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 and play at the college level. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois and went on to play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes 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.
Choosing the right college is a big decision for any high school beach volleyball player. Where do you want to spend the next four years of your life? What do you want to study? Should you play NCAA Division I or Division II? The rankings below are designed to get you started on your college search by learning about schools that you may not have thought to consider.
NCSA Power Rankings are based on proprietary analysis of NCSA Favorites data obtained from the college search activity of the over 2 million student-athletes on the NCSA recruiting network, U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, IPEDS graduation rates, and IPEDS average cost after aid.
The goal of these ranking is to help families find the right college fit athletically, academically, socially and financially.
Best beach volleyball colleges
There are over 70 four-year colleges that offer opportunities to play college beach volleyball. The average roster size for NCAA Division I and Division II schools is 16 players, while Division III schools have a roster size of 15 and NAIA schools having 14. Fully funded NCAA Division I programs can offer up to six scholarships and NCAA Division II programs can offer up to five scholarships. Beach volleyball is an equivalency sport, which means coaches are not required to give out full scholarships to their athletes and can break up scholarships however they want.
- University of California Los Angeles
- University of California
- Stanford University
- Florida State University
- University of Southern California
What to look for in a college as a student-athlete
Student-athletes have even more to consider about a college than their non-athlete peers. Recent research published in an NCSA report shows that nearly 45 percent of college athletes aren’t listed on their teams roster the next year. In more basic terms, too many student-athletes are choosing colleges that aren’t the right fit and end up leaving the team. The below criteria can help families quickly decide if a school is worth considering.
- Athletic Fit – This is less about knowing how good you need to be to play at a certain level and more about knowing what level is right for you. Would you rather be a starter and get significant playing time or compete at the highest level you can, even if you don’t see much game time?
- Academic Fit – Having good grades ensures you will have more opportunities at the next level. But you also want to make sure you pick a school that has the major you might want a manageable academic workload. It is okay if you don’t know these answers initially, like everything in the college search process, they can change.
- Social Fit – Even before you get the opportunity to get to know a coach or the team, you should think about things like location, school size, weather, distance from home and other important factors. Once you get the opportunity to meet the coach and team, ask questions about coaching style, practice philosophies and how playing time is determined.
- Financial Fit – Getting a full-ride athletic scholarship is far from the norm in college sports. Families should expect to cover some, if not all of the cost of college for some of the years in school. Rather than focus on just the sticker price of colleges, learn to evaluate schools on your expected contribution. You should know what you are prepared to pay. Realize that it takes time to understand what your final costs might actually be once you talk to a coach.
College list template: How do I make my college list?
Knowing how to evaluate potential schools is only one part of the game. With so many unknowns in the recruiting process — will the coach stay, what if I get hurt, what if I get a lot better next year — you want to have a range of schools on your list. Below, we breakdown how to build a college list that will set you up for success.
- Reach School (5-10 schools) – Everyone has a dream school. They might be a dream because you aren’t good enough athletically yet, your grades are borderline or maybe it is looks too expensive. You should always have these types of schools on your list because you never know what opportunities might open up, but don’t only have dream schools on your list or you risk never finding an opportunity at the next level. These are schools where you have a <5 percent chance of making on the team.
- Target School (10-20 schools) – These are schools you know you qualify for now or with a conservative estimate on how much better you will get in the near future. Keep in mind, even if a school is a good fit athletically or academically, you are competing against other recruits and there are no guarantees. These are schools where you stand a 25 percent+ chance of making the team and getting into the school.
- Safety School (3-5 schools) – Imagine everything goes wrong, the coach quits last minute, you get a career ending injury or just have a big change of heart and decide to go another direction for college. You need safety schools on your list to ensure that, even in the worst-case scenario, you can still make progress towards your degree. These are schools where you have a 90 percent+ chance of getting in and making the tea