The recruiting process can be fun, but it can also be stressful. And if you’re just beginning, much of that stress can stem from worry about what you should know. So, if you’re wondering how to get your recruiting rolling, start by assembling a list of schools you might be interested in. To do that, start by asking these questions:

How Do I Assemble A Target List of Schools?

If you’re a high school freshman or sophomore (or whenever you start working to get recruited), assembling a list of target schools is the first step in the process. Start with 10 or so schools you think might be a good fit for you. While everyone’s goals and desires will differ, most base their lists on the athletic program, the coaches, the academics, the tradition, scholarship opportunities, and even proximity to home. There are no right or wrong choices when assembling your list, and nothing is etched in stone. As you do your research, it’s perfectly normal to update your target list. Given that, don’t be surprised if the target list you assemble as a freshman or sophomore is completely different by the time you’re a senior. 

What Do I Look For When Considering Schools On My List?

Regardless of your skill as an athlete, as a recruit, you are considered a “student-athlete.” So the first question you should ask when looking at schools on your target list is, ”What are the academic requirements at this school, and do they offer a major in my preferred area of study?” As entrance requirements are different for every school, you’ll need to ensure you have the grades to be admitted to each school on your list. You’re also required to complete a set of core courses in high school, carry a minimum GPA, and hit minimum entrance exam scores before you can be academically eligible in the eyes of the NCAA. 

So, the earlier you start your recruiting, the more time you’ll have to get your grades and entrance exam scores in shape before graduation. If you’re not sure where you stand, check with an academic counselor to ensure you’re on track to graduate. Then, compare your GPA and entrance exam scores to the requirements for the schools on your list. If you’re close, work harder to get your grades up and improve your ACT or SAT scores. And if a school on your list has rigid entrance exam scores that you may not be able to meet, or if it doesn’t offer a degree in your major, cross that school off your list and add another where you might find a better fit. 

So with entrance requirements and academics covered, ask if you fit at a school athletically. If you’re a football player, it’s fine to dream of playing for Alabama or Oklahoma, but if you’re considered a 1- or 2-star recruit, then that might be an uphill climb. Instead, look at a program’s current roster and see how you measure up physically and statistically. It’s OK if you don’t compare with any of the schools on your list. Just recalibrate your list and start looking for other schools where you match, academically and athletically. 

What Are The Pros And Cons of Each College On Your List?

As noted above, once you assemble a target list, you’ll want to start evaluating those schools. To do that, think about what you want out of a college experience, whether it’s academic standards, athletic excellence or tradition, area of study, enrollment size, climate, large or small campus, or any number of other variables. Then, look at each college on your list to see how each one stacks up against your list. You may also want to weigh the importance of each factor you’re considering. 

For example, a large state school in Michigan or Minnesota may stand out to you for its athletic prowess, but if you’re looking for a smaller school in a warmer climate, then those schools may not check all your boxes. Conversely, a school may check almost all your boxes, but the caliber of athletics may not be a fit for you. There’s no set formula as every student-athlete is different. So make a list of what’s important to you in a college experience, see how the schools on your list compare, and then add and subtract as you go through your recruiting process until you’ve narrowed down the schools that are right for you.

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