Student-athletes and parents can often be confused on how to identify the right school fit. The best advise I can give you, it’s to consider schools at all divisions because they all got something special to offer. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket and hope that you will go to that one particular school. Most likely, that won’t happen for many of you. But that’s OK because there are over 1,200 colleges to choose from in the United States. You just need to do your research and most importantly you need to know what you want.
Everyone’s level of play is different, grades are different, expectations are different so you need to look at the big picture and ask yourself:
Do I really want to play my sport in college and make all the extra sacrifices needed to succeed?
This is a big commitment that you have worked hard for and now you will have a big decision to make.
I will share five tips that can help you identify the right school fit for you and bring you closer in discovering your future college destination. All your college research, hard work on the field and in the classroom will come down to identifying the RIGHT FIT. Sometimes our choices and decisions are not the best, but if we educate ourself early in the process, we can all make wiser future decisions.
1. Choose A School That Really Wants You
All schools and programs are very different based on their size, division, expectations and so on. Even the culture of the program and its people can be very different, so it’s important to take college visits and see how much interest they have in you. Some places and people will surprise you and some will disappoint you and that’s normal. That’s how life will be so the sooner you get used to it, the better. I am here to tell you the truth even though that may hurt sometimes but honesty is the best policy in everything I do.
Coaches need to first show the players that they care about them so the players feel engaged, wanted and ready to trust their coaches. If a coach wants you only for your athletic ability, run away. Why? If you ever get hurt and you can’t longer play for a while, I am not sure that coach will be there for you. Many coaches like the student-athletes and engage with them in a professional manner, ask them about the family, how the vacation went and so on. That shows the coach cares about you and he truly wants you. Student-athletes and their families can sense this kind of engagement and they have a good feeling about it most of the time.
So start your unofficial college visits early, in 10th grade so you are up to a good start. See what schools have to offer, get educated, be proactive with the recruiting process and see how life is at those schools. During your senior year yo can take 5 official visits but don’t wait that long. Early preparation often leads to success.
2. Choose A School That Can Help You Financially
Everyone dreams to play at the D1 level but many athletes are just not there. Read why you are not a D1 athlete to understand why. Many schools at the D3 level offer so much money in financial aid and academic scholarships that many times athletes choose those schools. Those schools don’t offer athletic scholarships but they have many other ways of helping their student-athletes. And trust me, you can save a lot of money playing at the D3 level. So take that into consideration, apply and see what happens. You may be surprise but you will never find out unless you try.
Many times is not the school you go to, but what yo made of. So you need to choose a school that will help you financially because college is expensive and you don’t want to have big student loans. You want to have a small amount or none to pay back once you graduate from college. That’s possible but you need to get educated and explore your options carefully.
If yo have an offer for a full scholarship and you like the school and the athletic program, then is no brainer. There are not many student-athletes who have those kind of offers. That’s less than 2% and those are the elite athletes. So a proper evaluation of yourself will be necessary before you set realistic expectations for yourself.
3. Find Out What You Want Early, So You Know What To Look For
I know, this is hard but the more you get involved into your recruiting process, the better picture you have. You need to be clear on your goals and driven to achieve them. Focus on what’s most important to you so your energy can follow. So when looking for the right fit please consider the following factors:
- Academics (do they offer your major)
- Athletics (how is the program, coach, team, etc)
- Location (far or close from home)
- Social setting
- Division and competition level
- Your chances of competing and playing in the team
- Quality and reputation of the school and program
4. Choose A School Based On Academics First And Athletic Second
This is a very important factor to consider when choosing your school. Let’s say that you get hurt and you will be out for one, two or even be done playing for good. Those things can happen and we need to be prepared. The questions is: Would you still want to go to that school? If you answered yes, then that’s the school for you.
Remember, you are going to college to get your degree and that’s your ultimate goal. Playing your sport in college, it’s something to help you make your journey more enjoyable.
I went to Quinnipiac University and if I had a career ending injury, I would have still choose that school. The school was academically great, team was good and the location and settings of the school was unbelievable. So, if I had to do it again, I will choose the same school.
5. Have A Strategy
How would you go about doing all the work to find the right school fit? Well, you need to constantly educate yourself on the recruiting process and prepare yourself on and off the field while being proactive in promoting yourself. There is a lot of competition and you need to be aggressive when marketing yourself. Time is not on your side.
A good start is to build an online sports resume where you can outline your personal, academics, athletic information, videos, photos, stats and much more under your own personal link. You can easily promote yourself yourself more effectively once your information is organized and accessible in one place. If you don’t have a sports resume, you can create one with us for FREE.
This is a good start for now and make sure you search schools and reach out to coaches yourself. Continue with this process and you will eventually identify the right school fit. Don’t rush and don’t be slacking because ether are many student-athletes doing the work as we speak.