Recruiting Column: How to deal with rejection in the college recruiting process

Recruiting Column: How to deal with rejection in the college recruiting process

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: How to deal with rejection in the college recruiting process


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 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.

Believe it or not, some rejection while you’re going through the college recruiting process can be a positive thing. I know that being rejected by anyone isn’t fun and if you really want to play in college being rejected by a college coach is that much worse.

That said, here’s a little “heads-up” to all of you current and future college recruits out there: Get ready to be rejected. It’s gonna happen! I’m not telling you that rejection is something all recruits experience to make you feel better. I am telling you so you can prepare yourself for the process.

Recruiting rejection is as much a part of the college recruiting process as signing a national letter of intent. And although it is rarely enjoyable, it actually serves a meaningful purpose, if you let it.

The key to dealing with rejection in college recruiting is how you react to it. Does it ruin your week? Hurt your feelings? Or, do you try to figure out the reasons and make the necessary adjustments?

Like any mistake or failure, recruiting rejection gives you an opportunity to grow, mature and adjust. Keep in mind, the goal of the whole recruiting process is to find the college that will give you the best overall experience.

In my mind, there are three kinds of recruiting rejection: immediate rejection, indirect rejection and direct rejection. Just FYI, none of them are fatal.

Immediate Rejection

Immediate rejection is when a college coach shows up to one of your games and talks with several athletes but doesn’t give you the time of day. That’s a pretty good sign that he or she isn’t interested, at least right now. Although immediate rejection might be temporary and isn’t fun, at least you can scratch that school off your list for the time being. It’s like ripping off a band aid. The pain lasts a few seconds and then you move on.

Indirect Rejection

The second type of rejection is indirect rejection, and it is by far the worst type to experience. Indirect rejection is when a college coach from a school you are interested in and planned to contact fails to acknowledge you as a potential recruit. It’s almost as bad as finding out that the girl you were planning to ask to homecoming doesn’t even know your name.

Indirect rejection might mean a college coach has been to a few of your games or watched you at a camp and seemed interested, but you can’t get his or her full attention. Maybe you’ve sent several emails trying to start a dialogue and he or she replied with an invitation to a camp. You might have tried to connect with a coach on social media and the coach followed you, but won’t reply to your messages. All of these would be examples of indirect rejection.

Here’s the bottom line: if you are being treated like this, you are indirectly being rejected and you don’t know why. That’s why indirect rejection is the worst! You might be wondering if the coaches watched you play and just aren’t interested. Or, are they waiting to see how you develop? Are they considering you as a possibility, but just haven’t made up their mind yet? Not knowing if a coach is interested will drive you crazy and is hard to deal with. Plain and simple, if you are being indirectly rejected then you aren’t sure whether to schedule a college visit, or scratch that school off your list!

Direct Rejection

The third type of rejection that college recruits deal with is direct rejection. Direct rejection would be defined as a college coach acknowledging that you are a potential recruit, only to determine that you don’t quite fit with their program after seeing you play more, or getting to know you.  If you’re a recruit experiencing this type of rejection, consider yourself lucky! If you’re going to experience rejection at all, this is the type of rejection you want.

Direct rejection occurs at the advanced stages of the college recruiting process, after a coach has identified you as a potential recruit and he or she lets you know they aren’t interested at this time. A coach might decide you aren’t a good-fit with their style of offense or defense. Maybe they don’t think your personality would mesh well with their current roster, or maybe you just don’t meet the academic standards of their institution. No matter the reason, being told “no” is a lot better than not being told anything!  And for that reason, direct rejection is certainly much better than both immediate rejection and indirect rejection.

How to deal with recruiting rejection

Now that you know the kinds of recruiting rejection, let’s talk about how to deal with it. How you deal with it is critical to a successful recruiting journey. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Accept it as part of the process. I don’t care whether you’re a 5-star recruit or an under-recruited varsity athlete, accepting some rejection is part of the process. Accepting rejection allows you to overcome any fear of failure and will get you that much closer to your perfect school. You have to understand that when you’re contacting coaches to find that right school your success rate isn’t going to be 100 percent and you certainly won’t land a scholarship with one email. In baseball, if you hit .300, you’re going to the Hall of Fame. In the college recruiting process, if you are contacting college coaches and your average is .300, there is no doubt you’ll find the right scholarship. And that means you were rejected seven out of 10 times.
  2. Learn from it. If you are willing to make adjustments, then rejection is just a detour, not a dead end street. If college coaches are telling you “no”, figure out why! Are you contacting the wrong schools? Are you saying the wrong things? Are you contacting them at the right time? If you are experiencing indirect rejection, you might have to pick up the phone and talk to a coach to figure out if he or she is interested at all! There is an answer and the sooner you get it, the sooner you’ll find the right college home.
  3. Be honest with yourself. It won’t take long for you to figure out what college level is right for you and what schools match your abilities. Rejection has a way of straightening your recruiting path. 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 who you are, the college recruiting process is easy and fun!

Here’s the deal

Recruiting Rejection is no fun. That said, if you accept it as part of the process, learn from it and make the necessary adjustments, recruiting rejection can actually be a difference-maker in your college recruiting journey.

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