How Sports Can Help Students Reach the Ivy League

February 12, 2024
College Admissions
Extracurricular Activities

Elite colleges and universities host a wide array of students on campus, building a terrific culture of diversity. Part of this diversity includes extracurricular activities and notably, college athletics.

Participating in sports provides far more than the obvious physical benefits. Read on to discover the little known perks of athletics to help you see this huge opportunity in a fresh way.

Try a Niche Sport

Consider exploring a lesser-known sport to help you get an edge at an Ivy League school.

Most Competitive College Sports

Depending on the heritage of each institution, a mainstream sport will be the most difficult to use to gain admission. For example, Harvard and Yale boast storied football teams and Princeton is known for basketball. Among most Ivy League schools, the sport of rowing or crew ranks as highly competitive.

Outside of the Ivy League, Division I schools are larger and compete on a more elite level than a Division III school, which represents smaller, regional colleges.

Less Competitive College Sports

While athletics like football, lacrosse, or crew may be highly competitive (based on the institution) others like fencing, squash, lacrosse, or rugby may be in need of talented student athletes like you.

Participating on Harvard’s sailing team or Princeton’s fencing squad could be a realistic avenue to the Ivy League plan for you. Check out the squash team at Trinity College, rifle at MIT, or even artistic swimming at Stanford for other potential athletics opportunities at elite colleges.

Remember: Ivy League schools do not offer scholarships for athletes. However, other elite colleges and universities do provide funds to attract student-athletes. Participation and mastery of a niche sport could be both a potential advantage for your admissions package and a source of useful scholarship funds.


The benefits of athletics when applying for an Ivy League college are many and varied. Most importantly, you could unlock opportunities for doing a fulfilling activity for the rest of your life. Additionally, sports teach several important values, like perseverance, sportsmanship, and teamwork.

Finally, mastery and enjoyment of a sport can provide a fresh lane for admission to a university. Consider a lesser-known, niche sport at your university of choice as both a way to stand out and a way to enjoy a multi-dimensional collegiate experience.