By Chad Zimmerman
Listen up sophomores. September 1 of your junior year is a big date for you; it marks the first time colleges are allowed to send you personalized letters—a nice change up from the form letters, camp brochures and questionnaires they were only allowed to send you during your freshman and sophomore years.
“The first week of September is a critical time for every sport,” says Jack Renkens, recruiting expert and president of Recruiting Realities. “The letters you receive from colleges and universities this time of year are pretty good indicators of whether you’ll receive an offer to play at a high level of college athletics.”
Below, Renkens points out some of the key words and phrases you should look for to understand if the coach is truly interested in having you play on his team—or if he’s just being polite.
Being politically correct, colleges try to respond to most of the athletes who express interest in their programs. Letters that start with something like “Thank you for your interest in our program” are usually telling you that the school has little interest in you. So if you get a letter from a top college that starts like that, don’t think, “They’re going to look at me!” They’re not.
“Identified” and “recommended” are good words to read in a letter. “You have been identified as an athlete who has potential,” or “You’ve been recommended to us by so and so.” Both show moderate interest and usually come from the college’s alumni network, someone in your area or a high school coach.
Key words in this level are “evaluated,” “watched” and “scholarship.” Those are major indicators of a strong interest from a college or university. If the initial correspondence from a college stipulates, “We have watched and evaluated you play,” or “We have a sincere interest, and we’re impressed with your performance,” that’s a big deal. Other phrases to look for are “We have spoken to your coach,” and “You are in a position as a potential scholarship athlete.”