What do college coaches look for?
The college coach is looking for an athlete that will fit in and help the program succeed. Coaches want to keep their jobs, receive promotions, and get better jobs. Success on the field is their best way of doing this. Most often college coaches are looking for athletes who are difference-makers. The higher the level of play the larger the emphasis will be on measurables (speed, size, raw data). Safe, reliable, hard working, and dedicated athletes can often be overlooked, especially early in the recruiting process. Every program is searching for the raw, unpolished, superstar is the waiting. This can be frustrating to college prospects as athletes with height and weight and athleticsm may get attention over STUDENTathletes that frankly are just better high school players. Program positional needs and timing can also play a role in what coaches are looking for at a specific time. Remember your agenda is to play college sport and receive a quality education. Coaches may have a different agenda so use your head and evaluate each situation. What situation is best for you and feels right? Ask each college coach what they are looking for and where they see you fitting in. The most important part of recruiting process is finding the right 'fit' between a coaching staff, school, and athlete.
How important is a highlight video?
It's essential. Due to budget and time restraints coaches are not able to see most prospects in person. They depend on video in order to initially evaluate prospects they recruit. Sure there are college coaches who prefer to see each prospect in person either at games, recruiting events, or their camps. However, even in those cases the highlight video is used to introduce an athlete to the coach so the in person evalaution can happen later. It's essential to have a concise and easily viewable highlight video if you are a serious college prospect.
What are the different types of financial aid?
For the overwhelming majority of potential college athletes, athletic aid will be the smallest amount of aid given. Remember, it’s the bottom line price, not how much athletic scholarship money a school gives you, that is most important! There are four categories of aid (Need-Based, Academic, Athletic, and Leverage). Need Based Aid can come from the government to be used at any school or from the individual school. It is based on your family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC, a figure calculated by the US Dept of Education) and can come in the form of grants, loans, and work-study. Academic Aid is based on a specific College or University’s interest in you and considers your SAT/ACT, GPA, and Curriculum. Athletic Aid is based on a specific College or University’s interest in you and a specific ability in athletics. Leverage Aid is based on a specific College or University’s interest in you and the relative offers you may have received from competitive schools. This type of aid is not need, academic, or athletic- it’s simply business. The more financial aid offers you have the more leverage you will have.
What if my coach has told me not to worry about getting recruited?
Then it is time for a heart to heart talk. He or she is likely just concerned that you need to focus more on what it takes to be successful at the high school level. Or maybe they are just not informed on how the recruiting process works? Or maybe their ego just gets in the way sometimes? Regardless of the reason, realize yyour future and your recruitment is up to you. There are many high school coaches who will do anything they can to help their STUDENTathletes and care about them as if they were their own. Your high school coach's opinion is very important, after all, they know your abilities better than anyone. Talk to your high school coach and find out if you can count on his/her support, in most cases your coach will be happy to help. Also, remember that your high school coach has a full time job, a family to support and they volunteer their time to you and other STUDENTathletes on the team, so do no depend on them for everything when it comes to recruiting. You should check your school’s history on scholarships received in the past and expect about the same results in the future. Find out from your coach what kind of help you and your teammates can expect. However, you should make your own plans to get exposure at the schools you want — nobody cares more about your future than YOU! There’s a big difference in helping you get recruited and in actually getting you recruited. Recruiting has become a very competitive business, and each year thousands of quality athletes do not receive offers. Your coach’s job is to assist in evaluating your skills, work ethics, potential, etc. and when and if a college becomes interested in you provide them with the information they request. You job is get yourself recruited.
How much do recruiting timing rules effect me?
Not much. There are all kinds of rules that very in each sport and change almost every year. They deal with quiet periods, and evaluation periods, and dead periods, and contact rules, and phone calls windows, etc. The bottom line is that these rules are for the college coaches to follow. They typically do not pertain to what a STUDENTathlete can do in the process. If the NCAA doesn't allow a coach to contact a prospect until a certain time during Junior or Senior Year then how are scholarships being awarded to 8th graders? Good question. There are a number of ways this can legally happen. It does happen, a lot. When a recruit commits early it means they called the coach, they visited the campus, and they were involved in the right exposure opportunities to get in front of the coach, so the staff could evaluate them live. That is how prepared athletes and proactive coaches can connect BEFORE they are even officially able to talk on the phone. Don't get bogged down in these tedious rules that are for the coaches to follow, instead get bogged down in establishing recruiting relationships with college coaches as EARLY as possible!
