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Published January 10th, 2018, revised January 24th, 2018
Teen Opinion
Cobalt Scraps
Alexandra Reinecke is from Westchester, New York. She currently resides in Lafayette, where she is junior at Campolindo High school. She writes every morning at 5 o'clock opposite a print of "View of the World from 9th Avenue" and consumes copious amounts of coffee. Her likes include maple-flavored anything and snow. Her favorite animal is a tiger.

While my peers with national awards and Mensa-level IQs receive deferrals and rejections from America’s top colleges, our athletic classmates celebrate the admissions they’ve won through physical prowess.
With 20 percent of Ivy League acceptances reserved for recruits and lowered extracurricular and academic standards (established through the Academic Index), higher education’s bias for brawn at the expensive of brains is rampant.
The Academic Index is a tool used by American admissions officers to determine the eligibility of an athletic recruit; while non-recruits are held to sky-high benchmarks at the admissions table—about a 97th percentile SAT and 3.9/4.0 GPA minimum—according to The New York Times, statistics asked of athletes are the much lower 61st percentile SAT and 3.0 GPA minimum.
As a child, the American Dream was woven as securely into the fabric of my body as was my dark hair, or brown eyes, or the awkward length of my right foot’s second toe.
I grew up—like in my black, tie-waist ballerina sweater—dressing daily in the uniquely American conviction that the individual, through hard work and vision, can achieve unimpeded by tradition or circumstance.
I grew up instructed to work hard, be fair, to never lie or steal or cheat. Implied in that instruction was that my allegiance to such tasks would afford me their usual compensation.
But hard work and dedication have failed to make acceptance to my first-choice university more than improbable. Meanwhile, athletic recruits have swam, kicked, rowed, and dribbled past thousands of other deserving applicants.
Athletics are accompanied by multifarious physical and social benefits – stress-reduction, bodily health, sportsmanship, and community large among them; unduly exaggerated, society’s sports-worship is by no means unfounded.
But the question is not of the value of athletes themselves, but of the practice through which elite colleges and universities aggrandize them.
Disingenuous to its proponent schools’ missions and inequitable to both intellectual talent and diligence, athletic recruitment is a practice which imperils the very core of meritocratic self-definition.
If Harvard aims to educate "citizen-leaders for our society," Yale vows to foster "outstanding research and scholarship," and Princeton purports to be in the nation and humanity’s "service," why are future Hemingways and Kennedys being snubbed to welcome quarterbacks and kickers?
If Princeton had employed the same practice decades ago, rebuffing Woodrow Wilson for a goalie or F. Scott Fitzgerald for a swimmer, would we not live in want of such cultural masterworks as "The Great Gatsby" and the United Nations?
The institutions whose missions mark their commitment to intellectual achievement and societal contribution, in other words, are also the institutions that partake in the inequitable athletic recruitment practice that, by turning away the likely catalysts of these mission-goals to accommodate student-athletes, hypocritically impedes the same achievement and contribution they purport to encourage.
While Yale may produce scientists to benefit humanity, it prioritizes producing football players to benefit itself—its student’s entertainment, its alumni’s sense of ‘connection,’ the revenue sports broadcasting of its athletes earns its multi-billion-dollar endowment.
It is no less fundamentally than they betray their societal promises that Harvard and its peers betray the interests of its prospective students.
Most elite college applicants are academically qualified for the institutions to which they apply. They have high, often perfect GPAs, and similar standardized test scores. Some are nationally, even internationally acclaimed artists, writers, photographers, musicians and scientists. Most are academic standouts.
A cobalt scrap transcends its dollar value when we make it a prize, or a commendation. That an exclusive education is the cobalt scrap of our country’s students also makes it a prize, like any other, susceptible to circumstantial depreciation.
But while a fat envelope, by nature of the recruit’s lesser academic eligibility, depreciates from a commendation of merit to a handout from an athletic coach, akin to a trophy purchased rather than earned, this is an inward and not outward distinction.
Maybe it’s unfortunate that that news of my classmates’ recruitments turns my stomach to a sequined pit, to a pouch singed in shades from cherry to ochre.
More unfortunate, however, is that I’ve put belief in American meritocracy in the same brown paper grocery bag where I once retired that ballerina sweater.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was revised from its original version published on Jan. 10.

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