Recruiting Tip: How to pick the right college

Recruiting Tip: How to pick the right college

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Tip: How to pick the right college

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There are many things to consider in deciding on a college. Each of us has unique needs and values, and what’s important to you may not matter to someone else. So, what’s important to you? Do you learn better in a smaller classroom environment? Have you decided on a major? Does boy-girl ratio matter? What about coaching style? Does climate matter? How big a factor is the tuition cost? There are so many things to consider, it can get really confusing, really quickly.

While there are many questions to consider, there are just three main areas you should focus on. They are education, athletics and environment. Let’s talk about each one.


First things first. The primary reason for going to college is to get a quality education that will prepare you for life after school. You need to find a college where the education you receive will prepare you for your career. Although not a given, let’s assume you qualify for admission to all the colleges on your list. Here are some things to consider if you are deciding between a few schools.

  • Major: Make sure the colleges you are considering actually offer the major you are most interested in. Not every college offers a degree in Marine biology or Bakery Science (yes, that is a major). Make sure the colleges have a good reputation in your field of interest. The reputation of the school doesn’t matter if it is not strong in your particular major.
  • Classroom atmosphere: Do you prefer a school with smaller classes, or do you think you’ll thrive in an environment with hundreds of students in each class? Many students prefer to not be just another number in a class of 200 students. You might also consider which type of classes you prefer: lecture style or discussion style. When you go on a visit to any school on your list, sit in on a class or two.
  • Employment opportunities: Do a little research on the colleges you are considering. Do they have a reputation for helping their students find a job after college? What is the success rate for their placement office? You may not realize it right now, but your number one objective should be to find a career opportunity when you graduate.


In my opinion, when you start comparing athletic programs you should put everything on a level playing field. Take away the scholarship offer and dollar amount. Pretend that all other factors are equal. Then ask yourself: Is this a program that you want to play for?

If you can’t genuinely answer yes to this question, you may want to rethink whether or not you want to sign with this school. Then, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I like the coach? Does his/her coaching style match my playing style?
  • When do I realistically have a chance to play or contribute to the team?
  • What is the makeup of the team? Are there already multiple players at my position?
  • How is the team chemistry?
  • Does the coach place any emphasis on education?
  • Are there tutors available for athletes?
  • What does the competition of the schedule look like?
  • How are athletes treated on campus by other students and professors?

These questions might eliminate a college or two from your list.

Environment and cost

When you leave home and go to college, you most likely will be living on your own for the very first time. For that reason alone, a comfortable environment is critical to a stress-free transition from high school to college. The culture, location and other attributes of the campus can make the transition to college-life much easier. Additionally, since most athletic scholarships are partial scholarships the family college budget has to be a consideration.

Do some research on the colleges you are considering and ask yourself the following questions about each one:

  • How far away from home is this school? Is this a deal-breaker?
  • Is the location of the campus in an urban or rural setting?
  • What is the climate like?
  • What extracurricular or social activities are available?
  • Are there things going on in the community other than just campus life?
  • Is this a school with a quality tradition, both academically and athletically?
  • What is the “all-in” cost to attend?

These questions should help narrow down your choices. If you still have questions, go on an unofficial visit to any college you like. While you’re on campus, soak it all in. Go to the Student Union and people-watch, go to a team practice or game, and take a tour of the campus. Make sure you feel comfortable. 

Here’s the deal

Picking the right college isn’t a four-year decision, it’s a forty-year decision. Take your time to decide on the right college.


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