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. Joe is a former college-athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe 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.
They say senior year flies by and student-athletes may feel that more than anyone. As you head into the homestretch of your athlete’s final year of high school, you may be panicking about their options—don’t.
While many Division I college coaches have full rosters, keep in mind there are several other options across the country. Here are a few steps you can take now that will put you in a better position come graduation.
Refresh your highlight film now
Most college coaches watch recruit videos online first, and then decide if they want to further evaluate them in person. Consider giving your highlight film a fresh look, especially if your clips are more than six months old. Your video should reflect your full athletic ability. After all, this the first impression college coaches will have of you.
If you’re already in contact with a college coach, updating your highlight film is the perfect opportunity to reach back out to them and let them know that you have new video to share. Bottom line: your film is crucial to getting coach interest.
Pick up the phone–a lot
Email is your athlete’s first step when reaching out to a college coach—but it’s definitely not your last. And this is especially true for seniors approaching graduation. The biggest mistake a student-athlete can make at this point in recruiting is not calling coaches. They receive hundreds of emails every week, but only few phone calls. It’s so important to be proactive and get a hold of them now to find out where they’re at on their recruiting timeline.
Here’s a good place to start, if you need help calling coaches: Straight Talk On How To Call Coaches
Get out and start visiting campuses
Unofficial or official—you need to visit the schools you’re most interest in. If you’re on the fence about where you want to go, seeing the campus in person and meeting with the coach will help you understand what your experience would be like there.
Before scheduling a trip, email or better yet, have your athlete call the college coach first and let them know what day they plan on visiting. At this stage, you want to make sure they can meet with your athlete. Your child can maximize their opportunities by visiting schools where they qualify academically and athletically, and the college coach has shown an interest.
If an unofficial visit isn’t in your budget, you can always visit the program’s website, Facebook or Twitter and look for video tours where they showcase campus and the athletic facilities. The time to do it is now. If a school doesn’t look like it meets your expectations, move on and focus on those schools that are a better fit.
Stay on the radar, stay in touch with college coaches
Decommitments and coaching changes happen. Really, they’re more common than you think. You want to remain on a coach’s radar if they suddenly have to fill a roster spot without warning. This is another reason to keep up with coaches on social media—check their Twitter regularly to see if anything changes before you the year is over.
Consider adding junior college to your list
Junior college gives student-athletes a chance to build their academic and athletic performance before attending a school accredited by the NCAA. Your child’s best option is to attend as an NCAA qualifier—meaning you’re academically eligible to compete at the DI and DII level. It’s also a cost-effective option as they tend to be less expensive than four-year universities. Plus, transferring from a junior college with two or three full years of eligibility left and as a seasoned athlete may just help you secure a scholarship.
READ MORE: Why junior college may make sense for you
Take a look at deadlines
Most seniors start to panic because they think Signing Day is just one day. But Signing Day is just the start of the signing period. Signing day for football, soccer and men’s water polo kicks off on February 7 and for all other sports, it starts on April 11. Although, the signing period isn’t technically over until August 1, so if you don’t commitment to a school in February or April, you still have time to sign your NLI.
Another important deadline you need to pay attention to is application deadlines. If you’ve missed an application deadline, the college coach won’t be able to recruit you. You should never assume that a college coach can help you get through admissions. So, if you’re still looking for colleges to apply for, check to make sure you haven’t missed a deadline, or see if they offer rolling admissions.
For even more tips on recruiting your senior year, look here: Attention Seniors You Can Still Get Recruited