Thousands of high school athletes would love to play their sport at the college level. If you’re among them, how do you know if this is a real possibility for you? And if it is a possibility, where do you start?
As experts in the college admissions process, AdvanceAdmissions has particular experience and expertise in guiding high school athletes. Consider our advice on these 4 very important questions:
- Can I play my sport at the college level?
Ask your coach – high school and/or club — if he or she thinks competing in college is realistic for you and, if so, at which level – Division I, II or III? As the most competitive level, Division I is for high school athletes who currently participate at a national level. Divisions II and III require that you currently perform at a high level, regionally or locally.
For team sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, etc., your coaches will be the best gauge of your ability to play your sport in college. For sports like track and swimming, where individual performance metrics are highly quantified, visit college websites to compare your best times with the “season best” times of athletes currently on their teams. This will help you assess whether it’s feasible for you to play your sport at the intercollegiate athletic level.
- Do I really want to play my sport in college?
If your research indicates that you can play at the Division I, II or III level, then it’s time to think honestly about whether you truly want to make the commitment. Division I requires a commitment to practice and play your sport year round, often including staying on campus during vacation periods. Divisions II and III will usually ask that you train and compete twelve months per year, but sometimes have more flexibility than Division I. In any case, you’ll want to understand the training requirements, even out of season, before you apply.
Earning good grades in college will require substantial time for studying. And there will be endless opportunities for learning, traveling and socializing. Since varsity sports demand such a large time commitment, you will be unable to do everything else you’d like to do. So, if academic excellence and non-sports activities are important to you, think carefully about your priorities before starting the athletic recruiting process.
Finally, playing a sport in college may include the chance for an athletic scholarship. Divisions I and II can offer scholarships that cover full tuition and expenses or, more often, partial tuition as long as you are on the team. So, be sure that you and your family can afford to pay for college in case you decide after your first year that you no longer want to participate in your sport.
- Which colleges should I consider?
Finding the college that’s a perfect match for your athletic and academic hopes and dreams is not easy. Schools that that are a match in your sport may be beyond your scholastic qualifications or may not offer the major or classes that you have in mind. Likewise, colleges that are less competitive in your sport could be ideal for you academically and personally. That’s where working with a professional admissions consultant can be extremely valuable. Building a target list of schools that are “best” for you could save you valuable time, frustration and disappointment.
- I want to play in college, so now what?
If you believe you can play and want to make the commitment to college athletics, prepare an “athletic resume” that describes top accomplishments in your sport. Next, reach out via email to college coaches. College websites typically have their contact information as well as an online questionnaire for you to submit. For each sport there is an online recruiting platform where you should post your top times and/or a video of you playing your sport.
You can contact college coaches at any time. However, they must follow strict NCAA rules in regards to their contact with you. They can read your emails, receive your questionnaire, and view your stats via the web-based recruiting platforms. However, depending on your age, they may not be allowed to email, telephone or speak to you at athletic events. Putting your athletic and academic information in their hands via an email or questionnaire will start the process. You can then continue to reach out to those, or other, coaches periodically to assess their interest in you as a student-athlete at their institution. In addition, make sure you ask your high school counselor about the NCAA Clearinghouse, whose requirements you must meet in order to play your sport at any college.
Playing a sport in college is an incredibly rewarding experience, but the athletic recruiting process is often confusing and mysterious. So, do your research, approach the appropriate people, and ask them the right questions in order to maximize your chances for a successful admissions campaign and athletic career.