How Long Should My List of Colleges Be?

Why Make a List of Colleges?

Your college recruiting process will be overwhelming, and deciding where to play college soccer is likely going to be the biggest decision you’ve made so far in your life. If you don’t have a list of colleges, you’ll be unprepared and lost, which is why it’s Step 2 on our College Recruiting Pathway. There are two key reasons why making a list of colleges is so important:

Contacting Coaches Before Showcase Tournaments & ID Camps

When you start showcasing yourself at tournaments and ID camps, you need to contact coaches so they’ll come watch you play. The chances of just being seen and contacted by a random coach are slim to none. If you don’t have a list of colleges, how will you know which coaches to contact?

Most players without a list of colleges either (a) don’t contact any coaches or (b) contact every coach listed as attending.

If you don’t contact any college coaches, no one will show up specifically to watch you play. Coaches might watch your games, but they won’t put their chair down, look up your number, find you on the field, and watch your every move. The coaches at your games will probably be doing that for other players, meaning you have to do something really special to get their attention.

If you contact every college coach listed as attending, that’s probably going to take a LONG time! To speed up the process, you’ll probably either send one email with every coach bcc’d or you’ll send the same email to every college coach. College coaches get a lot of emails, and they can tell when a player is truly interested in their school. They usually can’t watch every player who emails them, so they prioritize the players who show genuine interest in their program. Why would they waste their time watching a player who might not even want to go to their college?

Did you know our Recruiting Dashboard has the email address of every NCAA soccer coach?

Sifting Through Emails from College Coaches

If you’re fortunate enough to receive emails from college coaches after a showcase event, how are you going to know which of their colleges interest you? Research them? Then why not do that beforehand?

Once a college expresses interest in you, you’re going to be excited! And you should be! But that excitement is going to cloud your judgement. For example, you might be dead set on studying engineering, but then a college that doesn’t offer engineering contacts you...and you say, “I can do without engineering!” But if you have a list of colleges, you’ll (a) be more likely to receive emails from colleges that interest you and (b) be more likely to turn down colleges that aren’t a good fit for you.

The Bare Minimum List of Colleges

We’ll get into the factors that determine the exact length of your list of colleges, but at Contact Coaches, if you really want to play college soccer, we recommend making a list of at least 15 colleges.

The Makeup of Your List of Colleges

The makeup of your list of colleges is extremely important. If you put 15 dream schools on your list, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, we recommend this breakdown:

  • 5 dream colleges

  • 5 realistic colleges

  • 5 safety colleges

What makes your options dream vs realistic vs safety depends on your level of play, your academic performance, and your financial situation. Weigh the combination of those factors when deciding where to put a college on your list.

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How to Use the Contact Coaches Recruiting Dashboard to Make Your List of Colleges

Our Recruiting Dashboard is a great tool to make your list of colleges. After all, it includes every NCAA Division I, Division II, and Division III soccer program, along with information on each college (including every coach's email address!). We’ve included a specific field to indicate which schools are on your list, and you can filter out schools that you aren’t interested in.

The Dashboard also makes updating your list of colleges easy. You can track communication you have with each college coach, identify which colleges will be at each of your showcase tournaments and ID camps, and eventually rank your top choices.

Factors that Determine the Length of Your List of Colleges

While we recommend a bare minimum list of 15 colleges, everyone’s list will be different, and there are several key factors that will determine the length of your list of colleges.

What You Want Out of Your College Experience

Step 1 in our College Recruiting Pathway is deciding what you want out of your college experience. After all, it’s tough to make a list of colleges if you don’t know what you want!

If what you want is very specific, you’ll likely have a smaller list of colleges since fewer schools will match your criteria. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you only have a broad definition of your ideal college, your list will be larger.

Don't know what you want? This guide will help!

Your Stage in the College Recruiting Pathway

Generally speaking, the earlier you are in your recruiting process, the longer your list of colleges will be. As you go through the Exposure Cycle (Steps 3-5 in the College Recruiting Pathway), you’ll lose interest in some colleges, and some college coaches will let you know they aren’t interested in you.

Note that it’s relative to where you are in the Pathway, not how old you are or what grade you’re in. Whether you make your initial college list as a freshman or as a junior, you should have more schools on it than you will later in the process. It’s a good idea to cast a wide net - you can always tell coaches you’re no longer interested.

Your Level of Play

The higher your level of play, the more colleges you can play for. Therefore, you have more options available to you and can have a longer list. For a player who isn’t as good as you, he/she won’t have the same number of options.

To get a gauge on your level of play, check out our guide.

Your Academic Performance

Your academic performance will affect the length of your list of colleges in the same way that your level of play will. The better you do in school and on the SAT/ACT, the more colleges you can get into.

Your Gender

This factor is simple: there are over 200 more women’s NCAA soccer programs than men’s NCAA soccer programs, so girls have more options to add to their list than boys do.

The Next Steps You Should Take

If you haven’t already done so, make your list of colleges! Check out our How to Begin post to figure out what’s important to you.

If you have a list, revisit it! Make sure it's well-balanced so you're set up for success.

Next up is the Exposure Cycle - check out Steps 3-5 of the College Recruiting Pathway.

Remember, whatever stage you're at, our Recruiting Dashboard will help you manage your list of colleges so you can make it to Step 7: Commit!

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