As Long as You’re Sure This is What You Want

Name: Clint Hall

Year: Class of 2014

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Intended Program of Study: Global Environmental Change and Sustainability


I have always been a student-athlete. In elementary school, I was asked to play with the older boys on middle school teams, and in middle school, I turned to club sports so I could play year-round. To say the least, athletics were a big part of my life—but so were academics. Eventually, I’d have to choose which mattered the most.

In high school, I decided to concentrate on only one sport: volleyball. According to my parents, coaches and teammates, I had the ability to play at the collegiate level—and I was to utilize the next four years to prepare for college athletics. As a member of both the varsity team at my school and a nationally-ranked club team, the phrase, “I can’t…I have volleyball,” became an expected excuse for being unable to attend social events. The hardest part of being an athlete, however, was being unable to equally focus on academics. In school, I could see my performance drop after a long tournament or an unforgiving week of practice, and I had to forgo many academic opportunities in order to pursue volleyball at a higher level. And when it came to college applications, I only looked into a handful of schools that didn’t offer competitive volleyball at the intercollegiate level; Johns Hopkins was one of them.

When May rolled around, I began getting early notification of acceptances from volleyball coaches that I had previous contact with: I was approved by the admissions committee and was offered a spot on their team; my four years of hard work had paid off and I nearly decided what school I would be attending—until I got an email with the subject “Congratulations from Johns Hopkins University!” which, ironically, I received on my Blackberry in the middle of a volleyball match.

Almost instantly, I began doing more research about the school. I was intrigued by the idea of not being a student-athlete. It seems strange to most, but I never really knew what it was like to be just a student. I had known enough about JHU for it to spark my interest in the application process, but after my acceptance I discovered majors like Public Health Studies and Global Environmental Change and Sustainability, internships at the NIH, combined BA/MA programs with Hopkins grad schools, the Johns Hopkins University Press and other opportunities that extended beyond the realm of volleyball. I decided to visit Hopkins. The moment I stepped on campus I felt an immediate connection, and after my tour, I fell in love; I knew this would be my home for the next four years, even if I couldn’t play volleyball.

After days of excruciating apprehension, I told my parents of my decision—I was not going to play volleyball in college, I was going to be a student at Johns Hopkins University. An awkward, quiet fog set over the three of us, and as they looked at me, I could see a mixture of sadness, disappointment, confusion and happiness in their eyes. All they said was “Okay, as long as you’re sure this is what you want.” I nodded, but the awkwardness remained. Even though I told the other members of my immediate family over the phone, I could sense they had the same reaction: a despondent surprise at my strange decision. I had spent so many hours practicing and playing volleyball and I let it slip away in what seemed like an instant. But was I to forgo the university I was in love with for the sport I loved?

It felt like weeks before I got a positive response from my family, but when it came, it came full-force. My dad began emailing me little things about “J-Hop,” as he calls it, that he found interesting, like the fact that Johns Hopkins had both academic and athletic colors (if you were wondering, they’re Old Gold/Sable and Columbia Blue/Black, respectively). My mom began wearing Hopkins gear almost daily and even purchased more from the bookstore. My sister visited the campus while in Baltimore and had nothing but good things to say. Now, my family doesn’t stop talking about how much they love Hopkins (it can even get a little repetitive sometimes). It took them a little longer than me to realize it, but they know I made the right choice.

Not long ago, I said I regretted playing volleyball—I mean, it seemed pointless to put so much effort into something that I didn’t even end up pursuing in college. But then a future classmate told me something I had never really thought of: showing passion for and dedication to a sport probably had a big impact on the admission committee’s decision to accept me. So now, I don’t regret playing volleyball, I realized that it made me who I am today. And even though you will probably see me pick up a volleyball every now and then, I’m proud to be just a student; a student at Johns Hopkins University.

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  1. How lucky you are to have the support of your parents.

  2. Eat at Obrycki’s Crab House.

  3. Great post, Clint!

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