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Ask the Experts: Sports and College

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Question Hi, I'm going to be a junior next fall. I am trying to play soccer for college. I have been on the Varsity team for a NJ State Champion team since freshman year of high school. When does recruiting begin - Fall of junior year (although, I have not taken my SAT yet - how will I know what type of schools I will be eligible for?) or Fall of Senior year? What is the process? - Ankit

AnswerRecruiting can begin early in the high school years as experienced coaches watch your team and see you develop. However, real recruiting begins in the spring and summer of junior year, with Division I coaches being restricted from contacting students until July. We recommend that you film some games this coming fall, and focus on your grades and PSAT/SAT prep: first SAT in April of next year. Then, with those scores in hand, send a  letter and resume listing your academic and soccer accomplishments to a group of  coaches at colleges you might be interested in. You can do so prior to July.

Visiting colleges next spring and summer and trying to meet with coaches, as well as attending competitive soccer camps this summer and next, will help you see where you fit in the college soccer world. It's a hard sport to gauge, but your local coach might also give you feedback initially on where you might be able to play at the college level. Read up on recruiting and the various levels of college play at ncaa.org, and on the various soccer-specific Web sites.

 

Question i was just wondering what i should do to get the bigger colleges to look at me not just in academics, but athletics also. - thomas

 

AnswerAlmost all of the bigger size universities are members of NCAA Division I athletic programs. This means that top athletes are heavily recruited by the coaching staff among high school players. You need to gain some framework on how you match up in your sport against other high school students. Most serious athletes participate in intensive training camps these days where they get both a high level of coaching and experience against other serious players and an exposure to coaches from the college ranks. Your high school coach should be able to steer you towards some of the best known camps. He should also be able to advise you as to whether you are a potential college athletic recruit.

You can also e-mail the coaches at colleges in which you are interested to alert them to your interest in their program. You should include an athletic resume that will tell them of your experience in sports. NCAA rules require that recruited athletes have a certain Grade Point Average (GPA) and SAT or ACT scores. So don't let your grades suffer and do prepare for the admissions tests seriously.

Last piece of advice: athletes at the large universities today are so big and strong; your size alone will be a differentiating factor, so set up a regular routine of weight and fitness training well before you actually apply to colleges.

 

Question i want to go to the university of florida but also at the same time play college football. what should i do about this? - nick

 

AnswerWell, like many high school athletes who love their sport that we have counseled, you may have to make a choice between the level of athletic competition that will allow you to compete successfully and at the same time be able to get a good education. Big time Division I-A teams like the University of Florida carry out very sophisticated and aggressive recruiting on a national level to identify and sign top tier athletes. You will be told straight out by a recruiting coach at Florida if he has any real interest in you as a recruit. Few walk-ons tend to make these nationally ranked teams. You should talk to your coach and some coaches at other colleges of potential interest to find out if you are a candidate for their football program.

If you feel strongly that you want to continue playing while doing well in your studies, consider Division II and III programs. We were college athletes at a very demanding college with a Division I-AA athletic program that allowed us to balance sports participation with serious studies, and some time, though not a lot, for time with friends and study abroad experiences.

 

Question I Would Like To Know Which College Should I attend If I Want to Get Into NFL. I am a freshman this year. My Average was 91.6. I Look Forward To earning a Full Scholarship and a Scholarship On Football. I am trying to find that perfect college for me. - Anik

AnswerYou've got a long road ahead of you, but one that starts not only with good athletic training and football in high school, but also strong academics. While most NFL players are drawn from Division I or II colleges and universities, which offer athletic scholarships, you might also consider Division I Ivy League or Division III highly academic colleges and universities that offer significant need-based financial assistance. They could get you to the NFL. They could also give you a great education for the long-term.  

To make it to DI NCAA and the big time programs, study the ncaa.org Web site carefully to learn about recruiting requirements. Then it's a matter of seeing where you are as a football player coming out of your junior year season. Will you stand out at a top DI college? Would you do better to get lots of playing time at a lesser-known football school? Look broadly, and consider the whole of your college experience in addition to football. You should go to a place where you can succeed in all regards.

 

Question How big of a ACT/SAT do I need to get into college? I want to know if I can get a scholarship for playing basketball? How hard is it to get financial Aid? - Dasia

 

AnswerYou'll need to look into Division I and II NCAA colleges and universities if you are interested in an athletic scholarship, and spend some time on the NCAA.org Web site to learn about recruiting practices, minimum standardized test score requirements, and so on. The site will also link you to rosters of the various basketball programs. In addition to a sports scholarship, you might also be eligible for need-based financial aid, and should file the FAFSA form (fafsa.ed.gov) and the PROFILE form (collegeboard.org) to make sure you are in the pool for all the need-based aid out there.  

