A Guide to the College Recruiting Process.
by Marc Frankland, West Michigan Soccer Academy Director
The college recruiting process can be a daunting and overwhelming experience for both players and parents. In addition to the College ID Soccer Camps we provide, we also wanted to help with some advice and links that will help you in this process. Our staff has sent hundreds of players into the college soccer game both as club coaches, camp directors and as college coaches.
Be Prepared, Proactive and Persistent.
Every player has different goals and expectations for their college experience. As high school students across the nation complete another grade, many will begin the exciting and at times overwhelming process of preparing for college. With 5800 two and four year universities to choose from and nearly 3000 collegiate soccer programs, finding the right fit can seem like a daunting task.
So how do you choose the right college? In short, it begins with creating a personal roadmap. To help, we have prepared a few guidelines to get you started.
Start with documenting volunteer activities, academic, athletic accomplishments and the things that make you unique. This will help you create an academic and athletic profile (or resume) that can be distributed to college coaches and university officials at schools that interest you.
Start with a list of 15-20 universities and consider factors such as geographic location, enrollment size, program of study, degrees offered, athletic program, campus life, and the community surrounding the campus. Now you need to narrow down your list. In your sophomore year start thinking about colleges. In your junior year have your list down to 6-8 colleges, research them and visit the schools if possible (meet the players, coaches and attend camps that the coaches attend). In your senior year have your list down to 2-3 schools, with the possibility of being contacted by a team outside of that list because of your play at showcases, camps etc.
You can add other factors you feel are important to your college search. The goal is to consider aspects of college life, being happy and prepared is essential. Money also plays a vital role, but don’t let money be the only reason you choose one school over another. One thing we tell all families and students is GRADES = MONEY
College and universities will offer academic and merit scholarship money awards dependent on your high school GPA and SAT/ACT test score(s). The better your GPA and test scores, the more money you could receive in scholarship monies. Have a GPA of 3.5+ and an SAT of 1800+? You could earn a Presidential, Medallion or Provost Scholarship.
What’s even better? The amount awarded will usually be offered for each year you attend (up to 4 years total), as long as you maintain the designated GPA set forth by the college to keep the scholarship. This means your college education, or a good part of it, could be paid for due to the great grades you earned in high school. Many schools differ in their policies towards these scholarships so make sure you ask the questions.
Additional opportunities to garner scholarship monies can often come from these categories:
Community Service work
Endowments and Grants
Environmental or Green Club
Each college or university web site will have information on the scholarship/grant opportunities they offer, guidelines for eligibility, and the process for application. Be mindful of application and scholarship deadlines, so you don’t miss out on money to help fund your college education.
Links to all colleges and universities to get better idea of the cost and scholarships you may be eligible for.
Grant, scholarship, financial aid & student loan information; free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Financial Aid Estimator. Lower right, under subhead “Thinking about College?”
Each year more than $100 million in academic scholarships, grants and aid will go un-taken at many universities. Why? Athletes seem to think the only way to pay for college is an athletic scholarship. The best opportunity to earn money for college is good grades. It’s that simple.
Consider taking practice SAT and ACT tests in the fall, and then make a point of taking the official test in the spring. Not only will this help determine if you are meeting admissions standards, it’s a great opportunity to find out where you stand.
Reach out to schools you like, ask for more information or a media package, contact admissions/financial aid, connect with the coach, and begin to think about an unofficial campus visit. Before you visit, contact the dean of the academic department that interests you most, contact admissions and send your player resume to the college coach and ask for a meeting.
Allow 2 to 3 hours per campus tour. Prior to the unofficial visit, evaluate where you are academically and if you can’t meet college admissions for NCAA Division I, II or NAIA, you might consider NCAA Division III, NCCAA or NJCAA.
If your goal is to play NCAA Division I or Division II soccer, register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (not applicable to Division III) the summer prior to your junior year. If you’ve started your junior year and haven’t registered, do so immediately.
The NCAA is responsible for 23 sanctioned sports and ensuring all prospects can meet both academic and athletic requirements. The goal is to ensure core course requirements and amateur status has been met. If you are considering NAIA, registration is also required to determine eligibility.
Prior to registering with the NCAA or NAIA, parents are encouraged to meet with your son or daughters’ guidance counselor and make sure transcripts are in order and reflect accurate grading for classes taken. Have the guidance counselor correct any errors to eliminate delays with the eligibility process.
Each year roster spots go un-filled because kids think of schools that are top of mind. In reality, opportunity abounds on all levels of the NCAA, NAIA, NCCAA and NJCAA, with most offering athletic scholarship opportunities.
When it comes to identifying where you fit athletically, be realistic about your abilities. To understand why one player is selected over another, simply look at the team roster. When a college coach evaluates you, he or she will look at your technical, tactical, physical and psychological abilities to determine if you would be a good fit for their program. Define your strengths and how you can contribute to the program, and why you would be a good fit if offered a roster spot.
There is always a lot of confusion on when players can be contacted by college coaches. The general rule for Division I schools September 1st of your junior year. Before that only generic camp information can be sent out. The rules differ for different divisions. On our website we also have included the NCAA DIVISION I RECRUITING GUIDE to give you more information on these contact rules.
Remember, being prepared, proactive and persistent can make your transition from high school to college a seamless one. Besides, long after soccer has come and gone due to old age, injury, or retirement, your education will last a lifetime. Would you still go the university if you didn’t make the soccer team? If the answer is no, don’t go to that university. If you would go to the university even if you didn’t make the team, this could be the right university for you. Enjoy this time, investigate and prepare yourself to make the right decision. It will be one of the biggest decisions of your life.
Soccer America (2016) The College Process: Be Prepared, Proactive and Persistent. Lisa Lavelle
US Youth Soccer. Schellas Hyndman’s Do’s and Dont’s of College Recruiting. Schellas Hyndman
GotSport. College Soccer Recruitment Guide for Parents and Players. Author Unknown