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 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.
Cam Newton. Bryce Harper. Jimmy Butler. If you know anything about sports, then you know these guys need no formal introduction. In fact, you could make an argument that each of the aforementioned are among the very best players in their respective sports. If you don’t believe me, run a Google search and find out!
So, what do Cam Newton, Bryce Harper and Jimmy Butler have in common? Well, other than being elite-level professional athletes, each one of them spent time grooming their skills at the NJCAA level (National Junior College Athletic Association).
This week, I had the great honor of speaking with NJCAA Executive Director, Dr. Chris Parker. Here are his thoughts on the recruiting process and why attending a junior college might be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Q: Why is attending an NJCAA (two-year) school a great option for high school recruits?
A: It’s all about opportunity. Playing at a junior college or community college presents student-athletes and their families with so many unique opportunities. From a growth perspective, attending a two-year school affords you the opportunity to further develop academically or athletically. Maybe your grades aren’t quite where they need to be coming out of high school or maybe your study-habits need some work. A junior college is a great place to shape yourself into a student capable of excelling at a 4-year institution.
The same can be said athletically. On many occasions, kids haven’t quite hit their stride and realized their full potential by the time they need to make a college decision. Or, maybe they do get an offer from a 4-year school, but they don’t figure into the mix of playing time until their junior or senior year. Those are both scenarios in which a student-athlete should strongly consider going the junior college route. A junior college gives you the advantage of honing your physical skills because you can get on the field and get those reps your needing to develop.
Junior colleges also present an amazing cost-saving opportunity for student-athletes. As the costs of college continue to rise, you really must consider the financial impact associated with your decisions. If you haven’t decided on a major or you’re just not in love with any of your college options, think about a junior college. The cost of attending a junior college is far less than most 4-year schools. It’s safe to say that limiting the total debt you walk away with after college is a good thing!
From the self-doubters that need to develop confidence, to the late-bloomers that just need some more time to grow, a NJCAA school might be exactly what you need because we offer tremendous flexibility in filling the voids of the other college levels.
Q: Talk about scholarship and financial assistance opportunities at the NJCAA level.
A: The financial assistance available through the NJCAA is very similar to that of the NCAA. Like the NCAA, we offer three levels of competition: I, II, and III. Member institutions can offer full athletic scholarships at the NJCAA Division I level and partial scholarships at the Division II level. And like NCAA Division III schools, NJCAA Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships as financial assistance. I think the most important thing to understand about scholarships and financial aid is that there’s money out there for you! Every institution and every program is a little bit different. It’s on you to have the conversations and discover what’s available for your circumstances and situation.
Q: What advice do you have for high school students looking to play in college?
A: Remain confident and understand that college recruiting is a process. Things don’t always work out how you think they should work out, they work out how they’re supposed to work out. So, stay steady and trust your abilities. Focus on the bigger picture of furthering your education and playing for a program that’s right for you. A lot of young men and women make the mistake of not seeing things for what they are. They can’t be honest with their abilities and they end up slighting themselves throughout the recruiting process. Don’t let that happen to you. Self-identity is everything when it comes to college recruiting. Understand the environment around you so you have the most realistic chance of success.
Q: How will being a college athlete change a young person’s life?
A: The success and failure you experience as a college athlete are invaluable to your growth as a person. Think about what that truly means. As a college athlete, you’re getting mentored. You’re being held accountable and you’re holding others accountable. You get a tangible outcome directly resulting from the work and effort you put in. The parallels between college athletics and life are countless. Very few things can shape or round your personality more than playing at the next level. That’s why it’s so appealing to future employers when they see “college athlete” on a resume.