How Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps build sports teams
Strong academics are simply not enough to make a strong candidate for admission to a highly selective college, especially one of the 5Cs. With many qualified applicants to compete with, students need to distinguish themselves beyond the realm of test scores and GPA. Athletics set many applicants apart.
With the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens and the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas and Stags, sports play an integral role in the consortium, and student-athletes are embraced at all schools. Claremont McKenna is particularly forward with their athletic prowess, as approximately 35 to 40 percent of its student body participates in a varsity sport at some point during their college careers.
CMC encourages athletics for the sense of community that sports bring to students’ lives, but the college does not necessarily search for students who will add to CMS athletics. A 2008 Presidential White Paper said that the college is “recruiting student-athletes who are qualified to succeed and excel at CMC.” The paper also pointed out that in general “there is no major grade point average disparity between athletes and non-athletes” at CMC.
“From the admissions perspective, we value the sport mostly from the extracurricular benefit and from the personal qualities and leadership skills that a student develops from athletics,” explained Adam Miller, CMC Associate Dean of Admission.
CMS Athletic Director Michael Sutton added, “[CMS] really believes in the value of athletics in training leadership and giving opportunities. A student who couldn’t be admitted just on their own, that’s not our world. What we’re really doing is we are looking for those people with the kind of character and passion for their sport that will stick with us, and thrive in this environment and get the best of both worlds.”
As a consortium with shared sports teams, the 5Cs have a recruitment program that functions a bit differently in comparison to the average school. A PP coach has one team to build from two applicant pools, a CMS coach from three (two for the men’s teams, as Scripps is a women’s college).
Sutton, as well as Pitzer Admissions Director Angel Perez, both stated that it is not the team that comes first. Neither PP nor CMS coaches are in the habit of encouraging athletes to apply to more than one of the Claremont Colleges in order to increase their odds of getting on the team.
“[A potential student athlete is] looking for three components here: a school that’s going to open doors to you when you’re done, a team that you can compete on and be somebody, and friends,” Sutton asserted.
According to Perez, the PP coaches understand Pitzer and Pomona’s “cultural differences,” and that their respective admissions teams look for very different qualities in their applicants. What it comes down to is student happiness; therefore, applying to more than one school solely to increase the odds of making the team is a less than ideal strategy.
Various admissions offices view CMS coaches as valuable resources and they are encouraged to submit written recommendations when they find strong athletic candidates. PP coaches play a smaller role, simply providing a list of athletes to both Pitzer and Pomona admission offices. At none of the schools do coaches sit on admission committees, nor do they have any power in deciding the admissions fates of student athletes. The most a coach can do is unofficially guarantee a spot on their team, conditional upon a student’s acceptance.
Furthermore, when students must choose between academics and athletics, most coaches support the former. “If somehow someone was getting bad grades, I think the coach would be more concerned about the student’s life than the fact that their GPA would make them ineligible to play,” said Emmett Choy PZ ’14, who plays for the PP soccer team.
For a qualified student, athletic ability is one of the many traits that could tip the scales in his or her favor to be admitted into college. However, an academically unqualified student is not going to be admitted based upon his or her talent on the field. According to Perez, “I think the misconception out there is that athletes are looked at in a different pile, that they’re separated. At Pitzer that is not the case.”