As I was touring my first campus during my junior year of high school, I was aware of the classroom experience, the dorms and the cafeteria, but if I’m being honest I was mostly thinking about my appointment with the coach that concluded my visit.
“How much should I talk?”
“Should I brag or be humble?”
“What questions should I ask?”
“Will he like me?”
“Will I make my shots in open gym afterwards?”
All of these questions swirled in my head and distracted me from really allowing myself the space to feel comfortable on that first visit. This one visit was a pretty good reflection of how too many student-athletes (including myself!) go through the entire college selection process. With that said, there is a better way to determine where to go, and it all comes down to how much work you are willing to put in on the front end.
Many recruits get well into their senior year before they even think about applying. The prevailing school of thought is to focus on the season at hand before moving forward with a college search. “Don’t get distracted!” is what everyone is saying to you. I think that advice is meant well, but it can also be a bad excuse for laziness and does you a disservice.
I can guarantee that coaches are starting to recruit others in your class before their senior year is over. On top of that, a lot of scholarships these days are tied to Early Action deadlines. Don’t get caught out in the cold without a spot on a team, or with less opportunity for financial aid. You don’t have to commit early, but you should have all the groundwork laid so that you can make a decision well before the conclusion of your senior season.
Here are three simple steps to follow that will give you the best possible chance at the school that fits you best:
1. Pull together some game film
Before the summer in between your junior and senior year, put together a film package. It doesn’t have to be long; if the coach likes what he or she sees then they can ask for more. Pull together a 2-3 minute highlight clip and a full game/match/meet where you did well, and have those ready to send off.
2. Don’t wait for a coach to contact you
This process is as much about you recruiting a school as it is about the coach recruiting you. Find a couple of schools that you are interested in, and make your interests known. Reach out to the coach and brag a little about yourself. Even better, talk to your high school or club coach and have them reach out on your behalf to the schools you want to compete for. The absolute worst that could happen as a result of this is that you are in the same place you currently are. If you are doing the college process the right way, you should be getting some “no’s”; if you aren’t hearing that a bit, you aren’t pushing yourself enough with coaches and scholarship/school applications.
3. Send in your applications by Early Action deadlines
You don’t need to make a decision that early, but you want to give yourself the best chance at having the opportunity to go. Early Action applications give you that opportunity without locking you in. There will probably still be some coaches reaching out to you, and that’s great! By getting your information out there early, it puts you in a position of opportunity and power, rather than having to grasp at the leftovers.
If you follow these three steps, you will be well on your way to finding a school and an athletic program that fits you really well. You’ve put in countless hours of hard work into the court or field or whatever playing surface has been your second home for all these years. Don’t cheat yourself now by not committing a relatively few extra hours to your college search. By doing the work, you will give yourself the best chance at finding a school that will help you accomplish all of your goals.