At CaptainU, we’re all about helping recruits find the next-level college opportunity that offers the right “fit.” But finding the college and athletic program that fits you best isn’t as simple as trying on a pair of shoes. To complicate things even further, the right fit for you is completely different from everyone else. 

So, how do you decide if the school and its athletic program fits you? Consider these factors:

Is The Coach Being Honest With You?

When it comes to recruiting, every coach has a particular style. Some like to dazzle recruits and tell them what they want to hear. Others are more upfront and honest about what they have to offer. And everyone else falls somewhere in between. Given that, it’s up to you to figure out how honest each coach is in their promises to you.

If a coach promises immediate playing time, look at the stats of that coach’s previous teams to see how often freshmen played. In addition, look at that team’s transfer history, past, and present, to see whether a coach is truly committed to developing players or constantly looking for new transfers. Watch the team you’re considering to see if your style will mesh with that coach. Remember too that education should still be your primary focus, so see how a team’s graduation rate compares to what a coach says about his or her commitment to academics. 

When Will You Have A Realistic Opportunity To Play Or Contribute?

It’s only natural that you’ll want to get in the game as soon as you get to college. But, depending on the sport, that may not be a realistic expectation. Regardless of what a coach tells you, look at the existing roster and see how much playing time each player in your position got as freshmen and sophomores. If you’re in a sport where you need time to grow physically and athletically, then you may need to be willing to ride the bench for a year or two. If you can’t see yourself doing that and immediate playing time is that important, then you may have to look elsewhere to find the program that fits your desires. 

From a broader perspective, consider your own talent and ability. If coaches at big programs say you can walk on, but smaller schools or lower-division programs are offering some form of a scholarship, where do you think you’ll have more opportunities to play? The dream of walking on and earning a full scholarship does come true occasionally. But if your goal is to get in the game, a smaller school or lower-division might be the better fit. 

Consider Team Chemistry

Team chemistry is another “fit factor” that’s different for everyone. Are you looking for a team to be an extended family or do you want to join a team with a business-oriented attitude that only comes together in competition (though some teams can be both)? Do you want to join a team with older, experienced teammates, a younger team that’s still developing, or a team with an equal balance of experience? Or, do you want to be on a team that’s fully committed to winning, or are you simply looking for a team that can compete? Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all option and the only way you can get a feel for a team’s chemistry is to spend some time around each team you’re considering.

What College Experience Are You Looking For?

Do you want to be a big man or woman on campus or do you want to be just another college student? Do you want to compete at the highest level where your sport demands the same commitment as a full-time job or do you also want time to enjoy all the other aspects of being a college student? Do you feel at home on campus and with the team? Do you want a big school that feels or a smaller, more intimate campus experience?

If You Weren’t An Athlete, Would You Still Want To Attend That School?

This may be the last question on this list, but it should probably be the first question you answer when determining how a school might fit you. Forget about athletics, the facilities, the team, and the glitz, and instead, consider everything else about each school. Does a school offer what you want to major in? Do you like the size and feel of the campus? Do you like the climate and the feel of the town? Do you prefer smaller classes or the anonymity of large, hall classrooms? Remember that, athletics or not, the goal of going to college is to earn a degree and prepare for the rest of your life. 

If you buy clothes or shoes that don’t fit, you’ll either return them to the store or never wear them. But choosing a college and athletic opportunity that doesn’t fit isn’t as easy to fix. So when you’re narrowing down your target list, make sure you consider everything above to make sure you find the right college fit the first time.

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