College Level Athletics
Playing college level athletics can be a wonderful opportunity. Being eligible for that option requires work, organizational skills, athletic talent and knowledge of the process.
The information below will help students and families learn about the preparation, eligibility, application and recruitment process. For many athletes, this begins freshman year and becomes very important during junior year.
The Student Athlete’s Four Year Plan
- Get to know all the coaches in your sport.
- Complete all class work and home work assignments, ask teachers for help when you fall behind or do not understand a concept.
- Attend sports camps – these experiences help students see how they compare to other athletes and help improve skills.
- Start to investigate and think about your academic and career goals.
- Keep your grades up!!!
- Talk to your coaches about your ambitions – do these fit your abilities? Ask what you need to do now to make yourself an attractive prospect in the future.
- Stay out of trouble!
- Start identifying colleges and universities that interest you.
- Take the PLAN and the PSAT.
- Attend sports camps – if you have a “dream college” attend sports camps where that schools’ coaches participate.
- Meet with your counselor about career goals, academic interests, and NCAA requirements.
- Ask your coach for a REALISTIC assessment of the college level you could play.
- Take the PSAT in October and the ACT in February or SAT I in January).
- Attend college fairs and workshops on college admission.
- Starting in January, work with your counselor to create a list of appropriate colleges for you to explore.
- Visit college campuses. You may meet with the coaches while you visit a campus but if you are a Division I or Division II NCAA school, you may not accept any free items from the coach or admission staff UNLESS everyone who visits the campus receives that item. If the coach provides you with any help with your visit costs, then it is an “Official Visit.” You may only have five official visits while you are being recruited. These are done during your senior year.
- Create your Athletic Resume, and, begin to compile tapes of your athletic performances.
- Write letters to the coaches at each of the schools you are interested in attending. Include your Athletic Resume.
- Begin to gather letters of recommendation from your coaches. Include letters you’re your non-high school coaches.
- After you receive your final junior year grades, enter yourself in the NCAA Clearinghouse. (www.ncaa.org)
- Attend sports camps.
- If you have not done so, register with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
- Write to the coaches at the schools you are interested in again, include your senior sports schedule and an update on any awards you received and an update on your summer athletic activities.
- Finalize your SAT/ACT scores.
- Finalize your college list.
- Learn the “signing dates” for your sport.
- If you have not visited all of the schools that are on your final list, plan those visits (official or otherwise).
- Complete and submit your applications for admission.
- Be 100% sure of your final choice before signing with any school.
- Before committing to a school, talk to your parents, school counselor and high school coach to help you evaluate each school and team.
- After you make your final choice, write a thank you note to the other coaches you have been speaking with - tell them where you will attend college and thank them for their time and assistance.
- Make your final decision based on the school that will give you the best education, career preparation, and a satisfying athletic experience - in that order!
College Athletic Governing Organizations
These governing bodies decide the rules and regulations that keep college sports and teams in line with what the organizations and their members determine are appropriate standards.
This is the largest and best known of the three organizations. Regardless of which school you decide to attend and play a sport, it is critical that you understand and abide by the eligibility requirements for that organization.
NCAA Initial Eligibility
All students who wish to receive an athletic scholarship at an NCAA Division I or Division II school must file for Initial-Eligibility certification from the NCAA prior to being offered a scholarship. Students can file any time after completing junior year. Use the NCAA website.
The NCAA determines an athlete’s eligibility for participation in college level athletics based on a formula of high school grades in select core courses and standardized test scores (ACT or SAT). The requirements are listed on the NCAA website.
NAIA and NCAA Division III Schools
NCAA’s Division III schools are smaller than Division I schools and don’t receive the amount of national media coverage but they all have rich traditions and history. They do not award athletic scholarships, but more athletes play in Division III schools than any other, and they receive excellent educations.
The NAIA is an alternative organizing body to the NCAA. NAIA schools award athletic scholarships.
Division III and NAIA Schools…
- Are some of the best schools in the country. They are among the most prestigious and provide some of the best educational programs.
- Provide some of the best placement opportunities – for both jobs and graduate schools.
- Provide informal and personalized educations. Students usually get to know their professors quite well.
- Provide increased contact with professors and fewer contacts with graduate assistants.
- Are extremely competitive both academically and athletically. They have some of the finest athletes in the nation.
- Often give student athletes preferential treatment regarding admission. If you are competitive academically, your involvement in sports will help you get into Division III and NAIA schools.
College Coaches Look For…
Physical Presence: How you physically resemble the best players in the sport?
Athleticism: Speed, quickness, jumping ability, strength, etc.
Intelligence: Do you make great decisions during practice, games and in life?
Intensity: Do you play hard in the classroom and on the playing field?
Attitude: Do you accept responsibility for your actions? Do you accept direction from your coach? Will you take a backseat to teammates when it is in the best interests of the team?
Fundamentals and Hard Work: Players who work hard on improving all aspects of their sport are the ones most likely to be noticed.
Adapted from an article by Joe Butler specifically addressing what basketball coaches and scouts are looking for in a player.
NCAA Recruiting Rules
Students intending to play at a NCAA school need to know the NCAA recruiting rules. Visit the NCAA website for details about who can talk to the student and when they can do it.
Advising Student Athletes Through the College Recruitment Process, Michael D. Koehler
Student Athlete Guide to College, Princeton Review
The Athlete’s Game Plan for College and Career, Stephen and Howard Figler