WHAT TO EXPECT
Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.
Hall of Famer NFL coach
High school is a four-year framework designed to set students up for college success. During this time, student-athletes should focus on their academic and athletic development. Incremental improvements are not made in vain. Hard-working student-athletes will reap the rewards of their efforts during recruiting. Each GPA increase, refinement to technique and surpassed stat will broaden an athlete's college options. In this chapter, you will learn how to make the most of high school in order to come out of it with a wealth of college options to choose from. You will learn how to prepare to succeed.
Note the common thread of progress and perseverance throughout this chapter. Continually striving to get better isn't easy, but perseverance will carry you through the tough times. Persevering when the going gets tough is a skill that will not only benefit your recruiting process, but will continue to serve you throughout your life. With this in mind, let's get moving!
EXCEL IN CLASS
Before deciding to recruit you, a college coach looks at your GPA, core courses, and SAT/ACT scores to make sure you meet the school's admission standards. If you are way below the minimum requirements, the coach will not recruit you, regardless of how much you could help his team. Coaches know that athletes who do not perform in the classroom are more likely to have issues at the college level.
A coach choosing between two athletes of equal talents will always select the better student.
Say you have a 2.6 GPA and 1100 SAT Math + Verbal score. While those marks are average, you've automatically taken yourself off the recruiting lists of many top academic institutions.
Imagine how many more opportunities you will have if you meet the admission requirements of all schools in the country, or at least a higher percentage of them?
Without a doubt, grades are important. The good news? They're in your control. Hard work in the classroom will always pay off in recruiting. Showing the admissions committee at a college that you are doing your best to challenge yourself goes a long way.
Nothing impresses a college coach more than athletes who work just as hard in the classroom as they do on the playing field.
Get better everyday. If you're receiving B's right now, go for A's
Ask your teacher for extra help, hire a tutor, form a study group with your friends, or take a preparatory SAT/ACT course.
ADVANCED PLACEMENT CLASSES
A high school transcript that features AP and honors classes signals to college admissions officers that the prospect is motivated. While your GPA may not be as high as if you stayed in a regular class, your resume will be more impressive. You will also show the willingness to challenge yourself – a trait that most colleges deeply value.
Having said that, it is wise to take these classes in areas of strength. Usually this will be self-policing, as there are various prerequisites to qualify. Your transcript is the most important piece of your application, so make it as impressive as possible!
Take Advanced Placement (AP) classes if you qualify. Choose your area of strength. If your math grades are good, consider AP Calculus. If you are a good writer, look into AP Language and Composition, or similar courses.
ACE COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMS
Prep courses are available to help students prepare for college entrance exams like the SATs and ACTs. The benefits of taking an SAT/ACT prep course are twofold.
First, the prep course will help you develop the skills necessary to do your best. Second, going through advance preparation will tremendously boost your confidence when taking the actual test.
But traditional preparatory courses are not the only route for students to consider. There are plenty of options, from review books to online courses to private tutors. Regardless of which route an athlete opts for, committing to get the most out of the experience is vital. Students may take these exams several times until they are satisfied with their scores.
With that said, do not assume a higher-than-average score will guarantee acceptance to your dream school. While very poor scores can be difficult to overcome, scores are not weighted as heavily as most people think. They essentially serve as a baseline, and are only part of the package.
Prepare as best you can, have confidence in yourself and remember these scores are only part of your equation.
College admissions officers look favorably on students who have multiple interests and are involved in a wide range of activities.
Many schools prefer an applicant with a 3.5 GPA who's been involved in extracurricular activities and community service, over an applicant with a 4.0 who's done nothing else.
Don't worry about trying to become a "Renaissance Man or Woman" at age 17. Not many high school seniors are the perfect, well-rounded student. Show a passion for one or two of your strongest interests. Do not simply build a resume that lists every club in your school. What impresses admissions officers is proof that an activity is a theme in your life. Think quality, not quantity.
Find an organization at your school (i.e. school newspaper, Safe Rides, Drama Club, Band, Foreign Language Club, etc) that interests you and get involved.
Consider volunteering a few hours each month at a local charity or non-profit organization.
Get a summer job or internship.
BECOME A LEADER
Coaches admire athletes who demonstrate a winning attitude, mental toughness, command of workouts, and composure under pressure. These traits not only make for better athletes, but they help to elevate the whole team.
One coach reveals that he discovers who the "leaders" are at tryouts by asking who wants to lead the drill they are getting ready to do. The leaders are those athletes that enthusiastically offer to lead the warm-ups. Also, the athletes who jump to the head of the line for each drill stand out as not only leaders, but as athletes who are passionate about their sport.
