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New SAT test and the Academic Index in the Ivy League

The new 2016 SAT test goes into effect this spring and the question is how it will change the Academic Index calculation for Ivy League athletes. According to the College Board, the new test will replace the old one after the January 23, 2016 test date. The new SAT test is going back to a 1600 point scale instead of the current 2400 point scale. The math section will be scored on a possible 200-800 points and the verbal section will combine ‘evidence based reading’ with writing and will also be scored from 200-800 points.

The Tier 1 Athletics Academic Index calculator, will still have the original Academic Index calculator based on the 2400 point scale, but Page 2 will have the formula for the new version of the SAT.

Since the Ivy League treats the Academic Index as a confidential internal tool, the Tier 1 calculator (or any other online calculator) isn’t authorized by the Ivy League or endorsed in any way. People who have used it, however, have reported that the index number they have calculated has generally been within 1-2 points of the number calculated by an Ivy League coach.

It remains to be seen how the new SAT scores correlate with the old. It’s possible that after some data is collected that the correlation formula between the ACT and SAT may change. We’ll keep up on this and change it if necessary as we hear more.


Approach Your Recruiting as You Approach Your Sport

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of athletic recruiting. We calculate our academic index, compare our times, distances etc with the current college roster, carefully construct an introductory email and wring our hands waiting for a response.

Or worse, we feel like maybe we’re right on the edge of being good enough, so we hesitate and seek reassurance that it’s worth it to contact the coach.

One athlete with whom I had a few email exchanges  and got the exact recruiting outcome he wanted (entirely his own doing, not mine )  offered this advice to someone who was wondering if it was worth “bothering” the coach with a call:

I think you need to go get what is yours. If you really want it, go get it! Call them, write them, let them know you are not just trying to get through admissions and that you really want to be part of their program.

I love that – it cuts right to the heart of it. If you are truly a college-caliber athlete and driven to succeed, you didn’t achieve that by getting out of the way of someone that wanted it more. Approach your recruiting the same way you approach your sport.

The tools and information that I make available on this site should help you determine the best areas to focus your energy and some effective methods of doing it, but spending hours on the Academic Index calculator isn’t going to get you there.

If you want to compete for that school and you’re in the ballpark athletically and academically, then call, email, hop in the car or get on a plane and visit. Go and get what’s yours.


Pushing Back Against the NLI

A high school football player named Roquan Smith made news when he refused to sign the National Letter of Intent with UCLA, opting instead to take a football scholarship with Georgia without signing the NLI.

According to Atlanta Journal Constitution, one unnamed Georgia coach said “…if my son is good enough and is in the same position as Roquan, I’m not going to let him sign an NLI.”

What does the NLI provide? It’s pretty one-sided in favor of the college. The student agrees to attend for 1 year, regardless of any coaching or staff changes that may occur. In some cases coaches leave before the player even sets foot on campus in the fall. In addition, if a player decides he wants to transfer after one year, he has to get the blessing of the athletic department.  If, for any reason, the coach/AD doesn’t want him to leave and play for another program, they can deny the release and the player is ineligible for a year. For a kid without the financial resources to pay for a year of school, that clause will likely make him stay put. Or drop out of school.

But it’s not widely known that the Athletic Grant in Aid form and the NLI are 2 different things. The NCAA’s Susan Peal, director of the NLI, has informed parents and athletes, ‘you don’t have to sign the NLI. The coach can give you an athletics aid agreement, which has to accompany the NLI anyway.’

The question is, will a coach offer the scholarship without the NLI? I think it’s safe to say that in most cases, that’s not going to happen. But a 4 star recruit like Roquan apparently has enough bargaining power to do it.

I think a smart coach could succeed by backing away from the NLI requirement. If one coach is offering a scholarship in exchange for signing the NLI, with all its limits and restrictions – and another is saying, ‘we want you to play here, we’re going to give you a scholarship and we’re going to treat you like a human being – if you don’t like it, you’re free to go”. Who would you rather have your kid play for?

Student Athletes and Ethics – Watch Your Step

“Dartmouth Student-Athletes Accused of Cheating in Sports Ethics Class” – the headline is all over the national news right now. Commenters are piling-on. bemoaning the lack of virtue and honor in the Ivy League and among student-athletes in general.

So what really happened? According to an article in The Dartmouth, a religious studies professor at Dartmouth, Rev. Randall Balmer, designed a course called, “Sports, Ethics and Religion”. The course is primarily intended for athletes, with over 2/3 of the students being varsity athletes. The course is large, with 272 students enrolled.

