Understanding the College Athletic Recruiting Process



The majority of college coaches tend to follow these 5 steps throughout the college recruitment process.

  1. Gather Prospects List – Coaches gather a list of prospective athletes.
  2. Contact Athletes – Coaches will then send out recruiting letters, camp invites and questionnaires to prospective athletes.
  3. Evaluations – Next, coaches make evaluations of those athletes based off their current ability, potential ability and academic abilities.
  4. Offers – Then it’s time for coaches to make verbal offers and scholarships to their top talent prospects.
  5. Sign – Lastly, they will sign athletes to join their team.


Step 1: Gather Prospects List – College coaches start off their recruiting process by first gathering a large list of recruiting prospects that are identified by specific criteria like position, height, weight, academics, grad year, location and more. To create their lists, the majority of coaches use third-party recruiting sites like CaptainU where millions of high school athletes have already connected with college coaches. In addition to recruiting services platforms like CaptainU, coaches will also use recruiting media sites like 247Sports and Rivals, meet athletes at large camps and events, receive recommendations from high schools or club coaches, and sometimes receive direct emails from recruits.

This is the beginning of the college recruiting process funnel and the number of athletes that are included on these lists will vary depending on the size of the schools or programs.

Like the coach’s recruiting process of starting out with a large list of prospects, athletes should mirror this model in their own process. We recommend you create your own prospect list of colleges you feel would be a great fit for you to start. Then you will begin to edit that list according to your needs and the interest of those colleges.

We also recommend attending as many camps and events as possible that coaches from your list of prospective colleges are holding. You can create a free CaptainU recruiting profile where college coaches can find you in their searches and have easy access to all of your stats and highlight videos. With your free recruiting profile, you’ll receive a free 2 week trial of our premium silver plan which allows you to see which coaches have found you in searches and viewed your profile, and also the ability to message coaches directly. Creating a recruiting profile and filling it out completely with pics, stats and highlight videos for coaches is crucial to your recruiting success and doesn’t take a ton of time to do.

Step 2: Contact Athletes – Next, coaches will normally start contacting large groups of prospective athletes to gauge interest levels. For athletes that show some interest upfront, coaches will usually send them a request to complete a recruiting questionnaire, invite them to a camp or event and possibly even send a general letter of interest from the college.

Based on the size of the college program, coaches will then begin to narrow their list down from the responses and levels of interest they receive.

If you receive any type of form with questions, event invites, or general interest letters from a coach, it’s important to take it seriously. We recommend responding to each coach personally and thanking them in order to let them know you’re interested in their program.

Once you receive either an email from a coach or some type of mail, it’s quite clear you are being evaluated as a recruit, so follow up promptly with a personal message.

Step 3: Evaluations – It’s time for coaches to really start narrowing down their prospect lists and they do that by evaluations. They want to know the athlete on a deeper level and will usually begin contacting the athlete’s high school and club coaches for an evaluation or recommendation. They will also sometimes attend camps and tournaments to watch recruits or invite them to their own camps.

During this time, official and unofficial visits can and may take place as well.

Once coaches have completed evaluations of recruits, they will create a ranked list of the top recruits. These lists vary in size depending on the sport, division, and size of the program.

It’s extremely important for athletes to be proactive throughout the entire college recruiting process. Sometimes athletes will sit around and wait for coaches to find them, and it never happens. It’s up to you to fill out your recruiting profile completely and start gaining exposure. Add a few more colleges to your prospect list, message more coaches yourself and always make sure your profile information is up-to-date and accurate and you have great highlight videos of your most recent plays. You can also ask your high school and club coaches to contact college coaches and put in a good recommendation on your behalf or pay colleges an unofficial visit and let the coach know you’d like to meet them while you’re in town.

Step 4: Offers – Coaches have narrowed down their prospect list and evaluated their top recruits. Next, they begin to make offers to athletes and extend scholarships so that they can start getting commitments. Usually, they will start at the top of their list and work their way down. It’s possible they may still want you to visit the campus, so it’s best to be prepared.

As for when college coaches can make you an offer, it varies. For verbal offers that are non-binding, those can happen at any point in the recruiting process. It’s important to understand that with a verbal offer, either party, the athlete, or the coach can back out at any time. So it’s always a good idea to have backup colleges for in the case a verbal offer is rescinded. An offer is not official until a National Letter of Intent is signed by the athlete. That letter is normally signed the athlete’s senior year of high school.

Typical recruiting class sizes can range from 2-30 athletes after all offers have been made.

On the athlete side, it’s best to have a good idea of scholarships that may be available to you, details on all of your offers, and how financial aid works if needed. Make sure you’ve ranked your schools in order of the ones you would like to commit to.

Step 5: Sign – The final step of the college coaches recruiting process is to make sure their top recruits sign their letter of intent and that they meet eligibility requirements.

Typically the timeline for committing and signing starts with a verbal commitment from the athlete to the school. Then the athlete receives an official offer from the coach, which the athlete signs. Throughout this timeline, the student must continue to meet all eligibility requirements.

It’s common for athletes to have everything lined up and even sign an official offer only to end up ineligible to compete. It’s crucial that the athlete puts forth the work on the academic side as well to ensure they meet these guidelines. If you fail to meet them, another recruit will take your place and you will most likely need to play at a junior college to re-gain your eligibility status.

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