Negativity is unacceptable. An athlete who openly criticizes teammates for errors during scrimmages or games or even drills is not the kind of leader that coaches are looking for. On the other hand, the athlete who openly and sincerely boosts a teammate's confidence after a misstep is exactly the kind of leader coaches want to have on their squad.
Leaders are not necessarily the loudest. Lead by example with your work ethic in practice and with your desire to improve. Whatever your personality, strive to be someone who is described by his / her coach and teammates as a "student of the game" and a "great team player," and a "winner."
If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do.
Olympic swimmer and medalist
Athletic ability is the most important factor in determining whether a student-athlete will suit up in a college sports uniform. An athlete should never assume that he or she is finished learning. Athletes must constantly absorb information and strive to improve their abilities.
Even professional athletes spend hundreds of hours in the off-season working on the physical and mental aspects of their game. There is no such thing as too much practice for a high school or college athlete. Some physical characteristics like height and body structure may not change, but there are areas within an athlete's control that can be improved. These areas include:
- Mental Toughness
Athletes have to work extremely hard and demonstrate unyielding motivation in order to separate themselves from the thousands of other athletes who are looking to play sports at the college level.
Staying in top physical form demonstrates to college coaches that the athlete is serious about his or her commitment to the sport. Also, it's good for health and will improve academic effectiveness.
Stay in shape year-round. Take your cue from the pros who work hard in the off-season to stay fit. Do not stay away from your training for more than a few weeks at a time.
Decide whether to concentrate on one sport, or to participate in others. Regardless of what you decide, avoid becoming inactive at any time.
If you want to play at the next level, the first step is to get your game there. College coaches love to see progress and improvement throughout your athletic career.
In order to improve, first identify which areas of your athletic performance need work. It's always nice to hear praise from your parents and to receive backslaps from your teammates, but a little constructive criticism from the experts is even better. Instead of relying on your parents' opinion of your skills, consult an experienced high school coach, college coach, or professional athlete who has seen you compete. He or she can tell you the exact areas to improve and may recommend specific drills to help you.
Seek as many opinions as you can. For example, ask your coach to be completely candid about your strengths and weaknesses. You may not agree with his evaluation, but you can use it as a starting point for your development.
Make sure to prioritize drills to help turn your weaknesses into strengths. If you have mechanical flaws, fix them immediately to avoid making them a permanent part of your technique. Taping yourself in a practice setting is an excellent way for you to recognize exactly what you are doing wrong. It's also a great way to solicit feedback from others who haven't seen you compete.
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FIND YOUR DREAM SCHOOL
March Madness can make us forget that sports are an extracurricular, and your high school career as a student-athlete is no different from those of your classmates that learn to play the harp or speak mandarin to distinguish themselves from other college applicants. Leverage your athletic talents to get into a better school than you can on the basis of academics alone.
Former D-I Lacrosse Coach and Athlete
There is a perfect school for every athlete, but finding it takes commitment and continuous effort. Only through exploration of different options can an athlete learn of all the opportunities that are out there. This is why the best way to discover a dream school is to broaden the search.
In this section, you will learn the best practices for the college search process. The end goal of this process is to find a good academic, athletic and social fit. Athletes should never choose a school on the sole basis of playing sports. The best approach is to select a school that is a good fit academically and socially as well. Athletes should use athletics as a vehicle to get into the best school possible. Over the course of an athlete's life, a degree is going to shape the opportunities available to the athlete long after the playing days are over.
Remember that you are attending a school and playing sports, not attending school to play sports. Make sure the school is a good fit for you off the field. Do your research on the academic side, campus life and student body culture. Make sure you would want to attend that school even if you were not playing.
An organized recruiting process begins with a Target List of Schools. Having a Target List makes it easy to keep track of communications with college coaches. The exercise of building a Target List is invaluable in helping athletes identify what they are looking for in a college. In order to build a Target List, athletes must first explore their options. Research is an important step in the recruiting process. Dedicating time to research schools ensures an athlete takes every opportunity into consideration. Going a step further, researching schools helps athletes determine whether their athletic skills and academic capabilities match with the schools of interest.
Sample Target List of Schools
Maria Carter is an above average student. She has a 3.7 GPA and scored 1450 on her SAT. Her high school coach thinks she can definitely play Division 1 but her club coach thinks she is either a low tier Division 1 athlete or Division 3 athlete. Maria's parents want her to go to the best academic school possible. Before she started her recruiting process she only knew about Ivy League schools and a few of the top programs in the country. She knows that she wants to go to a big school in the Northeast. Maria narrows her search to More and Most Selective Academic schools in Division 1 and Division 3 whose enrollment is more than 10,000. Combining her search results on SportsRecruits with schools her club coach suggested, Maria has come up with a solid list of 20 schools.
