Applying to College as an Athlete: 10 Important Questions

by | Jun 16, 2022

Written by David Stoeckel of the College Recruiting Group and Katie Andersen of College Fit,

My co-authors on this post, David Stoeckel and Katie Andersen, are former college athletes with over three decades of combined experience advising college-bound student-athletes. Here are some of the questions they get asked all the time:

1. Can I realistically play my sport at the college level?

Statistics show that approximately 3-12% of high school athletes will compete at the NCAA level, depending on their sport. Don’t underestimate the power of your athletic abilities, though, especially if you’ve played your sport for a number of years, and had good coaching. You may be surprised to learn how many college athletic recruiting opportunities await you.

2. When should I start my athletic recruiting process?

Many college coaches are looking for 10th grade high school recruits so try introducing yourself to recruiters by the middle of sophomore year. If you wait longer, you may still get recruited but you’ll likely have missed a few opportunities.

3. Will college coaches discover me or should I do something in order to get recruited?

This is mostly on you. If you’re not proactive in your initial recruiting efforts, coaches will never make the effort to evaluate you simply because they won’t know who you are. You can introduce yourself to college coaches by sending them an introductory email and attaching your Student-Athlete Profile.

4. How do college coaches assess my athletic ability and determine if I’m a good athletic fit for their program?

A quality video is often considered to be the single most valuable recruiting tool a high school athlete can have, especially if you’re trying to reach coaches who may never see you play in person. Some tips for recruiting videos: put your best clips first, use spot shadows, record in HD, don’t worry too much about music, keep it around 3-5 minutes. Oh, and recruiters must be able to quickly find your jersey number and be able to clearly see you as you showcase your abilities.

Two other ways recruiters evaluate athletes include ID camps and Showcase tournaments.

5. What are ID camps and Showcase tournaments?

ID camps are generally sponsored by an individual school, or by a private organization. They provide individual recruits the opportunity to display their skills while giving coaches the opportunity to “identify” and evaluate top prospective recruits for their programs.

Showcase Tournaments usually involve entire teams (e.g., baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse) and, like ID camps, they offer college coaches the chance to scout prospective recruits.

Important: When you participate in one of these events, it’s essential to email your list of coaches 2-3 weeks prior to the competition, and possibly send a friendly reminder email the weekend before. That way they’ll be sure to know you’re participating in the event.

Pro Tips: Keep your reminder email short! And don’t forget to tell coaches the dates and times of your games, your field number, your uniform colors, your jersey number, and your position.

6. How should I identify and contact realistic “likely” schools that are a good match with my grades and test scores as well as my athletic ability?

Student-athletes should evaluate: a) What are my feelings about playing college sports? b) How much playing time should I anticipate during my freshman year? c) How likely am I to play NCAA Division I, II, or III? and d) How realistic is it for me to earn an athletic scholarship?

Also, it’s a good idea to seek the input of both your counselor and your high school and club team coaches, as they may suggest schools that aren’t yet on your radar. Create a recruiting list of at least 60 schools that generally meet your academic profile and athletic recruiting goals.

Why so many schools? An average athlete receives responses from only 15-20% of the coaches to whom they email introductions. Initiating this step as soon as possible increases your chances of hearing back from college coaches. The NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete details the specific dates when coaches initiate communications with prospective recruits.

7. Do coaches use social media for athletic recruiting?

Absolutely! Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are among the most popular tools for student-athletes to showcase their talents and tell their stories. It should be no surprise that college coaches use these as an easy way to stay updated on a potential recruit’s recent successes. It also allows them to research a student-athlete’s character, personality, and interests.

Keep in mind that college coaches evaluate the consistency of your email and phone conversations with your social media presence to make sure you represent your authentic self.

8. Will visiting a college help me get recruited and, if so, when should I plan to visit?

Visiting college campuses and meeting college coaches in person can be truly invaluable for all involved. A visit helps you determine your comfort level on campus in a number of ways. In addition to learning about your fit as a “student”, a campus visit with the coach to see enables you to see the athletic facilities, possibly see the team practice, and potentially meet some of the team members. Furthermore, your campus visit tells the coach that you have a sincere interest in their school.

Make these visits approximately according to this schedule:

  • Division I: starting August 1 before junior year

  • Division II: starting June 15 after sophomore year

  • Division III: any time

Before you make a visit a) do your research to find out if you’re a match for their program and b) focus on schools where the coaches have expressed a strong positive interest in you.

Important: Review the current NCAA Recruiting Rules to make sure you understand when coaches are allowed to meet with you so you can make the most out of your visit. These rules limit the timing and type of communication a college coach can use with you in order to slow down the pace of recruiting activities.

9. What else should I know about NCAA recruiting rules?

The NCAA establishes and enforces strict rules on when and where college coaches can actively recruit you (i.e., when coaches can speak with you on the phone, in person, or on their campus). Every high school athlete should know these rules. To find them, download the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete. These rules are reviewed and updated each year (usually around June), so it’s important to stay in touch with your college advisor and check the NCAA website. Pay special attention to the pages regarding Recruiting Rules.

10. If a college coach wants me to be on their team, can they help me get accepted to their university?

Maybe. College admissions officers take many factors into account and sports ability is just one aspect of your application. At Division I and II schools, recruited athletes may receive support in the college admission process, while coaches at Division III schools have less influence over the admissions process.

Weil College Advising

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