When should I start the recruiting process?
As soon as you realize you want to play in college. Unfortunately, you can’t be too early. In fact, in a recent survey, more than 65% of college coaches prefer to start targeting prospects during the sophomore year or earlier. Some sports are actively recruiting athletes in 7th and 8th grade. We all wish this wasn’t the case. We all wish that we could just enjoy high school and deal with the college decision after our senior season. However, coaching is a business. It’s competitive, the pot of scholarship money is limited, and recruiting starts EARLY. The key is not to wait too long. All college evaluation processes are different. NCAA Division I schools like to identify and follow prospects for several years. The earlier you can get started and the more information you can provide the colleges with, the better chances you have of achieving your academic and athletic goals. Waiting until your senior year to try to attract colleges is a HUGE mistake. It may not be too late for all colleges, but it certainly limits your chances.
How do I know if I am being seriously recruited?
There is a huge gap between getting an e-mail, letter, or camp invite and receiving a scholarship offer in writing. Phone calls are a better indicator, but even that is an unexact science. Some coaches and programs just use the phone more than others. So how then do you know where you stand? The best thing to do is simply ask the coach where you stand. Do not do this in your first conversation with the coach. How could they answer that? They don't know you yet and have not had a chance to evaluate you compared to their other prospects. In 1964 Congress defined pornography as, "I'll know it when I see it". That's sort of how you will know if you are being recruited. If you have to wonder if you are a serious recruit for a program, it is highly likely that you are not.
How valuable are exposure events?
The answer to this can vary drastically. Some events are great. Many can be a waste of money. A college coach usually goes to camps or showcases with a plan to specifically to watch someone already on his or her list, not to 'discover' new talent. They've cross referenced their recruiting list with the roster from the event and they've done their homework. They normally don't show up just to randomly recruit the athletes in attendance. That would be very inefficient for them. If you do utilize camps, clinincs, and exposure events it's important you do the legwork on the front end to establish recruiting relatinships with college coches so that when they come to the event you will be at they know you will be there ahead of time and have a chance to specifically deisgnate time to evlaute you.
Does it matter if coaches already know who I am?
Just because a college knows who you are, doesn’t mean they are going to ask you to be a part of their program. Colleges are looking at hundreds of athletes in your area and thousands across the country. Did the colleges know about all the good players that graduated from your school last year? Did all these players get scholarships? And what kind of offers did they receive? Even if they do know of you, do they have your stats, grades, and highlight video right in front of them? Are they aware that you are interested in them? Do colleges across the country know you? Why settle for the one and only offer you received? There is much more to the recruiting process than name recognition.
Should I be completing and returning all of these questionnaires I am receiving?
Yes. If you have any interest in the school whatsoever, or think that you might be interested in the school then send back the questionnaire. In addition to completing the questionnaire, send the coach a personal note with personal information about you and the school and explaining your interest. If you don't return the questionnaire the coach will move on to athletes that did. Don't assume the questionnaire is just junk mail. The questionnaire is an important first step in the process to get your information in their recruiting database and express your interest in them. There is much more important work ahead...but don't skip this first step.
What does a camp invite mean?
While some colleges honestly use camps as a way to recruit athletes, most college coaches primarily use camps in order to generate revenue. They will invite hundreds of players to attend. They might even call the camp an 'elite' or 'invite-only' camp. If 300 players are 'invited' to pay $500 each for camp, they will make $150,000 in just a few days! They may have only one roster spot available, but they’ll invite as many players as possible to generate more revenue. Camps are not all evil. Just make sure you understand what a camp invite means and make sure you are targeting camps that make sense for you and your recruiting situation.
