At Campus Bound, we typically don’t advise students to focus on specific colleges until junior year of high school. We provide more information about that in this recent blog post. However, some eager sophomores may want to get a jump start on certain things, including the college recruitment process for student athletes. In this blog post, we explain why an early start is helpful and the tasks that can get done now to ease the process down the road.
Considering college athletics?
There are many great reasons why high school athletes should at least consider playing college sports. There are a lot of benefits, and it can be a great addition to the overall college experience. But the college application process, which is already pretty complex, can be even more so for students interested in playing college sports. As you read through the list below, it becomes clear why an early jump on things makes sense. Keeping it all until the last minute will either diminish your chances of playing, or make it so you can’t play sports at the collegiate level.
Here is a timeline for high school students interested in playing college sports:
1. The very first thing to do is gather information. In this previous blog post, we outlined the people and places to seek out in order to learn more about what it means to play a college sport and whether or not it’s the right thing for you. Ask lots of questions, shadow a student, team or coach. Talk with trusted friends and family about whether or not college athletics are a good possibility for you.
2. Based on #1, if you think college sports might be something you’re interested in (you DO NOT need to decide yet!), keep going. The next step is to assess your skills, abilities and chances of playing at different levels in college. Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 are all very different in terms of time commitment, expectations and how they impact the overall college experience for student-athletes. Learn more about these divisions and talk to your current high school coaches or attend camps to get a better sense of which division you should pursue. Don’t forget that club and intramural sports are an option too, but they do not require any additional steps in the application process.
3. Determine eligibility. The NCAA has very specific requirements that students need to meet in order to be eligible to play college athletics. On this website, there is much more information, and you can start a profile and begin entering your high school courses and grades to make sure you are on the path to certification.
4. Make a college list. When you meet with your Campus Bound counselor to make a list of colleges that are a good match for you, be sure to talk about your plans for playing sports in college. You still don’t need to be decided, but if you haven’t ruled it out, make sure your counselor knows this and can suggest some schools that are both good academic fits and athletic fits.
5. Create an athletic resume. Your athletic resume will be similar to your activity resume, but will have more athletic-specific information on it. Your athletic accomplishments, team achievements, personal bests, will all be prominently featured. Your Campus Bound counselor can help you with this.
6. Reach out to coaches. You can’t expect that college coaches are somehow going to find you. They certainly are looking for exceptional high school athletes, but they can’t find them all. They rely on high school students to reach out to them. If you’ve identified a college that is a good academic and athletic match, email the coach of the sport you want to play and introduce yourself. Attach your resume and keep fingers crossed for a response. You can also attend prospect camps as a way to make yourself known to various college coaches from around the country, so keep an eye out for those.
7. Make athletics part of a campus visit. When you schedule an official campus tour at a specific college, reach out to the coach at that school and ask if you can meet them in person while you are there. Some face to face interaction with the coach will help them better understand you and if you are a good fit for their team, and will help you figure out if that team is a good fit for you!
8. Verbal commitments are not the same as a National Letter of Intent (NLI). If a coach seems highly interested in you, beware of verbal promises or commitments they make. Nothing is guaranteed unless it is in the form of a National Letter of Intent (NLI). Also, the college’s Admission Office is the ultimate decider of who is admitted to a particular college, not the coach. Be optimistic and thankful for coaches’ interests, but be wary of promises. More on that topic here.
As you can see, students who are considering playing sports in college have a few added steps to the college search and application process. That’s why is makes sense to start thinking about things a little bit early. If you have any questions about whether college athletics are right for you, or how to incorporate them into your unique college search, your Campus Bound counselor is happy to help.