College Admissions: Athletic Recruitment: 3 Mistakes to Avoid

Monday, September 02, 2013


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Several factors go into athlete recruitment. Put your best foot forward with these tips.

September and October are prime months for “official visits” for many athletes applying to D1, D2 and D3 colleges. As thrilling as that may sound, it’s a time fraught with anxiety and pitfalls.

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Students can become disenchanted with a college after spending an overnight, coaches can drop students because they get a negative read from admissions, and parents can suddenly discover that financial aid will fall short of what they need.

The Overnight Visit

Most coaches will invite recruits for an overnight before making a decision as to whether the student will be a good fit. The visit will typically include a practice with the team, interview time with the coach, and a sleepover in the dorm room of a team member. This is a great way for recruits to see if the coach style is what the athlete responds well to, and if the social atmosphere on campus is what they are looking for. Sadly, each year I send recruits off to what they think is their top choice college, only to have them come back and cross it off the list. The number one reason: binge drinking by team members. My students aren’t saints, but many of them are turned off when they spend a Saturday night with a team member at various parties where the goal is to do as many shots as possible and pass out or behave badly. They want more than that. So, recruits should be prepared to “just say no” to overindulging and to a college environment that doesn’t meet their goals as a person.

The Transcript “Walk Through”

A coach can pursue you avidly, but nothing is solid until your transcript and test scores get put in front of an admissions officer. This will usually happen before you are invited for an official visit. In many cases, coaches can create a sense of excitement and promise over many months, but when admissions gives them a thumbs down or wavers on your credentials, the coach can suddenly disappear. So, get your transcript and SATs or ACTs to the coach early for a walk through. The worst situation is to “think” that you are going to be applying somewhere Early Decision with coach support, and then in the 11th hour before the deadline, you find out that admissions doesn’t view you as a strong candidate. By then, you have passed on other coaches and opportunities, and you are left with nothing.

Juggling a Few Options

The best thing a recruit can do is keep several colleges in play until Early Decision deadlines pass. This is not easy since many coaches want a verbal commitment before that. However, it’s in your best interest to have a fallback plan in case your overnight visit doesn’t go well, admissions doesn’t like your profile, or the financial aid you need doesn’t come through. The best way to do this is to tell coaches along the way that they are a “top choice”, but you are still visiting schools and discussing what your family can afford. This will at least keep them at bay until you have a solid overnight, pass your “walk through” at admissions, and get a feel for the need-based, merit or athletic scholarship money you may see at each school. During this time, parents should talk with the coach and the financial aid office at each college about what kind of money is likely to be offered to the student, should he or she matriculate.


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


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