I am already getting contacted by colleges, so why do I need to do anything else?
Receiving contact from a college is better than not receiving it, but it does not mean that you are being recruited by a college. Some colleges will send out thousands of questionnaires each year, especially if they are running camps that are huge revenue sources for their programs. It's a good sign to receive letters and even phone calls but do not make the mistake of thinking a college is going to recruit you or make you a scholarship offer just because they sent you a questionnaire. Other players are competing with you for the same roster spot and a schools interest in you can disappear overnight.
What should I look for in a college?
Look for a good fit for you. A good question to ask yourself is, "Would I still want to go here if I wasn't playing my sport?" Does the college have the academic majors and social features that are suited to you? Do you want be fairly close to home, or attend college at a distance from home? Do you want to attend a big school, medium school, or small school? Are you willing to attend a college affiliated with a religious denomination? Start a list of things that are important to you in a college and revise the list as you refine your search. Remember that picking a college is not a 4 year decision, it's a 40 year decision. From our experience we've found that many 17 year olds focus on things that won't matter in 40 years and not enough on things that will. For example, two of the most common reasons for choosing a school are often distance to home and level of play (D1/D2/D3/NAIA). The reality is that in 2 years you won't want to come home from college anyway and in 20 years no one will care what level of play you competed at. However, things like academic reputation and personal/social fit will have a lasting importance to you over the course of your life.
Why are mass marketing and leverage important if I'm only interested in a few schools?
Let’s say a college coach is looking at two prospects. He or she asks each who else is recruiting them. Recruit A says, “I have gotten a few letters, but you are the first coach I have spoken to personally.” Recruit B says, “I have heard from more than 50 college coaches. I have talked to about 20 of those coaches on the phone, visited 5 and several have indicated a strong possibility of a scholarship. In fact, two of the schools that have expressed serious interest are in your conference.” Which recruit has a better positional advantage and the power to act effectively (leverage)? Which recruit might have more ability to negotiate a better financial situation? Obviously the answer is Recruit B. Recruit B simply has more options than Recruit A. When a recruit lacks options, the college coach has all the leverage in the process because they do not feel any pressure to increase or expedite their pursuit of that athlete. They have no competition to do so. On the flip side, when a recruit has involved dozens of college coaches in their process, their name immediately has more value and competition. Recruits who start the process early, put in the recruiting work by connecting with 100+ schools and leverage those efforts will have a better chance of finding the right school…as opposed to settling for the only school willing to offer.
My parents and I plan to write to several colleges to see if they are interested. Will that work?
That’s definitely better than doing nothing at all. However, 'several' schools is probably not enough. The first step would be to get properly evaluated and then start a target list of schools that is more like a couple hundred and send out some feeler letters to see where the interest is coming from. From there you can more specifically target several schools who have shown interest in you. Also, coaches expect a certain bias from parents and athletes. An objective source may have more credibility presenting your skills and accomplishments.
How do I know I’ve got the ability to play at the collegiate level, and at what level?
For some sports (Track, Swimming, Golf, etc) you will have times and/or rankings that will help steer you to the right level of play. However, for most sports, talent evaluation is subjective. Take a step back and try to honestly assess your athletic talent level. How do you stack up physically? Your high school or club coach should help you make an initial talent evaluation. However, realize that since they coach you and know you they will probably evaluate you differently than random college coaches will. Compare yourself with the best players in the Region and Nation, because that is who you will be competing with for college opportunities. Go watch local college games and practices at each level. Unless you've watched D1/D2/D3/NAIA teams and players, how do you know how you would stack up with them? Try to get non-biased evaluations from current or former college coaches. Camp evaluations can sometimes be biased because they want you to come back to camp next year! Ignore your local honors and awards, they simply don't matter in the recruiting process. Be realistic with yourself. You must have talent, character, academic credentials, motivation, exposure, luck, and good timing.
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR RECRUITING MISTAKES THAT STUDENTATHLETES AND FAMILIES MAKE?
