Taylor Valentine 

Centre College 

March 3rd, 2023 

How to Get Recruited For Sports at an Ivy League School 

The Ivy League, which was initially organized in 1945 to regulate football and then formalized in 1954 to cover all intercollegiate sports, is composed of eight highly selective colleges and universities. Their long-standing athletic traditions pre-date the founding of the Ivy League and go back to the 19th century. Today, their athletic departments are among the largest in the NCAA, with each institution fielding dozens of intercollegiate teams, many of which compete at the highest level of Division I. 

If you are a high-achieving student and an athlete with aspirations to compete nationally in collegiate sports, the Ivy League might be an attractive option. But be sure to understand two foundational Ivy League principles that continue to dictate the nature of these schools’ athletic competition: athletes granted admission must be strong students, similar to the rest of the admitted class (indeed, overall, only 5-10% of applicants are admitted at the Ivies) and there are no athletic scholarships.

What it takes to be an Ivy League student

If you’re looking at Ivy League schools — eight academically prestigious schools like Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale — you’re a student at the top of your class. Since the Ivy League plays against NCAA Division I schools, you’re also a gifted athlete who can meet the specific measurables required in your sport. But the Ivy League recruiting process differs significantly from other Division I schools’ searches for their next class of recruits.

Ivy League schools have large endowments and provide generous need-based financial aid packages that allow students from a wide range of backgrounds to attend. A common misconception is that athletes get preferred packages.

A bedrock philosophy of the Ivy League continues to be that there are no athletic scholarships. Instead, student-athletes get evaluated for financial aid like all students get considered: assistance is based 100% on their family’s demonstrated need, and official aid packages are not released until after a student has been officially admitted.

Coaches do not control these purse strings, but similar to the admissions process, they can guide you to the information you need. You won’t get a better package because you’re an athlete, but if you’re in touch with a coach, they may be able to give you early access to colleagues who can help you understand your likely financial obligations. 

Can I receive an Ivy League athletic scholarship?

There are no Ivy League athletic scholarships. I’m emphasizing that so there won’t be any questions in your mind. That’s not to say that student-athletes would have to pay their way to receive an education at an Ivy League school. Instead, Ivy Leagues only base their financial aid decisions on a family’s demonstrated need.

Should I be an athlete at an Ivy League school?

Suppose you have the academic background (and SAT/ACT scores) to back up your application, and you think an Ivy League school would be a good social and academic fit for your degree. In that case, you should undoubtedly pursue opportunities on an Ivy League roster — along with pursuing opportunities at other schools. Remember, there’s a reason the Ivy League schools are in that league; their admissions process is rigorous.

While college coaches can help student-athletes they are seriously recruiting, they can’t force through an application that Ivy League admissions offices would otherwise reject. So work both ends of the process: keep your grades up and be involved in extracurricular activities to impress the admissions officers, and be reasonable about communicating with coaches at other schools, so you don’t miss an opportunity to play in college.

What steps should I take to get recruited at an Ivy League school?

As with any school, the recruiting starts with establishing a digital recruiting presence and communicating with college coaches. You’ll get a better sense of how strongly an Ivy League coach is recruiting you as you progress through high school.

Since there are no Ivy League athletic scholarships, student-athletes who are interested in joining an Ivy League roster don’t need to sign a National Letter of Intent. Instead, a coach can work with the admissions office at the institution to send you a “likely” letter, which isn’t a guaranteed acceptance letter, but will help you understand where you stand in the applicant pool.

As you develop a relationship with a coach at an Ivy League school, you can ask questions like how often students with “likely” letters are accepted or how many “likely” letters the coach has sent this year. Another factor that could impact your decision is timing. The recruiting timeline for an Ivy League school can be slightly delayed compared to other Division I schools.

While the Ivy League may recruit student athletes primarily based on their athletic ability, they still need to make sure all of their students can handle the rigorous academics offered at Ivy League schools. The purpose of the Academic Index is to ensure that academically underqualified students aren’t accepted simply based on their athletic ability.

The Academic Index is a system the Ivy League uses to figure out which students will thrive as athletes and academic students. So, why is this so important to the Ivy League? Part of the issue is not wanting to admit underqualified students, but the Ivy League agreed to this system partly to discourage schools from accepting underqualified students in order to give an unfair advantage to a particular school.

The most important aspect of a student’s AI score is their GPA. Many Ivy League schools no longer require standardized tests, and many no longer consider class rank. So, a student’s GPA will be the leading barometer of whether or not they are qualified to attend an Ivy League school.

As you may have heard, most schools employ a holistic approach to admissions, meaning they take your entire personal and academic situation into account when considering you for admission. In addition to a high GPA and test scores, this means having a well-written personal statement and whatever supplemental essays the school requires.

You will also need an application that reflects a strong history of extracurricular activities. This often worries serious student athletes because they have spent so much of their time outside of class on excelling in sports. But this isn’t a downside. Ivy League schools are attracted to students who have shown a particular passion and commitment to a single activity.

Additionally, you will need to source good letters of recommendation. Most schools require that you submit letters from teachers and an academic counselor, but as a student-athlete, you can also submit a letter from a coach.

Taylor Valentine Baseball College Coach At Centre College