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College Admissions: Top Tips for Athletic Recruits

Monday, June 27, 2011


July 1 marks the time when many NCAA coaches are permitted to actively pursue rising seniors with phone calls and e-mails. Until this date, most Division I and Division II coaches** are limited to sending general program information and returning calls; they may not proactively contact recruits. This means that the floodgates open soon for talented athletes. It can be overwhelming and confusing for students and parents. Here are 5 things you need to know if being recruited is in your plan:

1.  NCAA rules are strict and enforceable.

They vary by sport, but generally coaches may call an athlete once a week after July 1. In-person contacts and evaluation days at tournaments and camps are limited in number (a contact can be defined as any conversation beyond “hi”). After September 1, seniors in most sports may make up to 5 official (paid) campus visits. Calendars and exact rules for each sport can be found here. NCAA course requirements, minimum GPA and SAT/ACT scores are listed here.

2.  Attitude and image matter.

Coaches want athletes who will take direction, work hard and be able to keep up academically. They want to avoid students who display arrogance, a lack of commitment, or they suspect could get into trouble on or off-campus. Most of all, coaches want athletes who want their college more than any other school. “Showing the love” matters. So, follow-up on each coach contact if you are interested in a school, write thank you notes after you visit, and demonstrate your interest in the college and program.

3. Only pursue colleges that are a good match for you.

More than 70% of athletes who begin playing a sport in college are no longer on a team by senior year. They get cut, their grades fall below minimum standards, they lose interest, etc. So, make sure that the schools pursuing you are a good match for you academically and socially. Don’t get flattered by coach interest at a less competitive college if you are an A student. Go after the coaches at the schools that YOU are interested in. Remember that in order to be recruited by the Ivy League and some other very elite colleges, you MUST meet the Ivy League Academic Index.

4. Ask coaches the tough questions.

This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make; don’t go in blindly. Ask the coaches how many students graduate in 4 years. Find out what the training and travel demands are and how many students get cut or drop out of the program. Determine if there are restrictions on what you can major in or for studying abroad, and ask about tutor support. Most importantly, make sure that the coach style matches what you respond well to as an athlete.

5. Only sign a Letter of Intent or apply Early Decision (ED) if you are CERTAIN that the college is your 1st choice.

Most coaches will pressure recruits to apply ED if the college has an ED option, and they will ask the athlete to sign a Letter of Intent if the athlete is going to receive an athletic scholarship. This letter is a binding agreement and ends the student’s chances to consider any other colleges or offers. Signing dates are available here. Keep in mind that you need to have visited all your colleges and assessed your options before these dates hit—because most coaches won’t pull for you in the regular decision round. The best chance for a coach to get athletes accepted is during early action or early decision.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

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