MISTAKE #1- TARGET SCHOOLS ABOVE YOUR ATHLETIC ABILITY- STUDENTathletes and parents often believe their son or daughter is better than they actually are, and assume they will be recruited while they wait for their mailbox to fill up with scholarship offers or wait for phone calls from coaches. You have to be proactive and market yourself the proper way. Very few athletes will ever play at the top tier programs in the country. These schools have the luxury of selecting from the top blue chip athletes and begin tracking them by their freshman year in high school. Parents and athletes do not always know how to evaluate athletic ability accurately. Success on your team or league does not mean you are capable of receiving a college scholarship or even competing at the college level. Playing in camps or tournaments out of your local area is a good way to measure yourself against the larger population of athletes. Overestimating your talent can leave you in the cold for a college career if you only target schools that are above your talent level. The most successful high school players are not necessarily the most recruited college athletes. High School awards and statistics only tell part of the story. College coaches recruit based on physical attributes, skill, and potential. Many kids make this mistake and end up transferring, a lot just get cut and never play their sport again. And that's a shame.
MISTAKE #2- CONTACT TOO FEW SCHOOLS- Nothing limits your options more than just focusing on a small number of schools. Just because you’re interested in a school does not mean they’re interested in you. They are looking at hundreds, even thousands of athletes each year for a limited number of spots. The more schools that you are communicating with, the more offers you will eventually receive. If you target a large number of schools you are more likely to have options to choose the best school for you.
MISTAKE #3- HAVE A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY- Many athletes feel confident that they are already being recruited because they’ve heard from a few coaches. This 'contact' comes in the form of letters, emails, occasional phone calls, and even an invitation to attend a camp so they can 'get a better look at you'. Unless you are getting weekly phone calls from coaches, you are not being seriously recruited. There is a big difference between a camp invite and a scholarship offer in writing.
MISTAKE #4- WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN- Many athletes wait until they are physically, emotionally, and mentally ready to be a serious college prospect. This usually happens during the end of Junior Year or during Senior Year. The problem is, by waiting until this late in the recruiting game you are limiting your opportunities. The earlier you start the process, the more success you will have. Your window of opportunity closes with every game you play. STUDENTathletes start the process too late and end up making a rushed decision. Start researching schools as early as possible and make first contact with college coaches early. Just get your name in their pipeline!
MISTAKE #5- UNDERESTIMATE YOUR COLLEGE POTENTIAL- Maybe you assume you will only play if someone recruits you? Or maybe someone told you that if you are good enough coaches will find you. STUDENTathlete's underestimate their ability, and they think they would not be capable of playing in college and they don't even try to communicate with coaches. You don't have to be the best player in your league or even on your team to get recruited. Scholarship talent is usually noticed, but not always. Don't be shy about your ability, or about calling attention to it and your aspirations.
MISTAKE #6- EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE TO GET YOU RECRUITED- Although many athletes play for a high-profile high school or a travel team, families are on their own to figure out the best way to get recruited or land a scholarship. Do not just rely on your coaches; they have full time jobs, families and are paid very little to coach you, let alone help you and every other kid get recruited and save money on college. Parents and STUDENTathletes often receive help and encouragement from people who know very little about the recruiting process and little about college athletics. Listen to the right people and do your own homework. Also, beware of any agendas someone else might have when giving you advice.
MISTAKE #7- NOT UNDERSTAND THE SCHOLARSHIP AND FINANCIAL AID PROCESS- As the emergence of camps, showcases and private instruction takes on a new and more important role, many families feel that they need a scholarship to justify the time and expense they have already put into athletics. Parents and STUDENTathletes often feel anything less than an athletic scholarship to a Division I program is unacceptable. Don't be foolish; remember you are going to college to receive a college degree and play the sport you love. Parents and STUDENTathletes also don't realize how rare a full scholarship is. Aside of Division I football and basketball powerhouses, most scholarships issued to players are partial scholarships. Understand that a lot of times, a grant and aid package from a non-scholarship school is more lucrative than one with athletic aid. The scholarship and financial aid process is complicated and in addition to athletic aid it involves academic aid, family need aid, leverage aid, and other types of aid. The more you understand how the process works, the more money you can save.