Many high school students are interested in participating in college athletics, but many are unsure what to do and where to start. Adding athletic recruitment to the college application process not only requires additional work on the part of the athlete, but it actually moves up every part of the college application timeline. In addition, one of the biggest surprises for aspiring college athletes is that recruitment rarely provides the financial impact on college costs that many families are led to expect. There are huge differences in athletic recruitment from sport to sport, and between Divisions I, II, and III, that will affect financial benefit. What is most important is that with talent, tools, and time, students can find an athletic program that will fit their abilities at a school that can provide them with a wonderful college experience.
Below, we catalog the most important considerations for students who are interested in making athletics a part of their college experience. In part one, we discuss the early stages of the college selection process. In part two, we will discuss the steps students will take to put together and submit applications to their schools of choice!
Do you have the athletic ability to play at a school that would be a good academic fit for you?
Be realistic about the level of college athletics you can play while maintaining your academics.
Collegiate sports are a tremendous time commitment. Be sure to consider schools where you can academically succeed, keeping in mind that you will have more responsibilities and less time to study. Maintaining eligibility can be challenging if you are in over your head academically. You also need to consider if your intended study is compatible with your athletic program. Many teams overtly or quietly encourage athletes to stay away from majors with limited class offerings or heavy workloads. Look at the majors on the roster and be aware of any trends that don’t align with your goals.
What level of college athletics are you capable of and interested in participating?
One of the biggest mistakes is to select a program based on division.
Do you want to make an impact the day you step on campus or are you willing to sit for two years for a shot at the starting lineup of a championship-caliber team? Division I is where the best athletes in the country compete, and Division I designation provides schools with the most scholarships and requires a high level of talent and commitment. These are the programs filled with athletes often sought out from the moment they enter high school. Keep in mind that there are many Division III programs that are as competitive as Division I programs. The difference is that they don’t offer athletic scholarships (look up Kenyon’s men’s swim team for an example!). Make sure you are looking at the program for fit, not making a judgment based on division. Don’t limit your options before you have considered all the possibilities. Scholarship and recruitment are not the same thing.