Recruiting Column: 5 rules to becoming a college recruit

Photo: Elisha Page/Argus Leader

Recruiting Column: 5 rules to becoming a college recruit

High School Sports

Recruiting Column: 5 rules to becoming a college recruit


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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. 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.

Unless you’re a four or five-star athlete, the success you’ll experience in the college recruiting process is most likely going to be based on the effort you’re willing to put into the process — the effort you’re willing to put into finding the right school.

Here’s the deal: You’ve got be honest about your abilities so you can develop the right game plan in finding the right school. And, you’ve got to be committed to the process, the good and the bad. As you navigate the recruiting journey, here are five rules you need to follow if you want to play in college.

Be truthful

One of the worst mistakes you can make when communicating with college coaches is to overstate or project your athletic/academic statistics and accomplishments.

I get it, it seems harmless to round down your 40 time, or project where you might be athletically in a few months, but that’s a great way to get your name scratched off a recruiting list. If you think college coaches don’t cross-check this information, think again.

Every college coach will verify your stats and grades before they invest any significant amount of time recruiting you.

Be honest about your abilities and work hard to improve.

Coaches know that for underclassmen they need to project where each player might be as a senior. They also understand that some athletes mature later than others. If you’re realistic about your abilities, your chances to find a college scholarship increase dramatically. If you overstate your statistics and abilities, how do you think a coach is going to react when he or she finds out you were faking it?

Don’t rely on an online recruiting service profile

An online profile can be helpful to any athlete’s recruiting process. That said, every recruit needs to understand that posting a profile online and waiting for the scholarship offers to roll in the door isn’t how it works.

That’s like hoping the homecoming queen will ask you out when she doesn’t even know your name.

Most college coaches don’t spend their evenings scouring through thousands of profiles on recruiting sites. And even if they did, what makes you think your profile would stand out from the others, or that the right college coaches will even see it?

The most effective way to use an online profile is for you (the recruit) to share a link of your profile with the programs you’ve identified as realistic possibilities. Don’t wait around and hope the exact right coach accidentally stumbles upon your profile. It’s most likely not going to happen.

Quit dreaming and be real

In my opinion, contacting the wrong schools is the No. 1 source of frustration for college recruits and their parents. There’s nothing worse than sending multiple emails to numerous college coaches and receiving no responses. If you’re contacting unrealistic colleges, you might as well send the emails to fake coaches! To avoid this frustration in the recruiting process you have to know which colleges are right for you.

Identifying the right schools isn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s not really that hard either.

The first step is to understand which level colleges match your athletic abilities. To do that, have a candid conversation with your current coach. Just ask for an honest opinion on how you stack up with other players in your sport. Once you have an accurate evaluation, creating a list of appropriate colleges isn’t hard.

For example, if your evaluation indicates you fit best at the NCAA Division II football level, then sending emails to the coaches at Clemson and Alabama probably isn’t a great idea.

The second step in determining the right colleges is to make sure you qualify academically.

Unless you’re a straight-A student with stellar standardized test scores, this step is very important. If you don’t qualify academically for a college, then an athletic scholarship is not in the cards. A little research on each school website should answer this question quickly.

Finally, the last step just involves your personal preferences. Do you care about school size, area of the country, climate, etc.? If you do, then make sure the colleges you pursue meet those preferences.

Understand the purpose of a recruiting video

Believe it or not, an expensive, professionally produced highlight video set to inspirational music isn’t going to land you a college scholarship.

College coaches aren’t interested in watching a commercial where you’re the product.

Your recruiting video is merely a way for a coach to form an initial impression of your abilities. It’s the first step of the recruiting process. It does not guarantee a scholarship and it won’t make you something you are not.

Every college coach that watches your video will be able to decide if they are interested in the first 30-45 seconds. If your video is set to music, they probably won’t even make it to the second stanza, so make sure your best clips are presented first.

Investing the time and money in an Academy Award-winning video and believing it will land you a scholarship isn’t realistic. You don’t need to spend a fortune on your recruiting video. In fact, a 10-minute video with the “Gladiator” theme song playing in the background might do more harm than good.

With modern technology, most smart phone videos will work just fine!

One isn’t enough

Sending one (or two) emails to a college coach and expecting a response isn’t realistic. Persistence is critical in the college recruiting process.

You can’t take it personally if a coach doesn’t respond to your first email. He or she might have been on vacation or just overlooked your initial contact. Follow up with every coach just to show you’re serious about their school.

You also have to understand that the more realistic colleges you contact, the better chance you have to land a scholarship. Three responses to 10 emails is a pretty good batting average in the recruiting process.

Keep in mind that for a coach to respond to your email, he or she has to see your email, open it, read it and have a need at your position. Everything has to line up for you to receive a response from any coach.

For that reason, one (or two) emails to college coaches isn’t going to cut it.


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