Every year, students who are accomplished athletes come to us with the same College Essay Myth. “But College Essay Advisors,” they say. “I can’t write my essay about sports. That’s what EVERYBODY does.”
The notion that all student who play sports write college essays about their athletic pursuits is simply inaccurate. Last year one our our students, a star football player, wrote about his aptitude for solving puzzles. Another student on the school rowing team wrote about her family’s immigration story. Athletes are not just athletes — they are complex humans with varied talents and experiences, many of which are worth exploring in essay form. Still, it is impractical to think that students who devote thirty hours or more of their lives each week to a sport, won’t feel compelled to write about their passion for soccer or aptitude for tennis or cheerleading. And rightfully so. Sports teach valuable skills like leadership, teamwork and discipline. They foster bonds of friendship that often last decades or longer. A working knowledge of sports can even be a lifelong conversation starter among strangers.
Students do not have to shy away from detailing these experiences and what they learned from them — they just have to shift the lens, add another layer, or approach these topics from creative perspectives to make them both original and reflective of a greater range of interests and talents. For example, maybe your experience diving for the ball as a volleyball player allowed you to take a risk in applying for the job of your dreams. Perhaps the qualities needed to be a good basketball player and also the skills needed to command a boardroom. Students might want to steer away from major tropes like getting injured before a big game or scoring the winning goal — though if those stories are treated with sincerity and an innovative perspective, they can make for effective essays as well. The test of whether or not you have achieved the level of creativity necessary to set a sports essay apart from all the rest is this: Could any other basketball player have written your essay? If another lacrosse player put her name on your application, would the details still be mostly accurate? If the answer is yes, find another way in; add another twist; push towards a more compelling and creative conclusion. So, yes, you can write a sports essay — it just has to be a sports essay unlike any other.
Where do you even start when you’re brainstorming possible essay topics for your college application essays? Some go for a walk to get inspired, and others look back on their own experiences. Here are 5 college students who decided to talk about their athletic achievements, or used sports as a metaphor:
Amherst College ‘20
The lessons I have learned in tennis can apply to everybody’s life. When someone begins learning tennis, the main focus is to keep the ball in play. Keep the ball going back and forth until you win the point. I honestly struggled keeping up my motivation in high school. However once I finally found a very steady source, it made life much easier and it kept me going much longer. Keep reading.
University of Pennsylvania ‘18
Numerous times I felt like giving up on my basketball dreams yet I didn’t want to be labeled a quitter. Instead, I wanted to one day tell a story just like Michael Jordan’s and how he was initially cut from the varsity team only to end up becoming the best player in the world; this became the driving force of my basketball obsession after I didn’t make the varsity team during my freshman year. View full profile.
Dartmouth College ‘18
Gliding above the liquid glass, I take deep breathes, setting a rhythm for my crew to act together with one mind. Putrid green bubbles can be seen, rising to the water’s surface to gently greet the most crimson-colored sunset found in the Sacramento Valley, only to be crushed by the blade found at the end of my Yao Ming-sized sweeping oar. Each stroke, I pull harder than I did on the one that came before it; each stroke I tear skin from the blisters found on the joints of my fingers that grasp my oar; each stroke I carry my weapon of bubble destruction with more and more confidence. In the long haul of a two-thousand meter race I remember that the pain I feel is temporary and that I am fully capable of pulling my way past the finish line. Read more.
Harvard University ‘17
It all happened within a split second. I held the orange leather ball firmly between my hands as steaming droplets of sweat ran from my forehead to the tips of my fingers. My lungs desperately begged for oxygen as I stood right before the maroon line fifteen feet away from the basket, crouched into my shooting stance that had been perfected through the hours of repetition spent on this very spot. Despite the meticulous preparation, my knees trembled out of fear and anxiety. All eyes within the gymnasium were placed on me—the shortest of the ten in uniform on the hardwood floor. Tightly shutting my eyes and stiffening my lips, I deeply meditated on the foul shot that was about to be taken. As the cheers filled my ears, I recalled the days in the past when all of this was a brand new experience; slowly, the roar of the crowd faded to a low murmur then to an utter silence. Continue reading.
University of Pennsylvania ‘19
“The 50m freestyle is next. Swimmers, take your positions.” I stepped onto the diving platform as the announcer’s voice echoed through the natatorium and tightened my goggles, not too tight, but just right, like Goldilocks’ porridge. This was my debut since my hiatus from the U10 YMCA Sharks. Standing on the diving board, I could feel the power of the room engulf my being; energy filled my body while my fingers began to tingle. “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis began to play in my ears. View full profile.
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Have you started brainstorming what you should write for your college application essay? If you’re interested in writing about it on sports, unlock the one of the above profiles for free to read the full essay for inspiration!
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.