USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. John Moore began his athletic career playing four sports in high school. After battling through injuries (including playing his last high school basketball game on a broken ankle) he went on to earn scholarships at Tri-State University (now Trine.) At Trine, John excelled as a player in both basketball and football. After graduation, he coached high school basketball and football in his home state of Michigan before returning to coach basketball at his alma mater.
John is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Lost sometimes among the camps and combines, highlight videos, test days, and recruiting stats is that thing called the plan for life. The busy all day, every day life of a high school athlete makes it easy to lose sight of the big college picture––an education that sets you up for success in your chosen field.
Student-athletes are not alone when it comes to rushing the hunt for the right school or the right major.
Many express regrets over college choices
A recent Gallup Poll showed that just about half of Americans (51 percent) had some regrets about their college choices whether it be the institution, degree type, or major. Some of that regret as pointed out can be traced back to some ill-informed decisions, or a disconnect between education and career goals.
It’s safe to say there were probably a number of “me too” choices where indecision led to a “comfortable” pick like a parent’s alma mater, or the school friends or family attend. (Not that those are always bad choices.)
There are some student-athletes who will tell you they knew what school they wanted to attend the minute they stepped onto a particular campus––they could just feel it. For many, the choice is not that clear cut, especially for athletes who have to find that balance between sport and education.
Today’s student-athletes finding opportunities in the not-so usual places
The good news is that it appears today’s student-athletes are putting more effort into finding schools based on their own individual needs and career goals. For example, A Dayton Daily News feature from earlier this year noted 126 senior athletes from the Dayton area committed to 79 different schools both near and far. Many of those schools were in-state options and it shows the value in really exploring all of your college options. There are so many opportunities at schools you may not have even heard about right in your own state.
How to keep school choices in line with long-term goals
The key to helping your student-athlete find their best college option is to have a plan and keep long-term goals in mind as you narrow down your options. Planning is as simple as figuring out where your son or daughter wants to be after four years of college. Some things to consider:
- After graduation, will they have decent job prospects based on their career goals?
- Can this college provide job placement and work programs to advance their career?
- Can they graduate with a manageable amount of debt after attending this school?
And the one critical question every student athlete needs to ask when considering a college or university:
- Would I be happy here and still get the education I want if I couldn’t compete as an athlete?
Unfortunately, injuries, program cuts, and burn-out all could bring an end to a college sports career.
That’s why it’s important to make sure your athlete’s college choice is one that keeps them on plan even when sports are no longer part of the picture. With all that’s going on in a busy sports household, it’s easy to put off a discussion about career goals and college choices but it’s well worth the effort to get the discussion started as soon as possible. For starters, you can check out ‘Ask your student these 20 questions to find his or her best college match‘ to help guide your search and create a long-term plan.
Still not sure? The answer for and more and more students is start with junior college
College choices and career plans are some pretty heavy decisions for high schoolers. Quite a few are just not sure of where they see themselves after college. Many student-athletes and their families will often overlook the junior college route. The level of athletic competition and excellent academics available at many junior colleges often comes as a surprise to those who initially focused on four-year schools. Junior college is good place to compete athletically while taking courses to help find where their true passions lie as your child decides on a career path.
Keep the conversation on sports, career, college and major going
Whatever college, whatever career path, whatever choices are finally made it’s always important to remember that these decisions are never set in stone. The child who always wanted to be a veterinarian may discover the really want to study criminal justice. The child who wanted to stay at home may want to explore living a more independent lifestyle. The conversation on sports, career, college and major should be ongoing. After all, it’s better to transfer than to stay the course and regret it down the road.