Searching for the right college cheer program is hard. Not only do you have to think about academics, but you have to consider the athletic program as well. However, the good news is that it doesn't have to be a headache. Listed below are all of the important things to do and consider when looking for the right college cheer program for you. Follow these tips, and you'll breeze through your quest for the perfect cheer program.
There are a few different types of programs offered in college. There are UCA division, NCA division, and STUNT. The difference between all of these divisions is the style of cheerleading and skill focus. UCA programs are focused more on stunts and pyramids. They usually have less choreography, and the routines are very centered around each skill. In NCA, cheerleaders focus on stunts and pyramids. However, there is also a very heavy emphasis on tumbling, jumps, and choreography. The STUNT category is something that has just emerged in recent years. STUNT is one of the fastest-growing female sport in the country. It involves all of the same ideas as cheer. However, it is formatted as a head to head match and focuses solely on execution. Below is a chart that explains the exact differences between STUNT and competitive cheer.
Next, you have to choose the type of team that you want to be a part of. There is All Girl, Small Coed, and Large Coed. Colleges compete with 20 athletes on the mat. For the All Girl division, the team is composed of 20 females. In this division, teams compete group stunt, and it is where the females shine. With no help from males, these all-girl teams have bases, tumblers, and flyers, and they show off just how strong women are. The Small Coed division is made up of 16 females and four males. In this division, there are both group stunts and coed stunts. The team can be creative with how they utilize the four males, but females are still going to be required to base pyramids and stunts as well as tumble. Large Coed is a male-dominated team with 11 males and nine females. The stunts in these routines are coed stunts, and on a coed team, usually, all of the girls are required to fly, whether it be in stunts, baskets, or pyramids.
Look into colleges that have your major or majors that interest you. If you are undecided on a major that provides you a little more flexibility on which college you go to, however, most colleges offer a lot of the core majors that people are interested in. Another great option is to look into junior colleges or community colleges to get your general education done, get an associate, and have another year or two to decide on a major. Junior colleges are usually a lot cheaper than Universities and are a good transition into college. In order to find out which majors that colleges offer, go to their website. All colleges have a catalog of majors and minors that they offer and the class requirements for each.
It is also very important to look into scholarships. Find out what kind of athletic and academic scholarships are offered at the school. While some cheer programs will offer full or partial scholarships, some cannot offer any. Look into the availability of scholarships by asking the coach of the cheer programs you're interested in. Academic scholarships are always good to look in to. Colleges have a lot of scholarship opportunities available for good grades. Also, if a cheer program can't offer you a full-ride athletic scholarship, you may be able to stack academic and athletic scholarships to lessen the financial burden of college. To find out what scholarship opportunities are available, go to the college's website, and look at the information under scholarships.
Find a program that is going to match your intensity. If you're someone who loves to cheer for game day, try to find a college that has a great game day. Look into schools like LSU, Oregon, Clemson, Alabama, USC, and many more. All of those schools have a huge game day culture, and their games are extremely fun to cheer at. If competition is something that you are passionate about, look into programs that compete. The first step is to decide which style of cheer you want to compete in- UCA or NCA. Once you do that, a good way to find different schools is to look into the competition results from the past couple of years to find the top-ranked programs. The competition results will also tell you what type of teams the college offers and what division they compete in.
One of the most important things you can do is to go visit the colleges. After researching all of the above information, make a list of your top colleges and then go visit them. Get into contact with the coach of the cheer program and let them know you're coming. You can usually find their information on the school's athletic website or by reaching out to the cheer program on social media such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Ask the coach if you can sit in on a practice, and schedule a tour of the campus.
There are a couple of things that you should find out while on this visit. If money is a factor for you in college, make sure you figure out the program's practice schedule and policy on having a job if you need to get one. You should also look into if the college has trainers available for the team to use. Trainers are a very important part of keeping your body healthy and getting treatment during your college career. Also, ask what nutrition resources are available for you as an athlete. Ask about the academic requirements to be on the team, and if there are any tutoring resources available to student-athletes at the college. Also, ask about the tryout requirements. Most college programs have minimum skill requirements to be on the team. You need to know these so that you can be prepared for tryouts. If you do not have the skills required, you can either train to get those skills or look into different programs that require skills that you do have.
While you are on your visit, get a feel for the coaching style, the campus, and the way that the program and practices are run. Really think about if it is a program that is going to allow you to grow and be successful. It is okay if not every college is a perfect fit for you. That is why it is good to have a few colleges on your list. Talk to the athletes on the team and see if you are able to connect with them.
Most importantly, try to start going on college visits as early as possible. Reach out to coaches and athletes early in the year and make a connection as soon as possible. The easiest way to do this is to go to any clinics or cheer combines that are hosted by the colleges that you want. This way, you are getting face time with the athletes and the coaches of those programs. They will be able to gauge your skill level and your potential for the future. The more face time you have with the program, the more of a chance you have to get in. They will come to know you and your work ethic, and in turn, you will get to know them and get a feel for how you fit within the program. Try to take private lessons from some of the cheerleaders and stunt groups on the team.
Searching for a college cheer program is hard, but if you start early and follow these guidelines, you will find the program for you in no time!