. Top recruits being told they must verbally commit before coming on an official visit (that coach is now gone), others being told they’ll need to submit a complete application before being offered support, and a few being offered a letter of support—but not formal coach support resulting in a likely letter—from the coach to admissions, which might or might not help. Still others got a crystal clear explanation of the process and where they stood, went on OVs, etc. just like any other Ivy.

So I don’t know how to read this request for an essay. I’d keep the discussions going and ask more questions about the process, when they make decisions about who to support, and whether your daughter might receive support. And of course I’d contact every other Ivy coach to see if there’s recruiting interest. They usually target the same pool of athletes.

My Harvard experience was similarly weird! Although I had the standard unofficial visit, they wouldn’t really tell me anything, and they encouraged me to verbally commit as a junior even though they didn’t have a spot for me. I agree that Harvard is a whole different ballgame than the other Ivies.