SOCAL’s #1 Junior: Build A High IQ Tennis Player

Cali Jankowski of Southern California is SoCal’s #1 ranked junior as well as the #5 nationally ranked junior. She recently shared her College Administration Essay, when asked to write about the college admissions process. Her message? Build a high IQ tennis player, and the results will follow. Here’s a look at Cali’s insightful essay!

Photo Credit: SD Union Tribune

College Admissions

As an athlete, my college admissions experience was incredibly different from the average teen. I was fortunate enough to receive multiple full scholarships offered to me by the best universities in the country. My college search started during my freshman year, as I began researching schools that had both a competitive tennis program and good business program.

To anyone who is starting the process, I recommend beginning the search process by creating a list of everything you want in a university. What kind of weather is most comfortable to you? Which majors are most appealing to you? Is a big city or a small college town more desirable to you? Are you more comfortable with a small or large school? Does the school have a strong football team which affords more money to other sports? What kind of academic support do the athletes receive? Outlining your “dream school” makes it is easier to eliminate schools. The smaller your pool of schools, the less overwhelming it will be to find a good match.

Once I identified the schools that I was most interested in, I started sending out emails to express my interest in their school and hopefully get an idea if I was on their radar? (High-performance athletes often are known entities to college coaches.) I carefully formulate an email that outlined my tennis and academic successes, what I was looking for in a school, and why I was interested in their school. Taking the time to create a thoughtful email shows a strong work ethic and responsibility- two crucial life skill sets college coaches look for in recruits. Be sure your email is written by you, the athlete, and not the parent. One final piece of advice in regards to sending out emails is to include a tie to the university if you have one.
Luckily, I did get some responses, and I was able to call a few schools to set up unofficial college visits. (Note: that a school cannot legally call you back if they miss your call until September 1st of your junior year.) A few months into my sophomore year, I took unofficial visits to two of my top schools Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arizona (U of A). I loved both schools.

Fast forward to my junior year; I received dozens of emails and letters from schools like UNC-Chapel Hill, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Pepperdine, Virginia, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, Georgia, Michigan and many others. My parents made it clear from the beginning that they could not afford to visit all the schools on my list and so I needed to narrow down my list. I started to nitpick schools and became more precise about what I wanted. I took the time to respond to all emails to let them know my level of interest. (Remember to be responsible: All offers need a response- positive or negative. Politely rejecting a college coach’s offer allows them to move on to the next recruit.) At this stage in the process, all signs pointed to Arizona, Arizona State and Ohio State. I then arrange for an official visit all three schools.

I walked away from my first visit to U of A absolutely in love. Then, I visited ASU a week later and to my surprise, ASU topped U of A. I couldn’t make a final decision just yet, as I still had one more visit to Ohio State planned two months later. Despite having one more school to visit, I was feeling destined to be in Tempe, Arizona at ASU. So, I cancelled my visit to Ohio State. My parents encouraged me to take some time to think through my choice to make sure I wasn’t making a rash decision. So, I had been thinking about it for about a week, when my father received a call form a university coach questioning my interest? The coach told my father that I seemed distant… At this point, I decided it was time to pull the trigger and make my decision known. My heart was set on ASU and I felt terrible stringing along the other schools. So that night I called the head coach of ASU, Sheila McInerney, and happily accepted the scholarship. I haven’t looked back since.

The college search process for an athlete is much easier when the athlete has taken the time before the college search process to develop their game and become an accomplished athlete- working hard for countless hours on-court and off-court refining their physical, mental, emotional and athletic skill sets. College coaches are aware of accomplished athletes and their potential contribution to their team and school, making the search process much simpler for the elite athlete.

So to all the parents reading this: If you build a high IQ tennis player, the college coaches will come by the masses. I thank my parents for supporting my athletic dream and helping me maximize my potential in every aspect of the game, but, not demanding perfection. There should be no part of their game that can break down by counter punchers, cheaters or pushers- the “gate-keeper” of elite junior tennis development.

While the college search process is a stressful time, parents, coaches and children alike should enjoy every second, as it is an unprecedented process that many families may never get the chance to experience. It’s not every day that universities throw scholarships at you!

Now, in the second semester of my senior year of high school, I can proudly say I was accepted to the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. I will be majoring in Sports and Media Studies with the hopes of becoming a sports agent or working on the marketing side of a professional sporting organization. I have no regrets as to how quickly I chose a college because it took a massive weight off my shoulders which then caused my tennis game to improve immensely. I cannot wait to begin my new journey of being a college athlete. Go Devils!

2 Responses

  • Cali,

    Grandma and I are very proud of your academic performance, your tennis performance, and your overall maturity. You have chosen a difficult path, academically and athletically, but we are sure that will raise to the many specific challenges that are just around the corner. And we are looking forward to seeing you more often!


    Grandma and Grandpa

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