A water-polo match

The Atlantic has an insightful new article that exposes how powerful the advantage of playing a “rich kids sport” can be for getting into top colleges: The Cult of Rich Kid Sports. These rich kid sports are water polo, squash, crew, lacrosse, and skiing, activities that require money to learn how to play.

At Harvard, nearly 1,200 undergraduates—or 20 percent of the student body— participate in intercollegiate athletics.

Early in the Harvard admissions process, recruited athletes receive special treatment. Most of the school’s 42 sports have liaisons that relay the coach’s preferences for incoming athletes to the admissions department. Nearly 90 percent of recruited athletes gain admission to Harvard, versus about 6 percent of applicants overall. These athletes make up less than 1 percent of Harvard’s applicant pool but more than 10 percent of its admitted class. (The other 10 percent of Harvard’s players are walk-ons who likely have also benefited from high athletic ratings in the admissions process.)

It’s terrific that people are learning about how much sports impact admissions at prestigious colleges. This has repercussions for racial and socioeconomic diversity as well as for overall academic excellence.