In order to track attendance, which is part of the grade in this class, Professor Balmer chose to use a device known as a “clicker”. Each student is issued a clicker that is activated during the class so the professor knows who is in attendance. A few weeks into the term, on October 30, Professor Balmer apparently noticed there didn’t seem to be as many students in attendance as there were clicks. He issued a hard copy and a clicker version of certain questions, and noted that 43 students did not respond to the paper version of the questions but did respond using clickers.

Allegedly, some students may have been passing off their clickers in order to get credit for attendance that day.

If true, that would be a violation of the Dartmouth Academic Honor Principle, which states in part, “…any student who submits work which is not his or her own violates the purpose of the College and is subject to disciplinary actions, up to and including suspension and separation.”

The fact that 64 students have been accused instead of 43 means that 21 have voluntarily come forward as those that were in attendance and “clicked” for an absent classmate. If the allegations are true, these kids are looking at possible suspensions and a stain on their academic records.

So that’s the story. What’s the takeaway for college students, and especially student-athletes at high-profile academic institutions?

Parents need to make it crystal-clear to their kids that they must avoid any situation that could be remotely construed as unethical. It seems that the allegations in this scandal basically amount to students signing in their absent classmates. If true, that’s wrong. It’s not stealing a test, copying answers or hacking a computer – but it’s still wrong.

When you’re 18 or 19, you don’t always realize that doing a favor for a friend, even if it’s “Hey, could you click me in at class today? I have a paper to write.” can have far-reaching implications. For young people that have earned their way to places at these high-profile institutions, they have to understand that they’ll be held to the very highest standards of ethics and principles, and judged harshly if they fall short.




Harvard vs. Yale Football 2014

“The Game”. The ancient rivalry actually meant something this year with Yale coming into the game 8-1 and Harvard undefeated, the Ivy League title was on the line. The game didn’t disappoint, Harvard won 31-24 in the final seconds.

Listening to the broadcast can be interesting as the commentators drop little bits of Ivy League recruiting information between plays. A few interesting takeaways:

Transferring in as an Ivy Athlete

Transferring into Harvard or Yale is even more competitive than being accepted as a freshman. For the Yale website, in a given year they receive over 1000 transfer applications and generally have room for 20-30 students. So that’s a 2% – 3% acceptance rate. The question comes up occasionally if the coach can offer any admissions support for an incoming transfer athlete. The answer is, yes.

The Yale quarterback, Morgan Roberts, had been recruited by Yale coming out of high-school but ended up at Clemson as a backup QB. At some point he apparently decided he’d rather be at Yale and was able to get a release from Clemson and re-initiate the recruiting conversation with the Yale coach. Morgan transferred in and has been a key part of Yale’s success this season. So we can say, yes it’s possible for a coach to support the application of a transfer athlete. But this support may be a little easier to come by as a strong quarterback than it would be for, say, a cross country runner or a lacrosse player.


Playing as a walk-on athlete

Another question that comes up is if it’s possible to walk-on as an Ivy football player, and if you do, will you see any playing time?  Again the answer is yes and yes. The final play of the game was an interception by Harvard’s defensive back Scott Peters.  Peter’s, according the Harvard Crimson, was a walk-on.  A walk-on, in Ivy League terms, means an athlete admitted without any sort of admissions support from the athletic department.  Peters, it seems, didn’t get a lot of playing time this year – but was on the field to make the final play of the biggest game of the year. Something he’ll remember for the rest of his life, no doubt.






Flexibility of the Academic Index

In the Ivy League, the Academic Index is used to evaluate the academics of athletic recruits. The method of determining and interpreting the score is covered here. But what about a lopsided index score? If you have SAT scores of 720 math, 720 writing and 540 critical reading along with a 3.8 GPA, that comes out to an Academic Index score of around 213. A score of 213 puts you in the ‘pretty safe’ range by most standards. But what about that 540? Is that going to be a deal-breaker with admissions?

There are some firm rules and standards in athletic recruiting in the Ivy League. The AI floor of 176 is one of them. Recruits that score lower than that are not recruitable in the Ivies, and recruits even near that floor are very rare. The other firm rule is that the average AI of all athletes must fall within 1 standard deviation of the general student body at that school. After those 2 big rules, there is a lot of room for nuance depending on several factors.

How desirable are you as an athlete? How important is your sport to the school? What are the academics of other athletes with similar skills? Let’s take swimmers as an example. In my experience, there is a pretty deep pool of top tier swimmers with stellar academics. If a coach has a list of top national swimmers with SATs of 700+ across the board, then yes, that 540 in the above example may be a problem.  On the other hand, if you are one of the premier recruits in a sport that tends to have fewer academic all-stars – that 540 probably won’t be an issue.

