It is tough to judge from a distance how well the system of matching student athletes to specific colleges works in the rarefied world of elite colleges. The Boston Globe reports on Dave Glynn, a star Massachusetts high school hockey player.

Glynn had a choice to make. He was put on a waiting list at Harvard, his first choice, and was accepted to Williams College. Instead he decided to spend the year at Phillips Exeter.

“Academics have always been a pretty big deal for me,” he said. “I want to get in the best school possible, so it seemed like this was the right choice.”

Glynn may be making a mistake. As a rule of thumb, you want to be at the best school possible that you will “fit into” academically. It is tough whether or not Glynn would fit into Harvard, or Williams for that matter. But you do not want to be the dumbest kid in your Harvard or Williams class. Of course, “dumbest” at places like Harvard and Williams usually means pretty darn intelligent, but being at the bottom is still a slow, hard slog. Although I would love for my own daughters to go to Williams, the admissions office won’t be doing them or me any favors if they don’t really belong there.

So, where does Glynn belong? Again, it is impossible (for me) to know about Glynn specifically, but Williams coaches certainly claim that places like Harvard admit too many athletes who really “belong” at Williams. On average, it is almost certainly true that a student athlete who barely gets in to Harvard would have been better off going to Williams. If I can find Glynn’s e-mail, I’ll try to make the case to him myself.

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