Work with your high school coach to identify appropriate basketball programs to which you might apply, and contact college coaches directly. You can find their e-mail addresses and athletic department addresses on the colleges' Web sites. Prepare a sports-oriented resume that also lists your academic qualifications and other interests, and a cover letter. Consider sending this out to 15 to 25 colleges to see what response you get. Summer basketball camps can showcase your talents to college coaches, and a film of a complete game, plus highlights, can be important to send to colleges that show some interest in you.

 

Question 1. What are the minimum GPA's for admission at Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA?
2. How do you find out what types of scholarships are available for Div. 2 & 3 and NAIA?
3. When is it appropriate to start contacting schools about your interests in playing sports? - thomas

AnswerThere are not really any minimums to be concerned about. That is, you will have qualifications to play sports at the different athletic divisions you mention, and you can find out a lot on the ncaa.org and naia.org Web sites. Division I NCAA is the most restrictive in terms of eligibility to play, but even there minimum GPA or standardized test score requirements are not extremely tough if you work at it. More important still is fulfilling basic course requirements, and being as qualified as possible academically for the colleges in which you're interested, even if athletic recruiting is not involved. Scholarships are also found on the athletic organization sites, and on individual college Web sites.

You should start contacting coaches in the spring of junior year, though coaches (particularly Div. I NCAA) will have certain restrictions on when they can contact you. There are vast differences in the demands on you and opportunities available to you when playing sports in the different divisions, so plan to look carefully at the whole college when you are researching and visiting campuses. The school should fit you as a whole, and be a place you'd want to stay at even if you were not playing your sport.

 

Question I really want to play D1 baseball when I go to college. I am already being recruited by specific schools. If there are other ones that i would like to put on my list, should I contact the coach? Or apply first and then contact them? - anthony

AnswerYou can look at the athletic recruiting process as a parallel track to your general college admissions search. There might be colleges you are considering only because you like their baseball program and the coach is interested in you. There might be other schools you like in general, but at which you might not want to or be able to play ball. You might apply to a mix of the two, or find a great, balanced list of schools that fit you more broadly. That is what we would encourage you to reach for: colleges that not only seem right athletically, but also are a fit overall for your academic, personal, and other interests. You never know what could happen — you could want to stop playing baseball, or you could get injured or ill, and then you'll want to be at a college you wanted to be at even without your sport.

If you are interested in colleges but they don't yet seem interested in you, you should contact the coaches by sending a letter of interest and an athletic resume. Don't wait to contact them until after your application. They may have a limited recruiting budget (especially Division 3 colleges), may be looking in different areas of the country or internationally, or may just not have you on their radar screen. You may be able to set up a meeting with them on campus, even a non-official visit, and, especially if you are on target academically for their college, become a good "scholar-athlete" prospect for them. Remember that admissions officers make admissions decisions, so take what coaches say with a grain of salt and protect yourself by building a broad list.

 

Question Is it hard to balance playing a sport and going to school? - Camia

 
 
AnswerSometimes it is. It depends on the sport, the level at which you are playing it, and the college, not to mention your own work ethic and fit at the college you enter. The biggest difference you'll see is between Division I (or II) and Division III colleges.

Division III colleges, typically smaller, liberal arts colleges, by definition do not offer scholarships. They also put more stringent limits on the amount of time coaches may require you to practice and the amount of games you may play. Division I colleges may have you playing more during the full academic year, in the summer, during the off season, and for more games. They may also tie scholarship money to your participation in the sport, thereby putting more pressure on you to stay with it (though you won't be asked to leave a college if you stop playing, you could lose your athletic scholarship).

Now, if you are attending a more competitive academic college, with more demands on you from your classes, and you are playing a high-level sport, then you may have more trouble maintaining a balance, so you should take that into account. We have worked with many students over the years who have enrolled in a college that was a bit over their head academically, while they were pulled into the school through athletic recruiting. Sometimes they had to give up their sport to pursue a demanding academic major, such as engineering, or found that their grades and pursuit of other academic opportunities (such as study abroad programs, internships, or double majors) were negatively affected by their athletic commitments. They graduated having played well, but with low GPAs and limited resumes that sometimes hurt their chances for graduate school admission. As you'll hear a lot from us, you'll need to find your own proper balance.

 

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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