To look at it from the coach’s perspective – he needs to present you to admissions in the best possible light.  He doesn’t want to lose a recruit in the LL evaluation process. Admissions, on the other hand, wants to make sure the athletes are representative of the student body. They don’t want to set up a student for failure because he can’t do the academic work. They aren’t doing the coach or the athlete any favors if they admit a recruit that is failing classes and has to drop athletics or drop out altogether.

So back to the 540. Technically you’re admissible. There will probably be some concerns. The end result will largely depend on the other recruits and how you compare to them athletically and academically.


Early Decision and Likely Letters for Ivy League Athletes

Official visits are starting soon, and in the Ivy League that means the beginning of Likely Letter offers and coach requests to apply Early Decision or Early Action. The fact that you can only apply Early Decision or Early Action to one school, combined with the reality that an EA/ED application is strongly encouraged by the coach if one is to be a Likely Letter candidate, can leave the athlete (and parents) feeling stressed and out-of-control of the recruiting process.

But there is a way that you can hold off on playing your one-and-only Early Decision card until you have the precious Likely Letter in hand. The strategy may not work with every coach at every school, but a reader of this blog informed me that it worked perfectly for his daughter, who will be competing as an Ivy athlete this fall.

So what’s the strategy? Well, I’m not trying to be coy here, but I think if I just put this out there on every search engine it could lose its effectiveness. So if you’ve supported this site and the Kimberly Gillary Foundation by purchasing The Essential Guide to Ivy League Athletic Recruiting, just drop me an email and include the last website listed at the very end of the guide book and I’ll email you back with the details.

Note, added 10/25: Now that we’re a week away from the Early Decision deadline, there really isn’t enough time to implement the strategy. So, as much as I’d like you to buy the guide, I feel I should let you know that it’s too late to implement the strategy this year.

The Ivy League Common Agreement

Common Ivy League Agreement

The Ivy League is an association of eight institutions of higher education, established in 1954 primarily for the purpose of fostering amateurism in athletics. Relations between the member institutions have grown over the years, and representatives of these institutions now meet regularly at a variety of levels to discuss topics which range from the purely academic to the purely athletic and from fundamental educational philosophy to procedures in admissions.

Each member institution has its own identity and character and protects its right to pursue its own educational objectives. Thus, although the Ivy League institutions are similar in many respects, each member institution will continue to make its own independent admission decisions according to its own particular admissions policy. In recent years, however, it has become clear that the transition between secondary school and institutions of higher education has become increasingly complex and that greater efforts should be made to simplify the process through more uniform admissions procedures. It is our hope that by outlining carefully the procedures under which we are operating and by clearly specifying the obligations of both the applicant and the institution, we can help students pursue their college interests free of unnecessary confusion and pressure.

1. General Procedures

All contacts with students by representatives of Ivy institutions are intended to provide assistance and information and should be free of any activity that applies undue pressure on the candidate. No information referring to the admission or financial-aid status of an applicant to any Ivy institution may be considered official unless it is received directly from that institution’s admission or financial aid office.

Ivy institutions mail admission decision letters twice annually, in mid-December and late March/early April. Those who wish a decision in December must apply by November 1. A student may not file more than one early application within the Ivy League.

2. December Notification

Under December Notification, an applicant may be notified that he or she has been granted or denied admission or that a final decision has been deferred until the late March/early April notification date. Two plans are offered according to individual institutional policy:

a. The College Board-approved Early Decision Plan, which is offered by Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania, requires a prior commitment to matriculate. Financial aid awards for those qualifying for financial assistance will normally be announced in full detail at the same time as the admission decisions. An applicant receiving admission and an adequate financial award under the Early Decision Plan will be required to accept that offer of admission and withdraw all applications to other colleges or universities. All Ivy institutions will honor any required commitment to matriculate that has been made to another college under this plan. Coaches from other Ivy League institutions are prohibited from having any recruiting contact with prospects who have been accepted under this plan.

b. A Single Choice Early Action Plan is offered by Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. This plan does not require a commitment to matriculate, and students may apply to other colleges under those colleges’ regular admission programs (spring notification of final admission decision) but not to another institution’s Early Action or Early Decision program. Students admitted under Early Action will be sent a financial aid offer when they receive their acceptance decision if they have completed all of the required financial aid forms.

Students are urged to consult the admission literature available at each Ivy institution for details concerning its particular December Notification Plan.