CREATE A TARGET LIST
Time Required: 10min
- Use Advanced Search to find schools based on the criteria that matters to you.
- Favorite schools that look like good fits.
The surefire way to discover if a school is the right fit is by visiting the campus, getting a feel for the people and community and meeting potential teammates. In the recruiting process, this can be done one of two ways: An Official or Unofficial Visit.
The main distinction between an official and an unofficial visit is that on an official visit, the college pays your travel and lodging expenses.
Pertains to Division I and Division II programs only.
- Prospective student-athletes can only make one official visit to any given institution.
Prospective student-athletes can begin making official visits September 1st of their junior year of high school.
- Men’s Basketball: January 1st of junior year
- Women’s Basketball: Thursday after NCAA Championship of junior year
- Football: Additional period April 1st - last Wednesday in June of junior year
- Prospective student-athletes can make no more than five total official visits to Division I schools.
- Official visits can only last 48 hours.
- The college team can pay for your travel and lodging.
- Prospective student-athletes may receive free admission to the team's games, but can only sit in the general seating area.
- Your host can be an athlete on the team, who receives a set amount of money to cover your expenses while you are on campus.
- Prospective student-athletes cannot use this allotment to buy souvenirs or other merchandise.
Many student-athletes verbally commit before taking an official visit. As such, the official visit has become an opportunity for an athlete to visit campus with all expenses paid and meet recruits and current team members.
If you have not verbally committed by your senior year of high school, we suggest that you take all five of your official visits.
Take a Friday off from school and spend the day and night with athletes on the team. Meeting with the coaches and getting a tour of the athletic facilities is a good start, but you want to spend time on campus with current athletes and the general student body.
Take a standard admissions tour of campus. Outside of the tour, this will enable you to see what other types of students are considering the school.
Go to classes with an athlete on the team. Are classes what you expected? Can you see yourself in only small classes? Are large lecture classes suitable?
See where athletes eat meals. Do they only eat with other athletes? Do they have friends outside the team? Are they involved in any other organizations or clubs?
Go to a practice. Is there mandatory practice or conditioning? Are there captain's practices?
Go out and see what a Friday night on campus is like. Are there lots of school run activities? Do students go to campus parties? Do students go into a nearby town or city?
How does a coach know who is really interested? How does an athlete know who is really interested? The answer to both questions is the unofficial visit.
Pertains to Divisions I, II and III.
- Prospective student-athletes can take as many unofficial visits as they like to any number of colleges.
- Prospective student-athletes can begin making unofficial visits September 1st of their junior year of high school.
- Men’s Basketball: Not allowed in July or a dead period unless NLI has been signed
- Women’s Basketball: Not allowed in July or a dead period unless NLI has been signed
- Football: Not allowed during dead period unless NLI has been signed
- Prospective student-athletes pay all travel expenses associated with the visit.
- Prospective student-athletes can stay on campus with a member of the team or with another student.
- Prospective student-athletes can meet with the college coach while on campus (except during a dead period).
- Coaches can help prospective athletes coordinate NCAA unofficial visits.
- A visit is considered an unofficial visit only if the athletic department is involved. Prospective student-athletes can visit a school without restriction if there is no involvement with the athletic department.
After an athlete receives a letter or email from a coach, it is the athlete's responsibility to provide the coach with a highlight reel and a letter or email alerting the coach to their interest in the program.
Keep in mind that a large majority of the letters sent to recruits are simply to gauge athlete interest. If the coach considers the athlete a real prospect, they will go out of their way to invite the athlete on campus for an unofficial visit. If the athlete accepts the invitation, the coach knows that the athlete is truly interested in their school.
Don't sit back and wait to hear from the programs you are interested in. Time is of the essence; coaches have a finite number of weekends during which they can welcome athletes for a visit. Don't leave your recruiting process to chance. Seize the opportunity to start the conversation with coaches from your Target Schools.
Start visiting colleges as early as ninth grade. Take advantage of any chance to walk around a college campus. Check out schools in or near your hometown, stop by colleges during family trips, and visit older friends and siblings at school. The more visits you make, the better you will become at quickly sizing up a school and recognizing what you want from a college.
Pre-Plan Your Schedule
- Begin your visit with an information session and a campus tour.
- Sit in on a class.
- Check out the dorms.
- Eat in the cafeteria.
- Read the bulletin boards.
- Meet a faculty member and the coach.
- See the athletic facilities.
- Read the student newspaper.
Keep a Notebook Just For College Visits
Take notes while you're on campus, jotting down the name of the dorm you walked through, the class you visited, and the names of professors and students you met. After each visit, write down your impressions – what you did and did not like about the school.