Preparing for College

College Admission Tips for Division III Athletes

Question: My daughter is a JV cross-country runner at a school with a very strong varsity team. In fact, her times would make her a solid 4th to 6th place finisher on many Division III college teams. Should I insist that she write to the coaches at all the colleges on her list and tell them about her hopes to be admitted and join their squad? Should she mention her academic achievements, too?

Not surprisingly, the candidates whom Div. III coaches typically push for the most are those they expect to be top performers but perhaps borderline “admits.” In other words, they won’t waste their clout with admission offices pushing hard for a top student they know will be accepted for sure, nor will they waste that clout on more mediocre athletes.


Nonetheless, if your daughter is a good student who should fare well academically at her target colleges, it certainly makes sense for her to write each coach on her list and alert him or her to her application and qualifications. If she’s not a top prospect, the coach won’t fight hard for her but certainly may be willing to lend some support to her candidacy. In fact, there is nothing wrong with your daughter ending her messages by saying, “Even if I am not the strongest runner you have encountered this year, I am a good team member, and I believe I can be a helpful addition to your program. I hope you will be able to be an advocate for my admission at [name of college].”

She should certainly mention her times, but she shouldn’t emphasize that she was on a JV team. (She shouldn’t be dishonest—she just doesn’t need to stress it either). Her JV times may indeed be as strong as varsity times from other high schools.

If your daughter is stalling on these letters, do tell her that they are a good idea and worth pursuing. If, however, it turns into a battle, don’t hesitate to contact the coaches yourself. (She ought to be willing to let you do that, even if she balks at the task.) The important thing is that these coaches are alerted that your daughter is an applicant, and it doesn’t matter at all where that information comes from.