Guest Post by Dave LaFlamme, Brown University Men’s Rugby
Coaching college rugby here in America, at one of the nation’s top-ranked academic institutions, requires a unique approach. I have to balance both the athletic nature of a competitive sport as well as the academic nature of an institution such as Brown University. As any coach in America will tell you, we wear many hats. The majority of colleges simply don’t have the same support structure that many of the traditional sports do. That’s starting to change. You certainly are seeing this happen at a number of schools more specifically with the woman’s game.
One of the hats that I find I wear daily is that of an admissions advisor. I’ve had to become proficient at reading academic transcripts and other admissions qualifications. I don’t do this to simply figure out who’s going to make the cut, I do this to provide accurate feedback so families can make accurate decisions about their future college choices.
Every student has the opportunity to get an excellent education no matter what school they choose. It’s how that student applies themselves that really matters. That being said, there are some highly competitive schools here in America that can lead to significant advantages later on in life. The challenge… how to get accepted into one.
For the incoming class of 2025, Brown University saw 46,568 students try their luck at the admissions process. For 94.6% of that group, the decision was not favorable. So, what can a student do to hone in on the right school and better their chances? Here are some areas I’ve seen that can help.
The first step is when to begin. If a student has a desire to attend a school like an Ivy, starting the process in your senior year may be too late. It always amazes me how many emails I’ll get in December from students looking at applying to Brown less than a month away. The more successful ones start in their junior years… some even earlier. That’s still no guarantee you’ll be successful. Regardless, those that start early will have a better understanding as to where they may sit in the process. It’s all about making educated decisions and not taking a shot in the dark. Back out on the timeline from when applications are due. That will paint a clear picture as to why you need to start early on.
Do your homework and pull in multiple resources. These resources should include minimally your school guidance counselor and parents; however, it can also include family friends, students at the schools you are looking at, other college guidance people (like Rugger’s Edge), and, of course, coaches like me. You need to be realistic. That conversation with your guidance counselor is important to understand if a school is within reach, more of a reach, or completely a pipe dream. Don’t choose a school just because of a name. You need to look at what that school has to offer. Is it in line with the direction you want to go in life? One of the questions on Brown's application is “Why Brown”. The answer simply cannot be “to get an Ivy League education” or “because Brown is the only Ivy with no core classes to graduate”. You really need to drill into the “Why” part. If at all possible visit the top schools on your list. Covid certainly threw a wrench into that but schools are starting to open up. Even if you can’t do an official tour, know what you are getting into. Every school has a different feel. You’re going to spend the next few years there so make sure you’re comfortable with that decision.
Don’t think ED/EA is easier. ED/EA has to be right for you. Weigh all the factors. While the percentage of acceptances may be higher, so is the caliber of students applying. For a binding decision, you only get one shot… use it wisely.
Along the same lines, don’t think test-optional is easier. This was a major factor here in the Ivies last year. It also resulted in much lower acceptance rates. Competitive schools will drill in deep to your results and the content of the classes you took (we call it academic rigor). Yes, you may be participating in three sports and multiple clubs however competitive schools expect that you can manage all that and achieve strong results. We’re talking fractions of percentages between making it in and not. Don’t make excuses why you think they should cut you some slack. In the end, there’s another student who put the extra work in.
Stay tuned for Part II next month!