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Taking School Sport To The Big League

Talented high school athletes can leverage their sporting ability to help secure a spot at a top university overseas – if they are willing to put in the work. While it goes without saying that students need to be the best of the best in their chosen sport, other major prerequisites include, meeting academic and college sporting bodies’ eligibility standards, and showing a well-rounded profile.

“South African schools foster an impressive level of skill and dedication in young athletes – this is part of what makes local students great candidates for sport at overseas universities. All that being said, they need more than their athletic skill to gain admission. When institutions have to choose between two stand-out athletes, they’ll select the student that shows more strength as an all-rounder. Students must be committed to excellence across the board, if they choose to apply as an athlete,” says Gareth Ewing, Athletic Strategist at Crimson Education, and previously head coach of South African men’s field hockey.

Athletically, a track-record of consistent, high-level achievement, is critical when applying as an athlete. While school competition can be intense, it is limited to a set number of matches and tournaments per year. For many sports, this is not enough when trying to stand out in a pool of international applicants. Competing at provincial, national, or even international level, showcases strong athletic ability in a much larger competition pool, increasing chances of entering a recruiter’s radar.

“Dedicating to a sport beyond school level also requires huge time commitment. If students can balance this commitment with maintaining strong academic marks, they are demonstrating their versatility, and ability to dedicate themselves to a number of tasks. These are the qualities that will make them stand out both athletically, and academically,” says Ewing.

Beyond commitment to their own athletic improvement, students must demonstrate that they will contribute to a university’s wider ecosystem. “Being involved in community projects – whether it is coaching students in their chosen sport, or spearheading a sport-equipment donation drive – showcases commitment to using their skills for more than their own benefit. It also helps them develop their leadership, and strategic abilities, which will stand out to admission officers,” says Ewing.

With so many elements to consider, applying as an athlete is by no means an easy route, but there is great reward for those that succeed. “It can seem overwhelming at times, but students don’t need to face the process alone. With a strong support system – such as coaches, application tutors, and connections to previous successful athletes who have been through the same process – they can give themselves the best chance of being recruited by their university of choice,” says Ewing.

Crimson Education is the world’s leading international university admissions consultancy. Their admissions and application counselling model connects students to the world’s best tutors, strategists, and mentors, specific to a student’s needs. The company offers athletic admission expertise, and tailored programmes for students aiming to be recruited to a United States college. This includes assistance with identifying best-fit schools, developing an athletic portfolio and highlight recruitment video, campaigning to coaches, and general application preparation for essays, SAT testing, and interviews.  For more information, visit