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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
With signing day right around the corner (February 3rd to be exact), I thought it would be an appropriate time to give some sound advice to high school recruits, before they sign on the dotted line. That said, I know many of the student-athletes signing on Wednesday have probably made up their minds, at this point. But, just in case some of you are still going back and forth on what school you should grace with your talents, you might want to consider a few questions, first. In fact, if you can’t decide where you should go, do me a favor: write down your college options on a piece of paper, make two columns (one for yes and one for no) and check the appropriate answer for the three questions in this article.
Get your pen and paper ready and let’s take the “What school should I sign with?” quiz! How you answer the following questions should help you make the best decision possible. Here’s a hint; the school with the most “yes” checkmarks is the correct answer!
- Am I setting myself up for a successful future by going to this school?
There is a reason student comes before athlete in the term student-athlete. You know why? It’s because being a student is more important than being an athlete! When you answer this question, you need to answer it with an academic and futuristic mindset. The answer to this question should not just be about short-term feelings, it should 100% account for your long-term goals and expectations. Many recruits make the wrong college decision because they don’t start with this very basic question. I encourage you to make the answer to this question the foundation for the college you decide on. Here are some things to consider when answering question #1:
- Does this school offer the major I want to pursue?
- Are the class sizes conducive to my learning style? Too big, too small?
- Do I have academic support/tutoring available, should I need it?
- Does this school have a quality career center to help me with job placement before and after I graduate?
- What is the average graduation rate for my team?
- Does this college have a good overall reputation in the hiring job market?
- Do I genuinely want to play for this program?
Take away the scholarship offer and dollar amount. Forget that the coach recruiting you makes you feel like LeBron James to sell you on their program. Pretend that you don’t know that your parents really, really want you to play for this school. Is this a program that you would want to play for if none of those things were a part of the equation? Hmmmmm, if you can’t genuinely answer yes to this question, you may want to rethink why you really want to sign with this school. Consider a few of these ideas when answering question #2:
- 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? Good team chemistry?
- What does the competition of the playing schedule look like?
- How are athletes treated on campus by other students and professors?
- If applicable, will this program prepare me for a professional career in my sport?
- Would I pick this school if I wasn’t an athlete?
The last question I would like for all of you recruits out there to ponder before signing has to do with everything not including academics and athletics. I know that a student-athlete’s time is mostly consumed with the aforementioned, but there is another aspect to college life. Let’s call it the social atmosphere. Outside of the classroom and playing field/court, what is it that will make you happy for the next four years? Here are some thoughts to contemplate for question #3:
- How far away from home is this school?
- Do I get homesick easily or am I good with being away?
- Is the location of campus in an urban or rural environment?
- Are there other things going on in the community than just campus life?
- Is this a school with a quality tradition, both academically and athletically?
- Are other sports programs successful?
I promise that I am not trying to make this more complicated than it needs to be! But so often, recruits decide on a school for the wrong reasons. I am here to simply tell recruits to get exactly what they want out of their college experience, and that starts with making the right decision during the recruiting process. Be informed, have an opinion, be true to yourself and best of luck to all of you student-athletes that are signing on Wednesday!