Fencing in Universities: How to Apply Your Passion to Your College Application

Rubin Caco

Fencing in College: How to Apply Fencing to Your Applications

Fencing has a long, storied history, and while it has been practiced for many, many decades, it remains one of the rarer sports being played today. But despite this, and its reputation for being a sport of the "higher classes," fencing is becoming more and more popular, and accessible, every year for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Many schools in the United States are picking up fencing as an extracurricular, and its growing popularity has seen groups such as USA Fencing partnering with those of us in the education industry to help make fencing more approachable for children and students.

But fencing can be more than just a hobby or sports club. For those that wish to excel in fencing, utilizing the right strategies can help make a big impact on a student’s academic career. And here at InGenius Prep, our goal is to help equip students and young athletes with the edge they need to succeed in their pursuits for higher education. So, in partnership with USA Fencing, we’re here to bring you the best in college admissions counseling and an introduction to fencing in higher education. 

History of Fencing in Education

Existing throughout most of the history of medieval Europe, fencing in its modern iteration came about between the 16th and 17th centuries. During this era, Henry VIII gave rights to The Company of Masters to organize and run fencing schools across 1500s England. In the 17th century, schools across France were founded and began offering lessons on sword fighting. Since then, fencing has had a reputation as a sport of nobility for its discipline and elegance.

Around the time of the late 19th century, fencing's rise in popularity saw the emergence of several organized competitions, and recognized fencing associations also began to appear in France, England, and the United States.

In the United States, Collegiate Fencing began rising in prominence during WWII with Ivy League schools beginning their programs and competing with athletes from other institutes. Years later, the first official Ivy League fencing competition was played at Columbia University in 1956, with Columbia facing off against Princeton, Penn, Yale, Cornell, and Harvard.

Since the 50s, many more schools have adopted fencing, and the barriers to entry are lessening year over year. In 2023, despite remaining a relatively rare sport compared to others, fencing has hundreds of clubs, programs, and varsity teams established across the US. In terms of ease of access, there has never been a better time to begin fencing than now.

How Fencing Can Boost Your College Admissions Chances

While fencing has been steadily growing in prominence over the decades, when it comes to popularity, it is well overshadowed by other sports in the United States.

The National Federation of State High School Associations reported about 4,000 students practicing fencing in the 2019-2020 school year. In comparison, the NFHS reports about 1 million high school football players in the same year.

In terms of widespread adoption, fencing is far from the biggest sport in the nation, which may lead to less accessibility and fewer opportunities to excel. However, this rarity also brings its unique opportunities that other sports don't have.

Top colleges look for students who stand out, who excel in unique and interesting endeavors, and whose passions drive them down roads less traveled. A student being a fencer before applying for college makes them a unique candidate among their peers. A fencer that has achieved numerous accolades is even rarer still and is sure to turn the heads of admissions officers who are reviewing hundreds and hundreds of candidates each year--looking for those chosen few that bring something new to the table.

On top of being a less common sport, fencing's reputation may also give a student the edge they need during the admissions process. Not only does fencing have that reputation of being a sport of a "higher class" with an Ivy League history, but fencing is a sport that focuses primarily on quick thinking, strategy, and mental acuity in a way that is unique among sports. This niche, academic approach to athleticism not only showcases one's precision, dedication, and discipline but also demonstrates one's intellectual performance, which are qualities that admissions officers constantly search for in their applicants. Paired with high test scores, this paints a picture of a student equally proficient in academics as they are in athletics.

And for those who wish to pursue fencing to greater heights, the sport's rarity lends itself to higher chances of recruitment. This, among the unique traits that come with being a dedicated fencer, may greatly increase the chances of being noticed by an admissions officer and accepted into the school of your choice. While this can certainly make a difference, how effective it is depends on how well one implements application strategy during the admissions process. 

How to Apply Fencing to College Applications, Scholarships, and Recruitment

If you are a high school student that is also a fencer, then it is paramount to apply your experience optimally to gain the best opportunities for success.

Students who stand out, who can make a difference in the student body, and whose unique character can contribute to a more well-rounded class are the type of candidates that college admissions officers are looking for when they do their reviews.

