Picking the right college can be a tough task for any high school senior, but it can be a unique and even more complex process for young student-athletes. As we approach the new school year, thousands of high school seniors will begin applying for college and making decisions regarding their future. Here are some helpful tips for parents and things hopeful student athletes should consider before committing to a college or university.
Focus On Your Academic Interests When Looking At Colleges
First things first, good academics lead to more opportunities. It is so important to take advantage of the academic scholarships that you could be eligible for - and you could be a sought after commit to some schools that match your learning interests.
As a student-athlete it is easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding the school’s athletic programs, but remember you are still a “student” as much as an “athlete”. Just like the old NCAA commercials say, only 2 percent of all NCAA student-athletes go on to compete on the professional level, so having a strong interest in your education is important. Ensure that the college you choose has the major you want to focus on, or at least offer similar opportunities that will lead to success off the field.
For more info on scholarships, check out these helpful articles!
Ask Coaches, Scouts About Where You Rank In Your Sport
Before you can make a decision about which college to choose, you must also figure out where you stand athletically, and at what level you want to play your sport. You don’t always have to play a sport at a Division-I school or be a full-time student athlete. Many schools offer high-level club sports and tons of intramural sports. This provides students an opportunity to stay in shape and meet new people, while also allowing one to be a part of a competitive environment.
A major benefit of intramural sports is the small time commitment, allowing you to focus on school or maintain an off-campus job throughout your college years, while also contributing to a team.
If you want something more competitive and serious, you may want to consider club sports. Club sports are not sanctioned by the NCAA, have no scholarships attached, and have less time commitments but are good if your school does not have inter-collegiate offerings for the sport. Sports like rugby, lacrosse, ice hockey, and ultimate frisbee may fall into this category.
If you are a motivated athlete who might not be ready for the collegiate level, check out these helpful articles on finding new sports!
Explore Every Division Of College Sports To Find Your Place
Intercollegiate sports is what we often think of when talking about college athletics. Students participating in intercollegiate athletics should expect significant practice commitments and the highest level of competition. However, not all inter-collegiate sports are the same and the NCAA has divided them into three separate categories that describe the financial responsibilities and level of competition offered. The following are the different NCAA distinctions:
- Division-I: D1 sports tend to be the larger schools with the most competitive athletes and are the ones we often think about when it comes to collegiate athletics, such as Alabama, Duke, Penn State, etc. These schools offer their student-athletes athletic scholarships which cover tuition, board, etc.
- Divison-II: Students at D2 colleges can still receive athletic scholarships, however they are often limited or smaller in dollar amount. DII schools are usually smaller institutions and include California State Schools and the reigning DII football champions Ferris State.
- Division III: D3 schools are athletically competitive, however do not offer athletic scholarships. This being said, many students do receive a merit-based scholarship to attend or need-based aid. This article is a great introduction to learning about some of the most competitive D-III athletic programs, who dominate more than just football.
There are also NAIA schools and junior colleges, both of which compete outside of the NCAA and can help a student-athlete develop athletically and academically in an effort to find a place in Division-I sports. These both prove to be a great option and a plethora of professional sports stars chose this route.
Understanding which of those three divisions is the right fit for you boils down to you priorities as an athlete. The first step would be understanding your level of athletic talent, and a more highly competitive athlete who knows they have the skills to be recruited at a DI level may want to focus on getting an athletic scholarship at such an institution.
Division-I through Division-III schools have all produced professional athletes, so it is your job to make the best of the resources provided to you at whatever institution you choose.
Another factor that may affect your choice is your commitment to playing the game long-term. If playing professionally is not something you plan to do, or if you want to prioritize academics over athletics, a DIII or DII school may be less of a time commitment. If playing on a big stage and getting noticed by scouts is important to you, consider choosing a DI school.
Pick A School That Is Just The Right Size And Can Support You
Different divisions of college athletics, as well as the size of the school also impacts the amount of money colleges have to invest in the school’s athletic facilities, support staff, and you as an athlete.
You should request a tour of the campus weight room, indoor practice facilities, physical therapy, locker rooms, and any other relevant areas to your training and competing. It may be a red flag if training areas look worn down. Remember, the health of your facility could impact your growth as an athlete and can help prevent injury while training.
Athletic support staff is also important in your growth as an athlete, student, and person. From athletic trainers, to emergency care, to the strength coaches and tutors, it is important to ensure that you have a group of people that have your back as you start this chapter of you journey.