How Going Through The “Side Door” of College Admissions Affects Athletes and The Recruiting Process

The news has flooded with stories of cheating and bribery in the college admissions process. The wealthiest and most powerful individuals including actresses, successful business leaders, and other well-known celebrities have been caught going through the “side door” of college admissions.

This “side door” allows for the wealthiest families to guarantee their children admissions to an elite college. This gives them an unfair advantage in the rigorous admissions process as well as a full guarantee of their acceptance. The “front door” is for those who get in on their own, whereas the “back door” is described as an unguaranteed, second look at an application through a connection. Cheating and bribing is no way to attain a spot at a top college. There are many dedicated students, talented athletes and other deserving candidates that are at a disadvantage competing with students using wealth and power to secure a spot.  

As a college athlete, someone who enters through the “front door” of admissions, this brings a lot of uncertainty. A fellow teammate of mine expressed concerns like, “Are these individuals taking away spots from deserving applicants, do college admissions look at our applications last, is any of this fair?”.

The fairness of bribery and cheating in the admission process is the biggest concern for current college athletes and those looking to someday be college athletes. A Division 1 athlete stated, “No one should be guaranteed anything before they receive a letter from admissions congratulating you, along with deserving academics and if so athletics.”  If I were in high school today, learning about the biggest college admissions scandal, I would be extremely concerned about whether my talent, hard work, and academic success would be enough to get me into a competitive college.

The “side door” of admissions robs deserving students of obtaining well- deserved spots at top schools. Aside from spots for deserving students, this side door also limits spots for potential athletes. Gaining collegiate recognition and a chance to play at the next level is a great accomplishment, which very few student-athletes ever get. For spots at top schools to be taken away unfairly due to bribery or cheating is unfair to everyone, especially deserving students, and student-athletes who have made namely sacrifices to get to the next level.

Most shocking, aside from unjustly taking spots away from deserving students and athletes is the dishonesty of those involved in such a scandal. Designating an unqualified student as an athletic recruit to bribe coaches and the admissions department directly affects other athletes. It is unfair for a student who has no aims of being a competitive, NCAA athlete to be guaranteed a spot by admissions, in place of a more qualified individual.

A Division 1 Ice Hockey player said, “What I thought was most shocking were the lengths parents went to, photoshopping their kids onto the body of an athlete to get them through the door was just not fair.” NCAA athletes only have a limited number of spots and opportunities at the next level available to them. Depending on the sport, gender and region to which they want to attend. Athletes also narrow down leagues and different coaches, shorten down their list of schools.

Having a limited amount of schools that are the right fit for an athlete is normal. Taking away one or two spots to get an unqualified “athlete” through the doors of admissions is exceptionally unfavorable for an athlete. This leaves a small number of spots available for student-athletes in the already tough recruiting process

This behavior creates a lot of confusion during the recruiting process, making it even harder on high school students and aspiring NCAA athletes. The behavior of those involved in such scandals Is unfair and impacts many people not only students. This also affects parents in many ways. The time and effort they put into helping their children in high school between college applications and taking time to go on tours could be wasted.

Another athlete expressed different concerns, “It’s not fair that money creates such an advantage for students to attend universities they aren’t qualified for.” For most, students and athletes feel admissions should never waiver or bend the rules to admit a student to a top school, if the student is qualified, he or she will get in on their own.

There are many concerns, especially for college athletes. Allegedly the Yale University soccer coach willingly accepted bribes from wealthy parents of students who were not qualified or competitive athletes. Athletes dedicate countless hours a week to their sport, sacrificing many other opportunities. Another Division 1 athlete stated, “Athletes devote their lives to their sport and have to give up a lot of other things. Spots are deserved not given freely. You have to earn it.”

This “side door” guarantees wealthy families that their children will attend elite colleges. Admissions should be a level playing field for everyone. Deserving students, dedicated athletes, talents of all kinds should be recognized by colleges, not wealth, bribery and cheating to get ahead. This will affect the recruiting process because many students and athletes now are wary of the process, fairness, and opportunities available. The college admissions process is already very rigorous for all students, especially student-athletes. No individuals should be able to guarantee their admission to a school they are not qualified for, let alone take a spot away from a deserving student.

* Originally published on March 25, 2019, by Kathleen McHugh

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