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 is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
When we talk with high school athletes and their parents, we hear the same three words over and over again to describe college recruiting: Frustrating, Overwhelming, and Time-consuming. Most likely, the frustration stems from the fact that student-athletes and their parents really don’t know where to start, what to do, or when to do it. With nearly 2,000 colleges in the United States, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the process. These hurdles make the recruiting process time-consuming and since it’s time-consuming it becomes…frustrating and overwhelming.
To conquer the recruiting obstacles, you have to have a realistic game plan that includes a way to effectively manage the time you spend on recruiting. The dictionary definition of time management is “the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.” Let me translate, time-management is getting stuff done quickly and correctly the first time. With this in mind, here are 5 suggestions to help you manage the time you spend looking for the right college scholarship opportunity.
Don’t waste your time on unrealistic colleges
The hardest part of the recruiting process for every recruit is identifying the right colleges to pursue. You have to be realistic about your abilities or you will spend a lot of time and effort with no results. If you aren’t pursuing the right colleges it’s like a banker applying for a job as a brain surgeon. The answer will always be “no”.
To be realistic, you need an objective, honest evaluation of your athletic and academic abilities. This shouldn’t take long, unless you try to guess for yourself. There are some services on the internet that can do this for you, or you can ask your current coach for an honest evaluation. Warning! Either way, be prepared for the honest answer, it may not be exactly what you want to hear. If you are unsure about which colleges would be a match for your academic qualifications, ask your high school guidance counselor for help, or do your own research.
Now that you know the level of colleges to pursue, you need to identify the schools at that level that make sense for you. Again, there are services that can help, but you can do the research on your own. This can be the most time-consuming part of the process, but it lays the groundwork for an efficient and successful recruiting experience.
Here is a simple rule to follow: Pursue colleges that will have as much interest in you as you have in them. You have a limited time to find the right college fit; don’t spin your recruiting wheels on schools that are out of reach.
Create an Athletic/Academic Resume
Having an athletic/academic resume available for college coaches to review makes the process much easier. If you were looking for a job, the first thing you would do is to prepare an appropriate resume detailing your qualifications for the specific position you are pursuing. You should take the same approach with college recruiting and prepare an athletic/athletic resume detailing your qualifications for a spot on a college roster.
Your resume should include all the academic and athletic facts a college coach needs to easily determine whether or not he or she is interested in finding out more about you. There are many ways to organize your resume, but it should at least include the following:
- Your personal information,
- Your academic accomplishments,
- Your athletic statistics and honors,
- A link to your highlight video, and
- The contact information for your current coach.
Make your resume available to any college coach you communicate with. That will make it much easier to decide if they are interested in contacting you directly.
Be strategic and persistent
Any good coach will tell you that you need to have a solid game plan to win. This is true in sports, in life and in the recruiting process. Once you have a resume and a list of realistic college options, developing a strategic game plan is simple. Just reach out to the coaches at those schools expressing interest in their program and then get your coach involved as a reference. Let’s go back to the job search comparison. If you were looking for a job, you would identify your options, connect with the decision makers and provide a personal reference to vouch that you are qualified for the position.
Translate that into college recruiting: Identify your target schools, contact the coaching staff expressing specific interest and provide the contact information of your current coach so the college coaches can verify your abilities.
Keep in mind that you aren’t going to land a scholarship with one email. You have to be persistent. Not every school is going to be interested in you, but if you stay on task you will find that right opportunity. If you are not currently being highly recruited, it is critical that you contact colleges on your own. If the colleges don’t know about you and you don’t reach out to them, how will they ever find you?
Organize your efforts
Keep track of which colleges you have contacted and where you stand in the process by creating a spreadsheet detailing your progress with each school. Keep track of each coach’s name and contact info, when you sent your first email, whether or not you received a response and any other relevant information.
Next, visit college websites, gather information, and research the programs that most interest you. This will allow you to personalize any correspondence you might have with a coach. For example, if the school just won a conference championship you should congratulate the coach. If you have a relative that attended the school, or if you are interested in a specific major they offer, mention it. I’m not telling you to research each coach’s family tree, but connecting with a coach on a personal level will pay big dividends.
Schedule a specific time for your recruiting efforts
Finally, dedicate a specific time each week to your recruiting process. For example, take 5 minutes, right after dinner 3 nights a week and send one email to a college coach at a school you are really interested in attending. Make sure you proof it and make sure you express specific interest in the program. Reaching out to one college coach a night will go a long way toward finding a college scholarship. Whether it’s after dinner a few nights a week or first thing in the morning, designating a time will keep you focused and on track.
Here’s the deal
If you stay focused and follow the above 5 suggestions, the college recruiting process won’t be frustrating, overwhelming and time-consuming. It will be fun, logical and rewarding!