This post is geared towards high school students narrowing down their college choice as well student athletes that are considering transferring. As I mentioned in the about me section of the blog, I transferred to Drexel from Loyola University (MD) after finishing the first semester of my sophomore year. I spent that second semester at home frantically searching again for a new college. While this was a chaotic and frustrating time, having actually spent a semester at a college made the process a lot easier. I knew what to expect visiting different schools and had established my priorities at this point.
Below is a list of some of the important factors to think about when deciding which school is best for you.
6. Coaching staff
You will spend a lot of time as a college athlete around the coaching staff. The coaches I have been fortunate enough to play for have been like ‘a father away from home’ for me. A great coach will be there for you when times get tough and will go out of their way to help you. When you are visiting schools it is important that you engage the coaches as much as possible. Ask a lot of questions – about things beyond your sport, press them for details on how they help their players connect with alumni to help find them jobs after graduation. If you do not feel that there is a connection with the coaching staff right away, then there’s a good chance that program isn’t a good fit for you.
If you know someone that is currently playing for that coach or someone that has played for the coach in the past, don’t be afraid to ask them for their honest opinion of them. Ask how guys on the team how they like the coach. This is someone that will essentially be your boss and leader for the next four years. Find someone that is going to be committed to you and that will help you grow during your college years. I am extremely fortunate to have
5. Playing Time
Thanks to early commitments, the recruiting process has become increasingly tougher for prospective student athletes. Many of the top schools send out recruiting materials to hundreds, if not thousands of players to get the upper hand on other schools. Some schools will send the same letter to every single player that attends certain recruiting tournaments. While receiving materials from the best school in the country is exciting for any high school recruit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are showing genuine interest. The recruiting process is intense and stressful, you don’t want to waste time and energy on schools that you really aren’t good enough to play at/for. It is important that you speak with your high school or club coaches and ask them for an honest opinion on what schools they think are right for you. Attend as many showcases and recruiting events as possible to see how you compare against players from all over the country. If playing time is an important factor in your college decision than you need to know what level you will be able to make an impact at. I would much rather be the top recruit at a mid level school than the last recruit at a top ten program.
As I have mentioned in other posts, you will spend a lot of time with your teammates as a Division I athlete, many of whom will become life-long friends. When I went on visits as both a high school and a transfer recruit, the atmosphere in the locker room played a huge part in how I felt about each school. Finding a school where you connect with your teammates instantly and have strong relationships will make your overall experience that much better.
One of the perks of being a Division I athlete and a big reason many people play at the next level is that you are eligible to receive an athletic scholarship. If you a play a sport like football or basketball where they have enough scholarships to give to the entire team, this probably won’t be much of a factor. But if you play a sport like lacrosse, there are only 12.6 scholarships for fully funded programs with rosters with as many as 50 players. I have included a table that shows the number of scholarships available for each sport at the Division I level below.
If you need a big scholarship, then it may make sense for you to consider playing at a lower level program where you will make an immediate impact. If you are valuable enough to a program they will be more likely to use up an entire scholarship on you. For more information on scholarships from NCAA.com, click here.
2. Overall Vibe
For anyone that has been recruited, this advice is a little cliché but definitely true. The harsh reality of being an athlete is that your next play can be your last, injuries come with the territory. If a university changes coaching staffs, then you may not be guaranteed a roster spot. Find a school that you would attend even if you weren’t going there to play a sport. Not only is this a good safety net to fall back on, it will make your overall experience that much better.
1. Academic Reputation
Almost every college athlete dreams of one day competing at the professional level. This dream can impact how prospective student athletes choose which college to attend. They want to play on a team that is highly ranked and will put them in a position to be drafted. It is important to keep in mind that your chances of actually making it to the next level are very slim. The table below shows the chance (in percentages) that NCAA athletes have of going pro in different sports.
With the exception of baseball and men’s ice hockey, the chance of getting drafted in most sports is less than 2%. Even in sports like lacrosse where the chance of playing professionally may be slightly higher, many of the men and women that do play at the next level still have to work day jobs to make a decent living. Knowing this, choosing a school that has a strong academic reputation and offers a major that you want to study is really important. My high school lacrosse coach gave me some really valuable advice when I was getting recruited that I want to share, “think about the next forty years, not the next four.”
By using these suggestions to guide for your decision you will definitely help yourself find a college or university where you can be successful and happy. here is a link that discusses some of the recruiting rules provided by the NCAA. If you are curious about the process definitely check this out. For those of you that have already gone through the process, what are some of the things you think are important for deciding on the right college? Sound off in the comments section.