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Articles / Applying to College / Are so-called "jock" schools less strong in academics?

Feb. 11, 2002

Are so-called "jock" schools less strong in academics?

Question: Are so-called "jock" schools less strong in academics?

First, let's define what a "jock" school is for the benefit of those who may not know. A jock school is a college or university that has a reputation for being highly competitive in intercollegiate sports. These schools are known also for aggressively recruiting athletes to keep their sports program strong.


There is no necessary correlation between a strong athletic program and weak academics. There any number of examples of schools that have good sports programs and excellent academics. Back in 1997, Princeton University won a record number of NCAA Division I and Ivy League sports championships. They won the NCAA lacrosse title and the Ivy League football championship. I don't think anyone questions Princeton's academic credentials. Dartmouth College is another Ivy

League example. They have a reputation for both sports and academic excellence.

Penn State University, one of the nation's more selective public universities, is known, of course, as a national football power. They also have very competitive teams in a number of other areas. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture here.

The term "jock school" is a stereotype. We know how misleading stereotypes can be. My only advice to anyone trying to judge the relative academic strength of schools that have a strong sports program is to check graduation rates. Princeton and Dartmouth graduate almost every incoming freshman. Their graduation percentage is in the 95-97 percent range. Some schools, however, may be graduating only 40 percent of their freshman.

In cases where a high number of freshmen graduate, you can be assured that the academics at that school are strong and that qualified applicants are admitted regardless of how strong their jock image may be.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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