Do You Know How To Find The Best Fit For You?
Regardless of what sport you play, one of the first steps in everyone’s recruiting process is to compile a list of 10 to 20 target schools that you’re interested in. That list is rarely etched in stone and may change dramatically between your freshman and senior years in high school. That’s not a bad thing because it means, in most cases, a student-athlete has done their research and gained a sharper perspective on where he or she stands as a recruit in their sport. Just remember, while it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of being recruited to play in college, there are numerous other elements that should factor into your college research. So, as you begin researching colleges, ask yourself:
• Do I have the grades to be admitted into this school?
Qualifying to be academically eligible in the eyes of the NCAA is one thing, but many schools have higher admissions standards. Those standards – which are usually spelled out on a school’s admissions web page – usually include a specific high school GPA and minimum SAT or ACT exam scores.
Granted, you can’t cross any schools off your list because of your GPA and standardized test scores as a high school freshman or sophomore. However, having good grades can make you a more attractive recruit and potentially open up more scholarship opportunities, athletically and academically.
• Do I have the athletic skill to play for this team?
Again, this is another question you likely can’t answer as a freshman or sophomore, but it’s certainly an important question to ask as you reach your junior and senior seasons. And to answer it, you have to make an honest assessment of your skills and talents, see how you compare with athletes at a particular level or school and adjust your target list accordingly. It’s perfectly fine to dream of playing for the top college programs in your sport. However, if you’re not among the top percentage of athletes who play at the highest levels in your sport, you may have to aim lower. But that’s OK, because you’ll still have a chance to compete at the collegiate level in the sport you love, and you may even earn a scholarship to do so.
• Can I give the coach a good reason to recruit me?
Coaches already know what most elite recruits can do for their program and, in most cases, they have to sell the recruit on their school. For pretty much everyone else, it’s up to you to sell yourself to the coach.
What can you offer a coach and a program beyond just a desire to attend that school? As a freshman or sophomore, it’s most important to simply show potential. A highlight video and online recruiting profile will go a long way to showing your potential and getting on a coach’s recruiting radar. Beyond that, attending camps and clinics where coaches are present can also help highlight what you can offer a program.
• Is the coach really interested in me?
Many coaches will reply to your initial emails as a courtesy. That does not always equate to interest on their part. Others may reply to encourage you or, in some cases, to say they’re not interested. Due to time or budget constraints, some may not respond at all. By your junior year, when coaches can actively contact you, there are a number of signs that will provide a pretty good idea of who’s interested in you. If that interest comes from schools you’re interested in, great. If not, it may be time to recalibrate your target list.
• Can I afford to pay for this school?
This is the question you may need to answer together with your family. If you don’t receive a scholarship, athletic or academic, full or partial, can your family afford to attend a given school? If not, be sure to also look into financial aid, loans, or grants that may be available.
• Does the school offer academic programs and majors that interest me?
This is one of the questions that is often forgotten in the excitement of the recruiting process. Getting recruited to play at the collegiate level is great, but remember the larger goal is to earn a college degree. It might be hard to know what you want to do with the rest of your life at age 14 or 16, but if you have an idea, make sure any school you consider will allow you to pursue that course of study.
• Will I be happy with my college experience here?
This one is easy. After looking at a school, its athletic, academic, and residential facilities, would you be happy attending that school if you weren’t an athlete? Factor in climate, the size of the campus, the size of the town, the social aspects, and, most importantly, what you’re looking for from a college experience. In the big picture, the time spent athletically will comprise only a small part of your time at college. Will you enjoy the time at that school if you weren’t on the team?
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