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Why Tim Tebow is an admissions officer's dream

Photo by Jeffrey Beall, used under CC BY / Cropped from original

As a die-hard Eagles fan, I was really optimistic about Tim Tebow’s arrival to Philadelphia. The more I learned about Tim Tebow the person, the more fascinated I was about him. Sure, he was let go by the Eagles a few weeks ago. But something tells me that he’ll end up doing great things with another NFL team, broadcasting, or in another profession altogether. He’s an impact player both in terms of his athleticism and the way he lives his life. His impact is exactly why he would get admitted to a whole lot of colleges if he applied all over again. And, it’s a good reminder for students applying to college who have had to overcome failure, obstacles, and hardships. When you live your life full of impact, you rebound quickly and are able to adapt and succeed in other facets of your life.

Undeniably, Tim Tebow is an excellent role model for young athletes who want to play college sports and make it as a professional athlete. But the rest of us could learn a few lessons from Tebow, especially high school students who are looking to apply to selective colleges. Tim Tebow would have made a fascinating case as a college applicant.

Tebow’s story, life experiences, and willingness to take risks would’ve made a college admissions officer desperate for a chance to recruit him. He was:

  • Born in the Philippines to American missionaries.
  • Not expected to survive at birth.
  • A home-schooled high school student who wanted to play on a high school football team.
  • An advocate as a high school student who led to changes in the Florida state law resulting in home-schooled students getting the chance to play high school sports.
  • A risk taker, deciding mid-way through high school to switch from a well-established football team to a lesser known school in need of a star.

Any college admissions officer would be impressed by his non-athletic resume. As a high school student, Tebow was true to his beliefs and he transformed the world around him. A seasoned admissions officer would have summarized this remarkable young man with words commensurate to his achievements. Groundbreaking. Risk taker. Impact player. If you are wondering what colleges that practice holistic admissions are looking for, Tim Tebow is it.

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Some may focus on Tebow’s race, background, or athletic abilities as the reason he would have a golden ticket to an elite institution. But his magic is really about a young person being able to transcend the path laid out before him. The most successful individuals in our society are the ones who can triumph even after an initial failure, or can succeed in a field far from their intended path. It could be in sports; it could be in the arts; it could be the choices a student makes when adversity strikes. Colleges that practice holistic admissions want students who aren’t afraid to speak out and do things that are unorthodox, all the while remaining true to themselves.

This is a tall order for young people. The youth of today are pulled in so many directions. They are pressured to look and act a certain way and do what others have prescribed. But the students who fully embrace their passion and develop it have the opportunity to transform the world around them. These are the students who will develop into adults who lead. The commitment, sacrifice, and honesty embraced by these young people will help them prevail in areas that no one could have predicted for them.

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While I desperately wanted Tim Tebow to succeed as a player for my hometown team, his story will undoubtedly play out in another venue. He says things that no one else is willing to say. He puts his money where his mouth is from a humanitarian perspective. He does not shrink in the face of adversity. He blocks out the doubters and critics to focus on what matters so that he can be an impact player in all facets of his life. That’s why he would get admitted to a selective college. That’s why he’s going to succeed whether he gets picked up by another NFL team or does something else. We can learn from him and other individuals who pivot, recommit to something they believe in, and stop at nothing until they make an impact on the world around them. That’s what the college process is all about. That’s what life is all about as well.