The college recruiting process can be incredibly overwhelming. Email coaches. Make a highlight video. Go to showcases. Which showcases? Go to camps. Which camps? Scholarships. Official/unofficial visits. Financial aid. Applications. SAT. ACT. GPA. NCAA Division I, Division II, Division III. What? When? How?
Before you start sweating, take a deep breath. Yes, there are a lot of variables in the equation. Let’s start with you, the future college athlete. What do you want out of your college experience? That’s what’s most important.
Now, at 15-18 years old, you may not know exactly what you want, and that’s okay. But the more you know about what’s out there, the better equipped you’ll be to make the best decision you can. Here are some ways to gain the knowledge and understanding you need:
(Once you're done, go on to Step 2 outlined in this post)
Research Schools and Programs Online
By devoting time to online research, you can find out just about everything you would ever want to know about the schools and programs that might interest you. Build your foundation of knowledge this way. We’ve included some helpful links below to get you started on specific topics.
While you can learn a lot from sitting in front of your computer or phone, there’s no substitute for experiencing a school in real life. What you see, hear, and feel while on campus will fill in the blanks left from your online research. Visit as many schools as possible. Even if you don’t think you’re interested, you might discover an aspect you really like that you can then look for in other schools. Overall, the more you experience, the better understanding you’ll have of what you want.
Talk to Others
Do you have older friends or teammates that have gone through the recruiting process or are currently doing so? Do you have coaches that have guided other players along their way? Relatives? Neighbors? Talk to anyone and everyone who has experience in what you’re going through. While your journey will undoubtedly be different than theirs, you can still gain valuable insight into what to do, what not to do, what to look out for, etc. Ask them questions, listen, and form your own opinions on what’s best for you.
Watch the Game
When I was a college coach, I can’t tell you how many young players told me they’d be a great fit for our program. When I asked them if they’d ever seen us play, the answer was almost always, “No”. Like visiting schools, watching college soccer games will give you perspective on what’s out there. Watching older youth games will also give you insight on what’s to come, especially if there are committed players on the field.
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THINGS TO CONSIDER
Now that you have an understanding of where to look for information, what are you looking for? There’s a lot that goes into the college-athlete experience. Non-athlete college-bound students have much to consider about schools. On top of that, you have to think about the soccer program as well. Let’s take a look at each aspect.
*Note: Not every topic will be important to you. Hone in on the ones that are and find schools/programs that fit what you’re looking for.
What part of the country do you want to be in?
Do you want to be near home? Far from home?
What climate do you like?
Do you want to be in a city? The suburbs? Rural?
Do you want to be near the mountains? Beach?
Do you want to have a car on campus?
Do you know what you want to study?
What subjects interest you?
What careers interest you?
What personality do you want your school to have?
Do you want to go to a liberal arts school? Technical institute?
Do you want to be in a competitive environment? Collaborative?
Do you want to go to a big school? Medium? Small?
Do you want the campus to be sprawling? Walkable?
What student:faculty ratio is ideal for you?
Life After College
Where do you want to live?
What kind of career do you want?
What’s the alumni community/network like?
What kind of people do you get along with best?
What are your interests outside of soccer and school?
Do you want to be surrounded by jocks? Hipsters? Outdoor enthusiasts?
How much can you/your family afford to pay?
What academic scholarships and need-based financial aid are available?
Do you want to take on student loans?
US News has a wealth of information on every school in the country. You can learn most everything you need to know by diving into their school profiles, and you can search by what's important to you. Outside of that, spend time on specific school websites to discover even more.
Level of Play
Do you want to play Division I? Division II? Division III? NAIA? JuCo? Club? Intramural?
What’s the program’s history of success? Future potential?
What kind of conference do you want to play in?
Role Within the Team
How much playing time do you want?
What position do you want to play?
Is team or individual success more important to you?
You can find program rankings at these links:
What kind of people do you enjoy spending time with the most?
What are your closest friends like?
What kind of person pushes you to be your best?
What’s your ideal style of play?
What kind of coaches motivate you?
How long have the coaches been there? Are they sticking around?
What does your ideal training session look like?
How important are the quality of facilities?
Do you want to play in front of a crowd?
Does your family need help paying for college?
Is being a scholarship athlete important to you? If so, why?
How do athletic scholarships relate to the level of program you can play for?
The following websites do a good job of covering college soccer, so use them as a resource.
In conclusion, the college recruiting process starts with you. Decide what you want out of your college experience, then go out and find it!
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