Recruiting Column: Your year-by-year recruiting timeline

Recruiting Column: Your year-by-year recruiting timeline

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Your year-by-year recruiting timeline

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle in the college recruiting process for student-athletes and their parents is a lack of knowledge. They don’t know what to do or when to do it. Let’s face it, in today’s world of competitive athletics, the search for college athletes is starting earlier and earlier, so you better know when to start and what to do next!

College coaches are looking to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes as early as their freshman year in high school. Now, I’m not a big believer in a freshman trying to contact college coaches, but freshman year is an ideal time to start learning about how college recruiting works. It gives you the best chance at a successful recruiting experience. The earlier you start, the more time you have to learn about all your college options, to research colleges and to plan college visits.

Based on the above, it is a fact that identifying and securing a college scholarship really is a four-year process and if you want to be successful you really need a recruiting timeline. Here’s a year-by-year recruiting timeline with the important steps to follow. The good thing about this article is you don’t have to read the entire thing. Skip to the year that applies to you and save it to refer to later!

FRESHMAN YEAR

  • Fall in love with being a student and an athlete! Passion is a must for every student-athlete who wants to play in college.
  • Commit to doing things the right way, on and off the field. One inappropriate post or unfortunate incident could be the deciding factor between you and another athlete.
  • Enlist your parents to be your administrative assistants. They want to help and may actually work harder at it than you will.
  • Review the NCAA Guide for the College Bound Student Athlete. Don’t commit it to memory, just get familiar with the basics.
  • Inform your high school guidance counselor of your desire to play in college. They can help you decide which colleges are appropriate from an academic perspective.
  • Familiarize yourself with the recruiting rules. This will help manage your expectations.
  • Ask your current coach for an honest assessment of your abilities. Be specific and ask where he/she projects you as a college athlete. Don’t take it personally they don’t tell you what you want to hear!
  • Research and identify a list of colleges that match your abilities and in which you have an interest. You really need to select a college where you will be happy in all regards.
  • Research the athletic benchmarks for athletes at the colleges you want to attend. Once you understand where you need to be you can set athletic goals.
  • Alert both your high school coach and summer coach of your desire to play in college. They can be a difference maker in your recruiting journey.
  • Begin building an athletic resume. You can start accumulating video clips for a highlight video, but don’t overdo it (remember, you’re still a freshman).
  • Be careful on social media. College coaches watch the social media behavior of athletes they are interested in.
  • Work hard on the field and in the classroom. After all, we are talking about going to college.

SOPHOMORE YEAR

  • Take the PSAT to determine where you stand academically. This is a must to help you decide which colleges are right for you.
  • Use the NCAA Division I core course worksheet to be sure you will meet the core course requirements. If you don’t have the grades you aren’t playing in college.
  • Meet with your coach to review his or her assessment of your abilities. View this as an annual checkup to see how you are progressing.
  • Review and update your list of appropriate colleges. Create a Favorites List of 20-30 colleges you realistically qualify for.
  • Check the entrance requirements at the colleges on your Favorites List. Even if they offer you an athletic scholarship, you still have to get into the school!
  • Fill out the Recruiting Questionnaires for the colleges on your Favorites List. This is a no-brainer way to get on their radar!
  • Reach out to the coaches at the colleges on your Favorites list. Express specific interest in their program. If they don’t know you, they may never know you unless you introduce yourself!
  • Research how coaches in your sport evaluate athletes. You have to understand what to work on.
  • Develop a plan to work on your weaknesses and enhance your strengths. The harder you work, the faster you will improve.
  • Pick a quality summer team to play for. It doesn’t have to be the best team, but it should be a team with solid coaching, a good schedule and one where you will have a significant role. You can’t be seen or get better if you don’t play.
  • Sign up for a few strategic camps and/or showcase events. Pick events where coaches from the schools you are pursuing will be in attendance.
  • Discuss the family college budget with your parents. Most athletic scholarships are partial scholarships, so family budget might be a factor in which colleges you pursue.
  • Play every game and finish every play as if a college coach is watching. You never know who might be in the stands.
  • Work hard on the field and in the classroom. After all, we are talking about going to college.

JUNIOR YEAR

  • Prepare yourself for the SAT or ACT. A review course may pay big dividends.
  • Use the NCAA Division I core course worksheet to be sure you will meet the core course requirements. Again, you have to have the grades!
  • Review and update your Favorite Colleges list. Things may have changed since you first created it.
  • Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. If you’re serious about playing in college, this has to be done.
  • Take the SAT and/or the ACT. Go to bed early the night before!
  • Create a highlight video. Download it to YouTube or Vimeo and include the link in any correspondence you have with college coaches.
  • Get your current coach involved as a reference. Ask him or her to reach out to a few of your favorite colleges. Provide them with an athletic resume and the contact information for the coaches at each college. The easier you make it for your coach, the more they will be involved.
  • Meet with your coach to review his or her assessment of your abilities. Your annual checkup!
  • Review and update your list of appropriate colleges. Maintain a Favorites List of 20-30 colleges at levels you realistically qualify for.
  • Schedule a few unofficial visits. Make sure the colleges are realistic for your abilities and that you have a genuine interest.
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask college coaches. Being prepared will pay big dividends!
  • Prepare yourself for questions a coach might ask you. If you are unsure of the type questions you might be asked, take a quick look at our column from April 1, 2015.
  • Attend any camps or combines that make sense. Don’t waste your time on camps that are not a match for your abilities.
  • Send follow up emails to the colleges you have not heard back from. The first email was an introduction. Be persistent.
  • If you aren’t generating much interest yet, DON’T PANIC. Step up your efforts and reconsider the colleges you are pursuing.
  • Don’t stop pursuing colleges just because a few coaches have expressed interest. Keep your options open until you sign a National Letter of Intent.
  • Find a summer team that makes sense. You should have a significant role and play against quality opponents.
  • Keep track of where you stand with each college.
  • Be careful on social media. College coaches pay attention to the social media behavior of recruits.
  • Work hard on the field and in the classroom. After all, we are talking about going to college.

SENIOR YEAR

  • If you haven’t found your college, step up your efforts. Follow up with the colleges in which you have interest and explore other options.
  • Ask your current coach to review your list of favorite colleges. Ask if he/she would reach out to a few more schools on your behalf.
  • Retake the SAT or ACT if necessary. The higher your score, the more colleges you can consider.
  • Connect with the coaches at the colleges you are pursuing. Send an email, connect on Twitter or you can even give them a call. Do whatever it takes to get noticed!
  • Work hard on the field and in the classroom. After all, we are talking about going to college.
  • Review and update your Favorite Colleges list. At this point, it’s a numbers game. The more colleges you contact, the better chance you will find a scholarship.
  • Meet with your coach to review his or her assessment of your abilities. This is your annual checkup!
  • Get any financial aid forms submitted as early as possible. With the increasing cost of college and the fact that most athletic scholarships are partial scholarships, financial aid is an important factor.
  • Keep in contact with coaches who have contacted you. Make sure you have reached out to the coaches at schools in which you have interest.
  • If you have financial aid needs, don’t be afraid to let coaches know that. College coaches know their way around the financial aid office!
  • Request final transcripts to be sent to the NCAA. College is right around the corner!
  • Once you accept a scholarship offer from a school the work has just begun. Get the college team’s suggested workout schedule and do it.

Here’s the deal

A wise man once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!” There are no guarantees in life, but if you are a serious athlete with some ability and you do your part to become a college athlete, you will be happy with the results. Take the time to follow the above simple tasks, on a yearly basis and you will end up playing your sport at the college that best suits you.

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