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. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional athletes, 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.
While most student-athletes focus on playing for a big-time Division 1 sports program, there are actually many reasons why junior college might make sense for you. According to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) about 60,000 student-athletes at its more than 500 schools participate in 28 different sports every year.
Athletic scholarships and other hidden benefits of junior college sports
Not only are junior colleges much more affordable and tend to be generous with athletic scholarships, but they also offer an opportunity to boost your grades before transferring to a bigger university. Additionally, many junior college rosters have talented athletes on them and well-known programs like to recruit players from junior colleges because they know they’re getting athletes that have college experience and can play right away. So, if you’re interested in earning a roster spot at a junior college and then moving up to a bigger program, it might be the smart move. But what should you know about the recruiting process in junior college? Read up to find out.
How involved are junior college coaches in the recruiting process?
In general, most families and student-athletes will find that junior college coaches are more involved in the recruiting process than high school coaches. Some programs want to be known as prominent feeder schools for bigger programs and help their athletes along the way. However, some do not. In the end, student-athletes and their families should be the ones who are the most active in outreach and communication with college coaches.
Is it a bad look for a junior college athlete to transfer out after one year?
The coaches at four-year schools don’t think so! While junior college coaches would like to hold on to athletes for two years, coaches at four-year schools simply want to find the best talent they can get, whether that’s a one-year JC player, two-year JC player, international player or four-year transfer player.
Do coaches from four-year schools recruit junior college players for starting roles?
Yes. Generally, coaches from four-year schools look at junior colleges for impact players that can help them right now. With high school recruits, coaches have more time to groom them and transition them into the system. With junior college athletes, coaches want someone to compete for a starting position and help win games right away.
When should junior college athletes start the recruiting process?
Four-year college coaches are always recruiting, so it’s smart to start outreach and communication in your first year of junior college. Some coaches may have a roster spot open in their sophomore class and may want to fill it with an experienced athlete. Some may have an opening right away. The important thing is to not wait until your second junior college season is done, as it may be too late to find a spot.
Is video important for getting recruited out of junior college?
Yes. When scouting high school athletes, college coaches often like to attend high-profile tournaments where they can get a firsthand look at a lot of players. But many junior colleges are located in a rural area and don’t participate in tournaments for every sport, so it doesn’t make much sense to visit them. That’s why video is a critical part of the recruiting process for junior college athletes.
Is the junior college search more targeted than in high school?
Possibly. Student-athletes want to reach out to as many schools as they can but having one or two years of college classes under your belt tends to make the process more focused because of academic goals that are more defined. For example, if you’re looking to major in Engineering and a university doesn’t offer that major, it wouldn’t make much sense to play there. Also, your athletic abilities should be more defined at this point, making it easier to tell which division level offers the right fit.
While there are still many more questions about the college recruiting process, these should get you started off on the right foot. For more information, make sure to check out NCSA’s College Recruiting Guide before setting up your online recruiting profile.