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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
The first time a high school athlete goes through the college recruiting process is (most likely) the only time they will go through the process. For that reason, recruits generally don’t understand the process and don’t have all the facts. Without the facts college recruiting can be like going into a gun fight with a pocket knife. You’ve got a chance, but the odds are against you. To have a successful recruiting journey, you really need to understand the rules, know what to expect and be ready to react to any situation. Here are 10 recruiting facts that most new recruits don’t know.
1. You have something called a Core Course GPA and it matters
To be eligible to compete in NCAA sports during your first year, you must meet academic requirements for your core courses, grade-point average (GPA) and test scores. The rules can be a little complicated and they vary a little between Division I and Division II, but here are the highlights:
- The NCAA actually calculates your grade-point average (GPA) based on the grades you earn in NCAA-approved core courses.
- You must complete 16 core courses.
- Your NCAA GPA is calculated on a 4.0 scale. If you enroll before August 1, 2016 you must have a 2.0 GPA in your NCAA core courses. The requirements go up after August 1, 2016.
- Numeric grades such as 92 or 87 are changed to letter grades such as A or B.
- The NCAA Eligibility Center does not use plus or minus grades when calculating GPA.
Honors or advanced courses may improve your core-course GPA but your high school must notify the NCAA Eligibility Center that it weights grades in these classes.
Here’s the bottom line. You have to pay attention to your grades and test scores starting in your freshman year. If you are unsure about your NCAA academic eligibility, then go to the NCAA website and make sure you don’t have a problem.
2. Your parents can actually be helpful if you let them
Parents can actually be extremely helpful in the recruiting process as long as they understand their role. Their role should be as your Recruiting “Administrative Assistant”. Here are the duties that job title would include:
- Help research colleges that make sense
- Help you to be realistic
- Provide input on the college budget
- Help organize the process
- Proofread emails and correspondence (not to edit, just make suggestions)
- Develop a recruiting timeline
- Be available to listen
3. Most athletic scholarships are partial scholarships
Most athletic scholarships are not “full rides” and for that reason, your family college budget is an important factor. Full rides are offered at the Division I level only, in the “head count” sports. These include FBS football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s tennis, women’s gymnastics and women’s volleyball. All other Division I sports are equivalency sports and partial scholarships are the norm ranging from 25% to 75%. Division II, NAIA and Junior colleges also offer equivalency scholarships. NCAA Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships.
Since the average annual college budget for an in-state public college is over $20,000 and a moderate budget for a private school is over $40,000, you can see that if you are seeking a scholarship in an equivalency sport, you still have some financial planning to do.
4. You can’t fool college coaches
One of the worst things a potential recruit can do is exaggerate his or her abilities or statistics. Before a college coach ever becomes really interested in an athlete, that athlete’s abilities are verified with his or her current coach. Then, they will want to have the “eye-ball test”. College coaches will have to see you play before they ever express real interest. Once they see you perform, they will know if you are a candidate for their program. Don’t try to impress them with inflated statistics. That is a disaster waiting to happen.
5. Academics are a big part of the equation
While it is true that elite athletes will be recruited more actively, coaches want to invest in athletes that will represent themselves and their university in a positive light and good grades are a good start. When a coach is trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, they will go with the better student every time.
Good students often qualify for academic scholarships, potentially saving the athletic department money. Additionally, they will most likely achieve the minimum college GPA needed to maintain athletic eligibility. And, finally good grades and test scores are an indication of a student’s work ethic and achievement standards for all areas of their lives.
6. Unofficial visits can pay big dividends
Unofficial visits can be used much the same way as attending a camp or showcase event. The simple definition of an unofficial visit is anytime you (or you and your parents) visit a college and your parents foot the bill. You can take as many unofficial visits as you like.
Unofficial visits to colleges in which you have interest are a great idea and can start as early as you like. For your unofficial visits to be effective, you need to be strategic with the colleges you go to. Make sure the program is a match for your abilities and you have a genuine interest in the college. Then, alert the college coach that you will be on campus and if the weekend is not during a dead period then try to schedule a short meeting.
While you are on campus, soak it all in. Go to the Student Union, watch the team practice or play a game, take a tour of the campus, meet with the academic adviser. Make sure you feel comfortable. When you leave, you should have a feeling about how diligent you want to be pursuing that school.
7. College coaches WANT to hear from you
College coaches actually hope to hear from good athletes who are interested in their program. At Playced, we recently conducted a nation-wide survey and 100 percent of college coaches preferred to hear from a prospective recruit rather than their parents, a coach or a professional recruiter. Not 90 percent or 95 percent. 100 percent preferred to hear from the athlete.
I understand you don’t want to say the wrong thing or irritate a college coach, but if you are polite, to-the-point and respectful, you won’t look desperate, be a pest, or be annoying. In reality, if you are a good fit for the program athletically and academically then you are actually doing the coach a favor and they’ll be glad to hear from you.
8. College coaches are people
College coaches are people, just like you and me. There is no reason to be intimidated by them. You are not perfect and believe it or not, they know that. The stress will become overwhelming if you don’t put everything into perspective. Every single coach was once an athlete, and I promise they made their share of mistakes.
If/when you actually meet with a college coach, be yourself! Relax! They really just want to get to know you. You will enjoy the process more and so will they.
9. Recruiting rejection is the norm for most recruits
Rejection is a part of the college recruiting process. No matter how good a student-athlete you are, not every college coach in the country is going to fall in love with you. Overcoming the disappointment of recruiting rejection is a key factor in your recruiting journey. Here are three steps to overcome recruiting rejection:
- Accept it as part of the process. If a certain college coach doesn’t seem to be interested, move on.
- Learn from it. You need to figure out why you are being told no, so you can better understand your abilities, without bias.
- Be true to yourself. Don’t put pressure on yourself by trying to be something you are not. Look at rejection as a form of evaluation. Once you know the kinds of colleges that might be interested in you, your recruiting process becomes enjoyable.
10. YOU are your best recruiting resource
I am a firm believer that YOU are your best recruiting resource. There is no one better to pick your college home than you. Don’t expect your parents to take care of it for you, don’t ask your coach to find your college and you don’t have to use a recruiting service. Think about it this way, at some point you will have to talk to the coaching staff at the colleges who are interested in you. It will make a much better impression if you took the initiative to make first contact.