Summer is just around the corner. Don't let it fly by without getting a jump on college preparation. Below is a list of steps for each grade level. Use these tips to reach your goal of playing your sport at the collegiate level.
- Create a high school plan. College preparation begins with the classes you take in high school. Make sure you know what courses are required by colleges, the NCAA and the NAIA; and start taking them now. You need to complete at least five solid academic courses each semester, including English (language arts), math, science, social studies and foreign language.
- Attend a summer sport camp or clinic at a college. College coaches and athletes usually work these camps and clinics. You'll get a good feel for the level of play at the collegiate level and a good sense of the coaching staff, players and campus. Check out camps that have coaches from a number of colleges to give you the most exposure. Note: Division I basketball coaches can only work at their own institution' camps and clinics.
- Sure, summer is a great time to relax and recharge, but volunteering or working can help you expand your horizons and discover your passion. Choose summer activities in areas of your genuine interest, not what you think will impress college admissions officers.
- Continue attending college sport camps.
- If you're on a family vacation, find time to visit a nearby college. The experience of visiting a campus during the summer differs from when school is in session, but it can still be worthwhile. Request summer schedules for campus tours from the admissions office. If you plan to contact a college coach, first research NCAA rules on how and when D-I and D-II coaches can talk to you in a recruiting capacity. The coach may not be able to respond or even meet with you. D-III and NAIA coaches can meet with you on campus at any time.
- Begin researching colleges and universities. More than 1,350 schools (all levels) have athletic programs. Reflect on what you want most out of your college experience. Do location, setting and size matter to you? Is your desired major even offered? What are the housing options? What is the level of play in your sport? Does it matter whether your home games are on or off campus? As an athlete, you will depend heavily on your school's training facilities. Make sure to check them out.
- Once you create a list of schools, go online and fill out the team's recruiting questionnaire. This will automatically put you in the team's database and on the coach's radar screen.
- An essential element of preparing for college sports is registering with the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers. All student-athletes who are interested in playing NCAA Division I, II and NAIA sports must register with the respective eligibility center. The centers certify the academic and amateur credentials of all college-bound student athletes.
- Start thinking about college essays. Writing your essays might be the most time-consuming part of your college application process. Give yourself plenty of time during the summer to brainstorm topics and write, review and revise drafts. It's a great time to begin brainstorming potential topics.
- Participate in extracurricular activities that matter to you: volunteering, working or taking a college class.
- Continue to attend college camps and clinics.
- Refine your list of schools. Continue to ask yourself what's important to you. Keep all of your options open; do your research on any college that expresses interest in you so that you can make an informed decision.
- Communicate with college coaches. Now that you have a list of colleges, send emails to the coaches. If a coach doesn't respond to your email, don't panic. In most sports, D-I and D-II coaches cannot email or write you in a recruiting capacity until September 1 of your junior year (in D-I Men's Basketball and Men's Ice Hockey, coaches can email or write student-athletes in a recruiting capacity beginning June 15 following their sophomore year). Make sure your emails contain all of your essential information, including any upcoming tournaments or competitions where coaches can see you in action. Although D-I and D-II coaches cannot contact you, they can contact your high school coach. Division III and NAIA coaches can contact you via email and phone at any time.
- If you're taking the ACT or SAT in June, get plenty of rest on the days leading up to the test, and eat a healthy breakfast on each test day. You are more likely to perform at your best if you are rested and well nourished. When you register for either test, include both the NCAA and the NAIA on the list of places test scores should be sent (use code 9999 for the NCAA and code 9876 for the NAIA).
- Once you've finished your standardized tests, focus on polishing your college essays. Ask family members, friends and teachers to review your work.
- Continue to communicate with college coaches; email updates on your accomplishments and upcoming game schedule. During the summer before your senior year, D-I and D-II coaches can begin to call you. The exact date they can begin and the number of times they can contact you varies from sport to sport. Coaches at Division III and NAIA schools can call you at any time during your high school career.
By taking the initiative during the summer months to focus on college preparation, you'll save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress when school is in full swing.