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Articles / Applying to College / How Do I Show Colleges I Play Tennis if I'm Not on My School Team?

How Do I Show Colleges I Play Tennis if I'm Not on My School Team?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 17, 2018

Question: How can I show colleges that I play tennis regularly (as an extracurricular) without actually being on my school team? I'm in 9th grade, and my high school tennis team is extremely good, and therefore very hard to make. I do play in USTA tournaments though, and am planning on participating in them more often (~ once a month). Is this enough to present tennis as an extracurricular?

First the good news ...

Your college applications will give you the opportunity to list (and briefly describe) all of your extracurricular activities. You can put whatever you want on this roster and aren't limited to organized school clubs or teams. For instance, if you compose flute solos in your free time, correspond with a pen-pal in a foreign country, and play daily heated chess matches against your dad, this is all legitimate application fodder and might even be more interesting to admission officials than the predictable school endeavors. Thus, you should definitely include your tennis on an activities list, explaining that you do it on your own and have also been in USTA events.

Now the bad news ...

While admission officials will certainly view your tennis as a productive use of your time, it probably won't do much of anything to make you stand out in a crowd or to push your application toward the “In" pile. College folks do respect students who make a commitment to sports, but when it comes to doling out admission “hooks," they are largely focused on the athletes who are strong enough to contribute to the college team and are recruited by a coach ... whether by being a star on a school team or by moving up the ranks in competitions outside of school. Most other athletic undertakings will be seen as “worthwhile" but won't give acceptance odds a boost.

Yet, regardless of its impact on college verdicts, tennis is a great addition to any teenager's schedule and can be a wonderful way to stay fit and make friends throughout a lifetime. So I hope you stick with it ... and maybe you'll even improve enough to make your school team later on.

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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