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Best Practices for Supporting Student Athletes

Safeguarding student rights and promoting equal access to education are values embraced by members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Those tenets are highlighted in NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practices, and are increasingly echoed in guidelines adopted by other associations to offer advice on specific aspects of the college admission process.

A recent report from the Association of Chief Admissions Officers at Public Universities (ACAOPU) addresses the recruitment of student-athletes. The group’s advice is unequivocal: “The Office of Admissions must protect the best interest of the applicant, the institution, and the integrity of the process.”

Due diligence when reviewing academic and other credentials of student-athletes is crucial. ACAOPU’s comprehensive list of best practices can serve as a helpful guide for both institutions and admission officers. “At the heart of this issue is the student’s academic preparation and ability to succeed in the classroom,” the report states. “…An appropriate level of due diligence is vital. The alternative could result in eligibility issues for the student, (athletic association) violations for the institution and harmful negative publicity.”

ACAOPU offers these guidelines:

SET FIRM DEADLINES: The admission process should not be open-ended for student-athletes. Deadlines are in place to protect the institution by allowing the time necessary to thoroughly and accurately evaluate the applicant’s record. Failure to enforce deadlines can increase the potential for rushed decisions and mistakes. Extending flexibility may result in unfair treatment to the student-athlete.
COMMUNICATE WITH STUDENTS AND COACHES: The admission office should make sure coaches and potential student-athletes are aware that scholarship offers do not equate to an admission decision.
SET PARAMETERS FOR EXEMPTIONS: Unless the institution routinely extends conditional admission, offers should only be made on a rare, case-by-case basis. The conditions of admission should be clearly specified and strictly enforced. Institutions should establish a limit on the number of exceptions to regular admission requirements that can be made for student-athletes.
KEEP THE PROCESS STUDENT-CENTERED: Student-athletes should be encouraged to apply by all regular application deadlines. Third parties, such as coaches, should not be involved in receiving admission materials. Some high-profile sports have signing dates that may not be consistent with regular institutional deadlines. In these cases, it is typical to require an application within 30 days of signing a letter of intent or June 1 (for the fall semester), whichever is first.
ENSURE APPLICANTS MEET ESTABLISHED STANDARDS: Institutions should have policies and procedures in place for handling applicants with prior misconduct or legal issues. These policies and procedures must be the same for all students. In situations where academic performance is inconsistent, it is advisable to contact the school counselor to assess the validity of the performance change. Request verification of scores from ACT or SAT whenever there is a:
  • SAT sum increase (critical reading and math) of 300 points.
  • SAT critical reading or math increase of 150 points.
  • ACT composite increase of 5 points.
  • ACT sub score increase of 6 points.

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