Recruiting column: Pros and cons of signing early

Recruiting column: Pros and cons of signing early

Early Signing Period

Recruiting column: Pros and cons of signing early


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  This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.


 Temperatures are dropping … Leaves are falling… Homecoming games have all been won and lost… Of course, that can only mean one thing — the early signing period is upon us, once again.  Beginning next Wednesday, Nov. 11, high school athletes all over the country will be signing on the dotted line, making their college decision official and final!

The early period continues through Nov. 18 and does not include all sports, most notably football and soccer.

Signing a National Letter of Intent is a defining moment in every high school athlete’s playing career.  This decision isn’t just about being a college athlete, it’s about being a college student, too.  Before any student-athlete autographs a NLI, they should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of signing early.  The only thing better than making a decision, is making a RIGHT decision.

Here are some things to consider before you sign early:

PRO: Big money is available early

A scholarship budget is just like any other budget; more money is typically available to spend upfront than at the end.  A college coach will absolutely spend scholarship dollars as soon as possible, if the coach is getting the players he or she wants.  Typically speaking, the athletes getting the biggest scholarships are the ones who college coaches are signing first.  Additionally, a larger scholarship amount is very indicative of your perceived value to that particular program. More money means more value and more value means more opportunity.

CON: You might be making an emotional decision

Choosing which college to sign with based solely on emotion is a major no-no. Why? Because most emotional decisions are uninformed decisions.  If ever there was a time to consider as many aspects as possible before making a decision, selecting a college would be one.  Most athletes who go wrong in making this decision, make the decision based on what everyone else wants. Before you sign your NLI, make sure the school is a good fit for you academically, athletically and socially. Go where you can be most successful, period. This is your decision, treat it as such.

PRO: When you know, you know

If you have dreamed about playing at a school your entire life and that school offers you a meaningful scholarship; take it!  You are getting what you want and the school is getting what it wants. That is a great recipe for success. Ask any college coach in the country what the perfect athlete would be for his or her program and the answer would be “the one that wants to play for us and actually can play for us!”  By signing early with a school you have targeted your whole career, you show loyalty and commitment.  That’s exactly what coaches build championship teams on.

CON: You may miss out on other/better opportunities

Regardless of what school you choose to sign with, if you sign early, you always run the risk of missing out on another opportunity or a better opportunity. Before signing early, you should ask yourself if this school makes you completely happy. Will you second-guess this decision if another school were to come along? Does this school offer your best opportunity for success, on and off the field?  Could you get a larger scholarship offer somewhere else? If you are going to wonder what would have been or could have been elsewhere, take a step back.  It’s called signing, not settling.

PRO: Takes the pressure off

Going through the college recruiting process will easily be one of the most exciting times of your young life. Let’s be real, it feels good to be wanted. But no matter how much fun you have along your recruiting journey, the pressure to make the right decision can be downright stressful. For that reason, signing early is a major advantage. Most college athletes will tell you that the best part of their recruiting experience was signing their NLI and putting an end to the process. There is something to be said about having peace of mind, making a decision and moving on.

CON: If you don’t sign early, you may lose the scholarship offer on the table

Simply put, if you don’t accept a scholarship when it is offered to you, you might lose that scholarship offer. Remember this, if a college coach offers you a scholarship and wants you to sign early, that means he or she wants you to be a part of their program.  If you tell them you are not sure, their feelings for you may change and might prompt them to move on down the road. One thing you can be certain of as a college recruit; you are not the only athlete being recruited. Your indecision or indifference about signing early is an answer to most college coaches.


Having the opportunity to sign early should most definitely be a positive experience. Do yourself a favor and find out when the first opportunity to sign a NLI is for your sport. Be proactive in your recruiting journey; research schools, communicate with coaches and know all of your options. When your big day comes, it’s not about making a decision, it’s about making a RIGHT decision!


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