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. Jason is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason 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.
It is an exciting time to get your first message from a college coach, and regardless what type of message you receive, it is always better than not hearing from coaches. That said, there are different types of letters coaches send, and it is helpful to know how to correctly interrupt what they mean for you.
As we explained before, the recruiting process is a funnel, where coaches begin by evaluating thousands of athletes and end up extending offers to a few. Recruiting letters is one of the tools they use to identify how interested a recruit is in them.
In this article we break down the types of letters coaches send and what they mean for your recruiting.
General Information About the School
Many times the first letter you receive from a college looks like general information about the school that’s not coming from the athletic department. Depending on your year, school and the division level of the school sending the info, it can mean different things:
- Coming from NCAA DI/DII School and you are an underclassman – In this scenario, coaches aren’t allowed to send “recruiting materials” yet, and these types of informational packets are their way of telling you they know who you are and are interested. If you receive this type of letter, have your current coach reach out to the college to see if they can arrange a time for you to talk with the college coach.
- Coming from NCAA DIII and NAIA schools – These division levels don’t have any restrictions on sending recruiting materials, but, as many of the coaches at these schools know, you must love the school first and the team second. DIII coaches know that if the recruit likes the school, recruiting them will be much easier. Take these letters as an invitation to reach out to the coach and be open minded about the school. You might find you like it more than you thought.
Camp Invitations / ID Camp Invites
There is a common misconception that coaches send camp invites to everyone just so they can make money. While it is true camps are used to make money for the program, they are also used for identifying and evaluating potential recruits. If you are receiving a non-personalized invitation to the camp but you are very interested in that school, you should seriously consider attending. If attending this camp is outside of your budget, at least take the time to respond to the letter with one of your own, thanking them for the invite.
Once you begin to receive personalized letters from coaches, you can safely assume you are considered part of the recruiting class. The first type of personalized letters is usually typed letters where the coaches insert your name in specific areas. This might feel impersonal, but these letters are only going out to recruits who have made it through the initial evaluations. Coaches send these letters to see if you are interested in their program. You should always respond to these types of letters, letting the coach know your level of interest.
Handwritten Letters and Custom Graphics
If coaches are sending you handwritten letters and having their graphic design department create custom graphics for you, it is safe to assume you are a high-value recruit. That said, you aren’t the only recruit receiving this type of letter, and they don’t guarantee you will receive a scholarship offer. The worst thing you can do is ignore these letters, thinking more are coming. Make sure you respond to the coach—ideally sending your own handwritten letter—and if they provided their phone number, call or text them. Coaches are sending personalized letters to try and impress you, but it is also your job to continue to impress them.