So, during your college applications, here are a few strategies to catch the attention of admissions officers:

  1. Extracurricular Activities:

For those meaning to excel in fencing as their goal, being a part of extracurriculars is essential for gaining the attention of admissions officers and recruiters. 

Students should invest themselves in events that showcase their talent and dedication to their field, and for fencing, this includes tournaments, competitions, awards, and charity programs. 

Some of these events can include competitions such as Regional and Super Youth Circuit (RYC) & (SYC), Junior Olympic Championships, and USA Fencing National Championships. Awards can include the USA Fencing High School All-American Program. And some charities include the Fencing in the School and the Fencing For All foundation. Experiences such as these will help paint the picture of why you are an interesting candidate deserving of an acceptance letter.

  1. Personal Statement:

Tailoring your personal statement to your fencing journey is essential for Ivy League applications. In your statement, highlight how fencing has instilled strategic thinking, resilience, and aided in your own personal development. These are the attributes that the top institutions are looking for in their student body, and this is one of the best ways to leave an impression on the college admissions officers that will be reviewing your application. 

Express how fencing has nurtured your leadership skills, teamwork, and your perspective on the sport and on your community. In your statement, you should emphasize the specific lessons you learned from your time fencing and how it has helped you grow as a scholar and as a person—especially in a way that transcends the boundary of the sport itself. 

In this section, it is important to tell a story and create an overarching theme that is not only compelling, but that will make an impression on an admissions officer that will keep you in their minds while they choose which applicants to consider for acceptance.

  1. Letters of Recommendation:

A strong candidate has made not only an impact on themselves, but on the people around them. Letters of recommendation can include coaches, teammates, teachers, counselors, and anyone who was involved in your experiences and journey.

Through all of the accomplishments you've made and showcased in your extracurricular section, the letter of recommendation is where you allow others to make the case for you and highlight how your accomplishments have made an overall positive impact.

  1. Scholarships:

This is where fencing's rarity as a sport may also become a strength. Some scholarships are available especially for fencing, and being a student fencer opens this door to exclusive scholarships. While the competition may be high, this is one of those advantages only available to those that practice the sport, and it should be taken advantage of as you select which colleges you’re interested in. 

Collegescholarships.org, the Fencers Club, and USA Fencing are all resources you can use to seek opportunities and advance yourself in your fencing career.

Local clubs and organizations may also offer opportunities exclusive to students in your area, so be sure to pursue all the advantages at your disposal.

  1. Recruitment:

Despite relative rarity, getting recruited to play any sport is still a harrowing task. As a student fencer, there will be many other students vying for the same position in your league, so expect the process to be challenging and competitive.

Ideally, begin the process early and research colleges and programs that interest you. Narrow your search among the NCAA schools that offer Division I and Division III recruitment. Winter of Junior year is the ideal time to begin the application process. Contact coaches from the schools of your choice, introducing yourself and your passion for the sport, along with your achievements, academic performance, and fencing resume—templates of which are available online.

Attending camps, tournaments, and other events where fencing coaches may be attending is also a good method to get noticed and scouted—given your prowess and personality are on par with your peers. Not only that, attending these events ought to be part of our journey regardless and a good key-point to highlight in your college application.

For fencing, the type you play and the club you are a part of are essential for getting recruited and for getting accepted at a top school. For these purposes, USA Fencing offers rankings and resources to help students place their skill and further their athletics goals. 


Fencing is a unique sport that allows students the opportunity to stand out amongst their peers and make an impression on college admissions officers. The sport’s rarity, focus on discipline, and paths to exclusive opportunities gives the students who practice it a distinct edge in the competitive landscape of college admissions and in academia as a whole. Showcasing your experiences, dedication, and passion for the art of fencing is a must to maximize your chances of success and get accepted to your school of choice. 

If you are seeking further guidance on how to incorporate fencing into your college application and build a strong candidacy to get you accepted into your school of choice, consider our services at InGenius Prep where our team of former admissions officers and college admissions consultants will give you first-hand knowledge on the college admissions process and unlock your potential as a candidate for higher education at the top Ivy League schools. 

With InGenius Prep’s groundbreaking partnership with USA Fencing, we are uniquely qualified to help you achieve your academic and fencing goals. Sign up for a free strategy call today and let us help you turn your passion for fencing into a winning asset for your college applications. 

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