Excelling at a sport can be an advantage in getting into a good school. The support of a college coach can make a meaningful difference. The key is to be identified by a coach as a prospect that he or she will put forward to the admission office. This process frequently results in a student athlete being accepted at a college that might otherwise have been out of reach.
Even at the most highly competitive colleges (like the Ivy League and NESCAC schools) the coaches recruit from all over the world. They are searching for top athletes who meet the academic standards of the school. Each of them identifies as many as over a hundred possible candidates and then narrow their list based on the skills needed, the likelihood of an athlete qualifying for acceptance and being interested in attending the college in question.
Student athletes can maximize their chances of benefiting from these opportunities by contacting coaches at colleges that are realistic for them and providing a comprehensive package of information on their athletic and academic accomplishments.
Education is for a lifetime; sports careers have a shorter shelf life. A student athlete should place the highest priority on starting in the sophomore year to identify several colleges that will meet her or his educational goals, with emphasis on academic standards, areas of study, school size, location, campus life and overall fit. Other factors to be considered include the range of SAT scores for accepted students, acceptance rates and the possibility of athletic scholarships and need-based financial aid.
Athletes should not wait to be “discovered” (at showcases or by recommendations from school or club coaches). Contact can be made with college coaches starting in the sophomore year, by completing a coach’s recruiting questionnaire on the college website and a letter or email to the coach expressing an interest in his or her college and team. Well-edited YouTube videos can be helpful. Don’t assume that college coaches go to relevant sports data websites.
The nature of subsequent communications with coaches is regulated by the NCAA and is limited for Divisions I and II and more open for Division III. The rules are on the NCAA website: www.ncaa.org. Subject to operating in compliance with these rules, an athlete will develop a sense of which coaches have an interest in her or him.
To be recruited at a Division I or Division II college, a student’s academic and amateur status must be cleared and declared eligible by the NCAA (www.eligibilitycenter.org).
The NCAA has a concept of “official” visits to Division I or Division II colleges. They are paid for by the college and only occur in the athlete’s senior year of high school. A maximum of five official visits are allowed at Division I schools and there is no limit on visits to Division II schools. Athletes can make unlimited college visits that are paid for by their family at colleges in Divisions I, II and III.
On any college visit, it is important to meet with the coach and, with her or his help, an admission officer. The coach should be given any information not previously provided, including athletic accomplishments, standardized test scores and grades. It is valuable to meet members of the team.