3. Early Evaluation Procedure

a. As determined by each institution, admissions offices may choose to advise applicants of the probability of admission (e.g., likely, possible, unlikely). Institutions may issue likely letters only in writing, from the office of admission. Likely letters will have the effect of letters of admission, to be confirmed on the common notification date, subject to revocation only on the same terms as letters of admission.

b. Within each institution’s overall admissions process, from October 1 through March 15 an admissions office may issue probabilistic communications, in writing, to applicants who are recruited student-athletes. (Such communications given by coaches, whether orally or in writing, do not constitute binding institutional commitments.) An applicant who receives one or more such written communications and who has made a decision to matriculate at one institution is encouraged (but not required) to notify all other institutions, and to withdraw all other applications, as promptly as possible.

c. A coach may both inquire about a candidate’s level of commitment to an Ivy institution, or interest in attending that Ivy institution, and encourage that interest. However, a candidate may not be required to make a matriculation commitment, to withdraw other applications, or to refrain from visiting another institution, as a condition for receiving a “likely” letter, or an estimate of financial aid eligibility, or a coach’s support in the admissions process. In addition, coaches may not request that candidates not share estimates of financial aid eligibility with other schools.

d. An institution ordinarily may send a “likely” probabilistic communication letter to a candidate (whether or not the applicant is a recruited athlete) only if the applicant has submitted all of the materials which the institution requires in order to make an admissions decision. Infrequently and for compelling reasons, an institution may send such a “likely” communication that does not have “all” of those materials, as provided below, but only if: (i) the other materials in the applicant’s file at that time provide the institution with a clear basis for making a binding positive admissions decision about the applicant, consistent with the institution’s general standards for making such decisions; and (ii) the material in question is submitted before a final letter of admission is issued. In these circumstances, a “likely” communication may be based on a file that includes an official application, an official transcript, the SAT or ACT examination, one essay, and at least one recommendation from the student’s school (either teacher recommendation or administrator recommendation).

e. An Ivy school may respond at any time beginning October 1 should a non-Ivy school offer admission to a recruited student-athlete with a reply date prior to the common Ivy notification date.

4. Common Notification Date

On a common date, usually in late March or early April, applicants to the Ivy institutions will be notified of admission decisions and financial aid awards, unless they have been notified earlier under Early Decision Plan or Early Action Plan procedures. (Letters are mailed beginning in February for the Schools of Hotel Administration, and Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell, and beginning in February for the School of Nursing at Penn.)

5. Financial Aid

All the Ivy institutions follow the common policy that any financial aid for student-athletes will be awarded and renewed on the sole basis of economic need with no differentiation in amount or in kind (e.g. packaging) based on athletic ability or participation, provided that each school shall apply its own standard of economic need. The official award of aid may only be made at or subsequent to the time of admission.

Only the Office of Financial Aid has the authority to award financial aid on behalf of the institution, and applicants should rely only on formal communications from these offices. No suggestion that financial aid may be available that comes from anyone else associated with the institution is binding on the institution. No applicant should consider or accept an offer of financial help from an alumnus, and any such offer should be reported immediately to the Office of Financial Aid.

6. Common Reply Date

Except for those applicants admitted under the College Board-approved Early Decision Plan, which requires a prior commitment to matriculate, no candidate admitted to any of the Ivy institutions will be required to announce his or her decision to accept or decline an offer of admission until the Common Reply Date of May 1. All such candidates may delay their commitment to attend until May 1 without prejudice. By that date all admitted candidates must affirm in writing their single choice.

The preceding paragraph does not preclude students from remaining on active waiting lists and withdrawing promptly from their original college choice upon receiving subsequent waiting list acceptance to another institution. However, the Ivy institutions reserve their right to rescind acceptance decisions from candidates who make commitments to and who hold confirmed places at more than one institution concurrently. Students who choose to remain on an active waiting list after May 1 will receive a final response no later than July 1.

7. Participating Institutions

Brown University, Columbia College, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Yale University

Early Decision for Ivy League Athletic Recruits

I got a note from someone going through the Ivy League recruiting process and her questions brought me back to the gut-wrenching, 11th hour dealings we experienced on the night before the Early Action deadline. Hopefully, I can help someone else avoid that…

I have some questions about Early Action and Early Decision and how that plays out if you are a recruited athlete in the Ivy League. First, should the athlete ask for a likely letter when deciding whether to apply EA or ED?  If the coach refuses your request for a Likely Letter or gives a reason you cannot get one, should the athlete be more wary and maybe consider other schools, programs?

