If you’re an athlete being recruited by colleges, the process can be stressful and choosing the right school can be difficult. Not only do you have to like the school, but the school has to like you. It may sound simple, but finding the perfect situation can be elusive. Luckily, there are ways to reduce the stress and increase the ease of the recruiting process. Here are 5 essential recruiting steps to help you with your college search.
1. Determine Potential Fits
Everyone has an idea of his or her perfect college experience. Identifying what you’re looking for in a school should be one of your first steps. Self-awareness is a powerful tool, and determining what most appeals to you about the college experience is critically important. Meet with your family to list your criteria—e.g., academic strength, level of athleticism, geographic location, size of undergraduate population. This will help you create your initial college list.
Research a small but equal number of D-I, II and III colleges and their sports programs. Read about each team’s level of success and dig into a few player profiles to evaluate their level of skill and athleticism. Take into account the school’s conference and the strength of their schedule. Finding the right class of competition for your skill level will lead to a more fulfilling college experience.
2. Identify Your Position of Strength
Do you want to use your strength as an athlete to gain an athletic scholarship, or do you want to leverage your athletic ability to get accepted to an academically select institution?
Just over 25 percent of college athletes qualify for athletic scholarships, and the competition is fierce. College coaches use simple strategies when recruiting prospects, and scholarship athletes are typically immediate impact, blue-chip players.
Coaches from certain conferences or divisions (such as the Ivy League) use slightly different formulas for rating potential prospects. The evaluation begins in the classroom, not on the field. Those schools seek academic information (such as transcripts, high school profiles and standardized test scores) to help them compute a rough “admissions index.” Once prospects pass this hurdle, coaches aggressively begin their athletic evaluation.
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3. Know the NCAA Rules and Procedures
Understand and embrace the NCAA’s recruiting rules. Visit the NCAA Resources page to preview the recruiting manuals for each division and devote time to the chapters on recruiting, eligibility and financial aid.
Your high school athletic director can provide you with an easy-to-understand, scaled-down version of the NCAA rules. He or she should also have experience working with former high school athletes who went on to play in college, so feel free to lean on your AD as a resource for information and insight.
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4. See the Big Picture
Your athletic career is only one part of a broader collegiate experience. It’s important to look beyond athletics when assessing schools that can prepare you for your professional field of interest.
Some “non-athletic-scholarship schools” can, in many cases, still offer significant financial assistance. It’s important for you, your family and your high school advisors to clearly understand the role of the college coach in this process and make every effort to develop a sincere and strong working relationship with him or her.
Once you identify the colleges you are interested in, make an effort to communicate with the right people as early as possible. College coaches have clear restrictions to when and where they may contact recruits and their families, but you and your family may call or email a coach early in the recruiting process, with very few exceptions.
Sending a letter of introduction accompanied by a profile is a great way to begin, but it’s important to follow up regularly with significant updates that have “grip,” such as competition results, statistics and academic updates. If you practice “proactive persistence” with respect, you can a grab a college coach’s attention.
Learn more about how to maximize your communication with college coaches.