Why admit athletes?

I recently had the opportunity to have coffee with Cole Aronson, the author of a recent controversial column (“Admissions and athletics,” Feb. 27, 2017). I believe that his perspective results from a lack of awareness rather than actually being so narcissistic as to think that athletics, or any unique talent a Yalie possesses, is not of value to the larger community.

The stated mission of Yale is “to improve the world” and to educate students to “serve all sectors of society.” When considering admissions, Yale aims to select students who will achieve this mission. This includes students who will take full advantage of its opportunities, who come from diverse backgrounds, who are motivated, able to lead, intellectually curious and have unique talents. And yes, students who perform well academically.

Every athlete I know fits this description. Athletics develop intangible and invaluable traits for success: quick thinking, pattern recognition and emotional intelligence. In fact, elite athletics is one of the only accurate predictors of success in the medical field. Three of the five U.S. Presidents who have attended Yale participated in varsity athletics.

From my experience, athletes receive much less admissions support than Aronson claims. Ivy League schools don’t do “commitments” like other Division I schools. Coaches can calculate the “Academic Index,” which requires a prospect’s grades and scores to align with those of the overall student body. Yale has the highest academic standards in the country for Division I student-athletes, a standard comparable to applicants with unique talents in other fields. Athletes who decide to play here forgo official offers of admissions from other elite programs in order to try their hand at Yale. Why? As some of the most academically successful students in the country, they prioritize love for learning over love for their sport. When Stanford starts offering admissions spots to promising 15-year-old poets effective upon high school graduation, then the English department absolutely should be able to recruit high schoolers.

To anybody who still believes Division I athletics doesn’t offer anything: I would challenge you to adopt the mindset of a high-level athlete for only a month. Push yourself every day to keep your mind and body in check. Develop skills for love of the game and of the challenge and of the player next to you. Only then come out saying that your mindset hasn’t changed. I told Aronson just as much.

Chaney Kalinich ’19

Chaney Kalinich is a member of the Yale Field Hockey team