Student Athletes Applying To College; Top 10 Reasons To Start Now
Student Athletes Applying To College; Top 10 Reasons To Start Now
To all student athletes applying to college; Pay close attention to the following message – START NOW!!!!! You read it correctly – start now. Have you ever heard the famous business axiom “Location, location, location”?
Well the same holds true for a college application only the words are “Preparation, preparation, preparation!” You may be at the top of your class academically or you may be the best athlete in your school, or maybe even both, but that may have no bearing whatsoever on your college app. The college application process needs to start the first day of your freshman year! While you may have no idea what college you’d like to attend that early on, it’s all about the process and preparation.
First and foremost, you’re a student. Don’t be deluded into thinking of your college career as a stepping stone to professional athletics. Here’s an eye opener; Only 250 of over 300,000 high school football players ever make it to the pro level. The odds
for other pro sports are similar – SLIM! That’s not to discourage one from playing sports, on the contrary, playing sports is one of the best things anyone can do and the benefits far outweigh the downside (if there is one).
College admission is more competitive than ever and schools have standards that they adhere to. Be that as it may, they will recognize other talents as a criteria for admission, but remember that coaches only have a couple of candidates per year that they can support. That means that even if you’re good enough to play at that level, you may not qualify for admission if you’re not on the coaches list. Bottom line – STUDY and get good grades so it becomes a weapon in your arsenal and not an anchor!
2. Test Scores
Although many schools are becoming ‘Test Score Optional’, the majority still rely on SAT’s and ACT’s as a criteria for admission. The top academic schools in the country like Williams College are looking for 2100 SAT’s
and 30 plus ACT’s. While they may bend the rules a little for an exceptional athlete, you need to be hovering around the benchmark for a realistic shot. Once again, ‘Preparation, preparation, preparation! There are prep tests and courses that will help you achieve better scores, but don’t think it’s a short term deal. Students need to begin one year prior to the tests to study the manuals and take courses. Trying to prep the night before an SAT is like trying to learn a curve ball the night before a playoff game. It doesn’t work.
Just like grades and test scores, an accurate athletic assessment is critical to make sure you’re not trying to put the square peg in the round hole. There are plenty of companies out there that perform independent assessments. Make sure you know what level you can play at by using accurate criteria for play at that level. Case in point, D1 baseball coaches want a 90 mph fastball, a sub 2 ERA, at least six K’s and no more than 2BB’s per game. There are many more factors involved but that’s the starting point. For some coaches, if you don’t tickle 90 on the radar, they won’t even look at you.
This is a good argument for showcases, however one probably shouldn’t attend until junior year. There can be as many as 90 coaches at some of the bigger showcases, but just like anything else, make sure you find showcases that are on the same talent level. The attention you get from the coaches at the showcase will give you an indication of your talent. If you get approached by one or more coaches then you’re at the right venue. If no one gives you a jingle then you may be over your head. Let common sense prevail and don’t be subject to an overzealous parent that thinks their kid is the reincarnation of Bo Jackson.
4. Find The Good Fit and Visit
Students should have an idea of what schools they might be interested in based on their own particular criteria. Your high school guidance counselor is a great asset and should be utilized. They will also plug you into a Naviance program to find schools that are a good fit. There are far more reasons for choosing a school than just academics or athletics ie; size,
curriculum, need blind or need based financing, geographic location etc. All of these factors should be considered in order of importance. Narrow your search down to no more than 20 schools and then visit as many of them as soon as possible but no later than junior year. Most all of the campuses are beautiful but often times students perceptions of an institution will change based on a visit. You don’t want to spend four years at a school where you’re not happy.
5. Contact The Coach
Just because a coach doesn’t contact you that doesn’t mean that the school isn’t the right fit. Contact the coach and make sure he’s aware of you. Once again, don’t bark up the wrong tree! If they don’t respond or they don’t seem interested – move on. Go to the school where you’re wanted or you think you’ll be happy. If you’re a good athlete and the coach has a spot for you, you’ll know in short order. Remember this axiom; ‘It’s a fast yes and a slow no’. You can live by that. The ‘walk-on-wonderkid’ is a heartwarming story but is the same frequency as a winning lottery ticket.
Coaches usually have their candidates picked long before September so make sure you get this done early. However, coaches are bound by NCAA recruiting regulations and cannot reach out to students prior to the end of junior year. That doesn’t prevent you from reaching out to him and making an unofficial visit to the campus. Although you’ll always hear of recruiting infractions, most coaches are strictly ‘By The Book’ so it’s important that you’re aware of all of the NCAA regulations.
6. Touch All Of The Bases
When you apply to schools you should have a portfolio of schools that run from the ‘safety’ to the ‘far reach’ categories. Somewhere between two and four in each category is sufficient and one Early Decision (see category 8). Remember that each school requires an application fee so if you apply to 20 schools, then expect to pay at least $1300 in app fees. (financial aid students will get assistance with application fees up to about 8 schools)
Below is an example of a Naviance school category profile.
“Far Reach” Category 5 = < 10% National Admit Rate
“Reach” Category 4 = < 15% chance of admission
“Possible” Category 3 = 15 – 30% chance of admission
“Likely” Category 2 = 50% chance of admission
“Safety” Category 1 = > 90% chance of admission
7. Other Extracurricular Activities
Colleges like to see well rounded students that can contribute to their diversity as an institution. There are so many extracurricular activities that students can get involved in high school above and beyond athletics. Debate, student government, writing for the school newspaper, community service with charitable organizations etc. are just a few but the list is endless. Although the athletics play a large role, having an additional facet can often be a deal breaker for schools.
8. Early Action/Early Decision
Once you’ve picked the schools that are a good fit, you need to pick what would be the ideal school and apply early action or
early decision. Early Action is nonbinding so you’re not required to withdraw your applications if you’re accepted, whereas Early Decision is a binding process and if you’re selected ED then you need to withdraw all of your other applications. The exception to this rule is if you’re applying for financial aid and you feel that the aid package is insufficient. Schools vary in the percentage of students accepted but suffice it to say that a significant number are accepted Early Decision.
By applying Early Decision, you’re telling that school that you want to be there above all other schools and if accepted you’ll be there in the fall. If a coach has supported you then the ED process tells him and the admissions team that you will matriculate. This can definitely be a deal maker but if you’re way out of the realm of their academic standards then don’t bet the farm on your getting accepted. Still, stranger things have happened. Coaches usually have a good handle on what their school will allow so make sure you listen to their advice.
Find the best references possible but… it’s always better if someone knows you personally and can write about all of your attributes from first hand knowledge. Be that as it may, don’t just ask someone you know well for a reference, Try to find a ‘heavy hitter’ or an alumni from the school in question.
10. The Common App (lication)
The Common App is a nonprofit organization that provides a basic application which is accepted at over 600 schools. This app
is required by many schools and simplifies the process for students by eliminating duplication. Schools may require additional information and every school is different. Bottom line is that you can fill out one app and submit it to multiple schools. The information from the previous year is erased by late July each year so you can start the app as soon as August. Start it early! There’s a host of information available about the whole college application process that is helpful for both students and parents so use it as a resource as well.
For student athletes applying to college it’s important that you pick a school that fits your wants, needs and capabilities. It’s also a good idea to run the gamut of reach to safety schools giving you a ‘safety’ blanket. But the absolute key is to get started doing the right things immediately. If you follow this guideline then you’re likely to end up in a school that you like that meets your needs. Best of luck!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE GREAT TO GET STARTED
BUT YOU HAVE TO GET STARTED TO BE GREAT
Student Athletes Applying to College; Top 10 Reasons to Start Now!