Applying to College as a Student Athlete
Though the college calendar is well-known and static, the way students navigate their journey differs.
There are specific aspects, interests, and conditions each student takes under consideration as they go along their path.
This is especially true if you are a student-athlete.
If you want to be recruited to play a college sport, there are additional things to consider, as well as an accelerated timeline.
This article contains concrete advice and additional factors to consider, all of which might help you get recruited.
Student-Athletes: How Good Are You, Really?
Step 1- Talent Assessment
Regardless of your sport, it is critical to be honest about your talent and skill levels.
Being honest allows you to look at the right colleges and programs.
I can’t tell you how many student-athletes want to play their sport at the D1(Division 1) level but do not know whether they are a solid athletic or academic fit for the school.
While I certainly appreciate this desire to leverage athletic abilities to get into a more selective college, most student-athletes don’t truly understand how incredibly competitive these programs are.
In addition, being successful in your recruiting process requires that you dedicate the time necessary to effectively go through the process.
We will talk about academics shortly; however, correctly assessing your athletic ability and the level (D1, D2 or D3) where you truly have the potential to play is critical.
Even if you are the “superstar” on your high school and/or club team, your local area is not the only one you’re competing against.
In fact, the amount of highly competitive athletes increases exponentially as you go outside of your geographic region.
Therefore, it is important that you look outside of your local or regional area to measure your abilities against your competition.
Checking the national stats and rankings of others in your sport, and seeking the guidance of a high school coach may also prove to be helpful.
While your goal might be a D1 school, please don’t forget the Division 2 and Division 3 teams and schools.
Many of these programs are competitive, run by solid academic institutions, and provide enjoyable, holistic experiences that could be quite similar to that of a D1 school.
Your ability to play the sport you love at the college level will dramatically increase if you are honest with yourself about your talent and skill level, and consider other division levels.
Do keep in mind, however, that student-athletes attending D3 colleges will not receive athletic scholarships.
If that is your goal, your family needs to do the same type of research that families with non-athletes need to do, in searching for colleges that will meet your family’s financial need and/or award your student for their merit accomplishments.
Student-Athletes and Academics
Step 2 – Standardized Testing Readiness
Whether you want to be recruited as an athlete or not, you should take the PSAT in October of your sophomore and junior years.
Although these are only practice tests, they will give you an idea of what to expect as well as an idea of where you stand academically.
Additionally, sharing your scores with coaches who are interested in you as a prospect makes sense.
However, many student-athletes take the PSAT before they are properly prepared for it.
This is primarily due to pressure they feel from interested coaches to prove that they are as strong academically as they are athletically.
While I understand the need to give a coach what they ask for, if you are not properly prepared, you will not present your best academic side.
This can ultimately hinder you during the recruiting process.
Therefore, only take a standardized test when you’re truly ready.
You wouldn’t walk on the field or court without proper preparation and you shouldn’t take a test before you are prepared to get your best score.
Pro tip: when preparing for a standardized test, bring your athletic training mentality.
It’s not as fun, but it gets the job done.
This is important because the better academic match you are for the college or colleges interested in you, the easier the recruiting process becomes.
While I agree you should try to start early if you are ready, a coach who is truly interested in you will wait and/or communicate their timelines to you so you know when you will need to provide your complete academic information.
They need this information to determine whether they can keep you on their recruiting list, and you can make a stronger case if your results represent your true ability.
This also prevents the coach from having to ask admissions to compromise their criteria for you – a situation no one wants to be in.
Student-Athletes and College Tours
Step 3 – College Visitations
College visitations are important for every student expecting to attend college, as they will give you a good idea if the college is a solid academic and social match.
The student-athlete has one additional piece of the puzzle to check off, and that is whether the school is a good athletic match.
Visits, whether a formal academic visit or athletic camp/showcase visit, are even more important for a student-athlete hoping to get recruited.
By attending these events, you will interact with coaches and learn if you are a good overall fit for the school.
There are two big questions to ask.
One, how do you know if a college is a good match for you?
Two, when do you start the recruitment process?
The answer to both is through research and speaking to coaches and admissions personnel at the schools you are interested in.
Communicating with coaches, asking for feedback from them as well as your high school and club/travel team coaches, and visiting colleges early is important so you make the best use of the time and money spent on the recruiting process.
In the end, it should never be about the money…but it’s always about the money, right?
The recruitment process and college visits can be expensive.
To help you to be smart with the time and money you spend on your process, do your research so you know that your efforts and expenditures are worthwhile.
Starting early (sophomore year) will help you make those decisions so you can get a solid return on your investment of time and money.
The athletic recruiting process can be a giant endeavor for many student-athletes.
However, paying attention to these key drivers can impact your success in the recruiting process.
Remember, to give you the best potential to play the sport you love as a recruited athlete, it is important to start early, prepare properly, communicate timely and effectively, and bring your athletic drive and commitment to all you do.
Best of luck!
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Russ Vitale is the best selling author of College: Making the Complicated Easy and owner of Destination College Success, a full service college admissions, application and athletic recruiting advisory service helping students and their families successfully navigate their college journey. www.destinationcollegesuccess.