Though they play different positions for different NFL teams, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown have a lot in common. Both were first-round NFL draft picks and both became starters in their rookie year. Before they were drafted, both earned scholarships at Division I schools (Brown at Oklahoma and Allen at Wyoming). But the most notable commonality between the two players is that neither was offered a scholarship out of high school and both began their college athletic careers playing at junior colleges.
While Allen and Brown are two of the more successful junior college-to-DI success stories, the reality is, numerous junior college athletes, go on to earn scholarships at a higher level, four-year schools every year, in just about every sport. In fact, many college coaches with immediate roster holes to fill will often look at junior colleges first. So, if you’re not getting any interest from four-year schools, don’t give up your dream until you consider everything a junior college has to offer.
At the junior college level, you can still compete against top-quality athletes. Like you may be, those athletes are still working hard to prove they’re worthy of a scholarship offer from a four-year school. Plus, you’ll be able to compete for playing time immediately, and, as a junior college athlete, everyone you’re competing against is closer in experience, physical development, and muscle mass. In addition, the time you spend playing at a junior college can help you gain the development and experience you’ll need to compete at the next level.
The Experience Advantage
For many four-year college coaches, junior college players actually have a recruiting edge over a high school senior. In addition to the extra development and experience one can gain, the time spent playing at a JUCO can also provide more exposure and give a college coach a clearer picture of the athlete you can become at a four-year school. In fact, some coaches consider proven junior college players a safer bet than a player fresh out of high school.
For example, consider Hollywood Brown and Josh Allen. Though he had blazing speed, Brown was a late academic qualifier who was considered too small for DI. Allen was a multi-sport athlete at a small school that was simply off the recruiting radar. But both players earned DI scholarships after just one year of junior college competition and both parlayed that into an NFL career.
Scholarships Are Available
Though they may only be two-year schools, depending on the sport and the school, many junior colleges offer full-ride athletic scholarships. If you can’t land a full ride, partial scholarships and other financial aid packages are also available. One more big advantage of junior colleges is that they’re usually less expensive than larger, four-year schools so, if you do have to pay for some of your education, the costs are generally lower.
You’ll Earn Credits Toward A Four Year Degree
The credits you earn from a junior college now will apply towards graduation at a four-year school later. That said, remember that not all junior college course credits are transferable to all four-year schools. Let your academic adviser know of your desire to transfer to a four-year school so that all the classes you take and all the credits you earn will transfer with you when you’re ready to move up. To make the process even easier, some four-year universities have articulation agreements with junior colleges to streamline the credit transfer process.
Junior College Experience Is Better Than A Gap Year
While some athletes believe a year off after high school to focus on their skills and development is a good thing, the reality is actually the opposite. In fact, a gap year after high school can actually be a hindrance to being recruited for a four-year college. If you don’t land a spot at a four-year college, but think you’ve got the game to do so, then a junior college is your best bet to keep you In the game. Continuing to compete at the JUCO level will help you develop further against real competition, and it will demonstrate your commitment and dedication to coaches.
Finally, a junior college can simply offer you an opportunity to compete while you stay close to home and continue your momentum toward playing at a four-year school. And, far from being a last resort, competing at a junior college can be the first step in your renewed effort to earn a scholarship at a four-year school.
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