In addition, we are trying to figure out what, if anything, the current dialogue means and how dependable it is. It seems that a lot of problems can be mitigated somewhat by asking the right direct questions, but maybe not. And I do realize that Admissions Committee admits (coaches don’t), but presumably with academic pre-reads and knowledgeable, experienced coaches, the chance of being blind-sided should be reduced, right?

Just to be clear, Early Decision is binding and Early Action is not. So if you designate your application ED and you are accepted, you agree that you will withdraw any other applications and will attend that school. Early Action, on the other hand is non-binding.

In the Ivy League, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia and Penn have Early Decision and Harvard, Yale and Princeton have ‘Single-Choice Early Action’, which means that you are not obligated to enroll if accepted, but you can only designate one school as your early choice.

Coaches like to use the ‘early application’ as a way to get a commitment from a recruit. Although the Common Ivy Agreement states,

“A coach may both inquire about a candidate’s level of commitment to an Ivy institution, or interest in attending that Ivy institution, and encourage that interest. However, a candidate may not be required to make a matriculation commitment, to withdraw other applications, or to refrain from visiting another institution, as a condition for receiving a “likely” letter,”

The reality is that part of “inquiring and encouraging commitment” usually means the recruit will be encouraged to demonstrate that commitment by applying ED or SCEA – this is the part that causes a lot of sleep loss for recruits and their parents. Basically you’re being asked to use your one-and-only early application to a school that  rejects 9 of 10 applicants and the coach has made it clear that he will put you up for a Likely Letter, but ultimately, the acceptance decision is out of his hands.

So  to get back to the questions, if an Ivy coach asks you to go EA or ED but can’t offer to list you for a Likely Letter, you should definitely be wary. Actually, thank him for being straightforward and telling you that you will not be supported. It makes your decision much easier – absolutely pursue other options.

As for the second part of your question, how do you reduce the chances of being blind-sided during this process? Asking direct questions is important, of course. Listening is even more important. There’s a line in The Boxer, by Simon and Garfunkel (showing my age here)

“…still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

Before you pull the trigger on that ED or SCEA application, you need to know that your transcripts and test scores have had a positive pre-read with admissions. You also need to know that the head coach will be submitting your name to admissions for  Likely Letter consideration. I’m stressing head coach because it has happened where an assistant coach has been gung-ho and assured the recruit of support, only to be denied when the head coach decided on other recruiting priorities.

One other important way to protect yourself is to get this done early. When we went though the Ivy recruiting process it all came to an incredibly stressful boiling point on the night before of the ED/EA deadline. Next, I’ll go into more detail on timing the application process to help minimize the stress and leave you with a backup in case things don’t work out.




How to Pick a College

I read a note from a student who had been accepted to two very different schools and wanted advice on how to pick a college. Here’s his situation:

I’ve been accepted to two very good schools. School 1 is ranked in the top 30 in US News, has great research and study abroad opportunities. But athletically, it’s not very strong in my sport.

School 2 is far better athletically, and pretty good academically. I feel like I would have a real opportunity to be a member of a successful team. To be honest I never thought I would get into School 1.  Now that I have been accepted there, I feel as though I have this great opportunity that I shouldn’t pass up. But there’s something about School 2 that I’m drawn to even though my instincts tell me that I might only be pulled that way because of the athletics.

I can’t help but think I’m being stupid to pass up an amazing academic experience just for an athletic one but my sport is truly my passion and I’m so driven to become the best I can be  I feel like whatever decision I make I will always wonder “what if” and I don’t really want to be burdened with that question my whole life. Any advice?

Well, I do have advice. But how meaningful will that be coming from some random guy on the internet? I have, however, built a College Decision Making Machine that I will share with you to help you arrive at your own decision:

Tier1Athletics College Decision Making Machine

Don’t read any farther, go use it now and come back.


Done? Okay, let me tell you how to interpret the results. Go back and look at the ‘intangibles” column. Which school did you rank the highest in intangibles?

That’s the school for you.

We all want to think we make or decisions purely based on logic and rational thought. (If that were true, nobody would decide to have children) The truth of the matter is that we process far more information in our brains than we can present on a spreadsheet. And while we can’t always put our finger on why we decide a certain way – we call it gut-feel or instinct – it’s a powerful and usually accurate assessment of the ‘big picture’. The ‘intangible’ column was the place where your subconscious mind, that has been busy evaluating everything, can weigh-in on the decision.

Take it for what it’s worth – no guarantees that your subconscious has made a good decision, but hopefully it helped you get closer to deciding.