Six Wellesley High School student-athletes this week each signed a college National Letter of Intent on the second floor area overlooking the cafeteria at the Rice St. school as parents and supporters looked on and cheered.
WHS Athletic Director John Brown said, “For those of you who do not know, a letter of intent is a college offering a scholarship for those students to attend their schools” as student-athletes.
Brown noted that over the past 14 years WHS has had a total of six students sign National Letters of Intent, so this bumper crop of six all at once marks a banner year, indeed.
The students who signed are: Derek Chalmers for the University of Rhode Island, Track and Field; Abby Comella for the University of Virginia, Track & Field; Erin Fleming for Sacred Heart University, Ice Hockey; Bridget Noonan for Virginia Tech, Lacrosse; Nellie Thompson for Marist College, Swimming; and Michael Thorbjornsen for Stanford University, Golf.
Not for committment-phobes
A National Letter of Intent (NIL) is a legally binding contract. The WHS athletes who signed the document stated in part that they were enrolling in a four-year university for the first time. Also as part of the document is the athletic aid/athletic scholarship agreement.
If a student signs and doesn’t go to the school, the basic penalty is that should the student end up going to another college, that student may not play for one full year. In such a situation, an athlete could conceivably receive a scholarship, but in reality, schools probably will not offer an athlete a scholarship unless and until they are eligible to play.
A second penalty for signing with a college and then not attending is that the athlete loses one full year of eligibility in all sports. There is an out: the school the athlete signed with originally could grant a release. There are various reasons such a release might be granted. The school might discontinue the sport after the student has signed; the student might join the military or go on a church mission; or recruiting violations on the part of the college may be discovered, releasing the student from the agreement.
As far as the popular notion that a student who has signed an NIL automatically gets a 4-year a “free ride” well, that’s just not the case. With the NIL, the student has committed to the school for one year only, and the school has committed to the student for one year only. After that year is up, the student does not need to sign an NLI. And after that one year is up, the school must tell the student if their scholarship is being renewed. It’s not automatic or a sure thing by any means.
Also, the NLI is not the same as a college financial aid package. Those are two separate things, and require two separate signings. Predictably, the financial aid document signing is more of a lonely affair, with just the students and the parents probably sitting around the kitchen table.
There’s no free ride (probably)
Only about 1% of student-athletes get the holy grail of a full-ride scholarship (tuition, fees, books, room and board). For those who do, sometimes supplies and living expenses are also bundled into the agreement. For most student-athletes, the NIL helps fulfill a dream of going to college and playing their sport at high level of competition.
Congratulations and best of luck to the Wellesley Six.
More sports: We’re exploring ways to boost our coverage of Wellesley sports during the winter season, but we need your help. If you’re a team manager, coach, player or parent, please reach out to us at [email protected] if you’d like to assist.