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. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of Playced Athletic Recruiting. 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 platform for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
If you’re looking for recruiting advice, it doesn’t make any difference if you ask your coach, talk with your teammates, or Google college recruiting advice, one bit of advice will stand out more than any other. That advice goes something like this: “If you aren’t currently being recruited, you need to make sure you’re getting in front of the right schools.” Heck, even the recruiting services charging top dollar and claim to do the work for you will tell you to start connecting with as many schools as possible. And you know what? I completely agree with that advice, but the key word in that sentence is right.
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Contacting the wrong schools and hoping for a miracle is the No. 1 disconnect for most college recruits. That’s why at Playced we spent so much time and money developing the algorithms used in our college matching engine. We know that if you reach out to the wrong schools, you’ll be disappointed with the results every time. Anyone can send an email, but the key is getting a response. There’s no combination of words that can convince a coach you’re qualified for his or her roster if you aren’t. And, there’s no way to explain away a few years of poor grades or mediocre test scores. That’s why you have to pursue schools that match your academic and athletic resume.
So, right now you’re probably thinking this all sounds logical, but in a few minutes, you might ask, “how do I know which schools are right for me?” Well, the right schools are those where you have a good chance to play, fit your academic profile and meet your personal preferences. Here are my thoughts on how any recruit can systematically identify the colleges that make sense.
The right athletic fit
Identifying the colleges that make sense athletically is perhaps the most difficult part of the equation. Not everyone can play baseball at Vanderbilt and very few football players can make the roster at Clemson. Determining the right colleges from an athletic perspective starts with an unbiased, objective evaluation of your abilities. Find an objective source to give you an evaluation or just ask your coach to be completely honest with you.
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You have to know which level colleges make the most sense. There are three divisions within the NCAA and the NAIA and NJCAA are also viable options. Within each division, some college programs are more competitive than others. You need to be open to any of the divisions. Understand that being an athlete in college at any level is an incredible accomplishment.
Once you’ve determined the appropriate level of competition, you’ve potentially eliminated quite a few college possibilities. Your academic standing and personal preferences will help decide which of the remaining schools are a good fit.
The right academic fit
First things first, you must be academically eligible to participate in intercollegiate sports per the NCAA and NAIA regulations. Both governing bodies have specific academic standards you have to meet. For example, to be eligible to compete in NCAA sports during your first year, you must meet certain academic requirements for your core courses, grade-point average (GPA) and test scores. The rules can be a little complicated and they vary a little between Division I and Division II, but here are the highlights:
- The NCAA calculates your GPA based on your grades in NCAA-approved core courses.
- You must complete 16 core courses.
- Your NCAA GPA is calculated on a 4.0 scale and you must have a 2.3 GPA (to compete at the Division I level) in your NCAA core courses.
- Numeric grades such as 92 or 87 are changed to letter grades such as A or B.
A good rule of thumb would be if your high school GPA is lower than a 3.0, you better check your core course GPA.
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Second, every college has their own academic standards and you have to qualify academically to be admitted into any institution you are considering. Talk with your school counselor and research the admission requirements for each college in which you have serious interest. If your grades or test scores are limiting your options, do something about it. Take a review course and/or work harder in the classroom.
If you aren’t eligible, or you don’t meet the admission requirements at a school you’re interested in, then you aren’t going to be offered an athletic scholarship, period, the end! In fact, your academic standing may actually eliminate as many colleges as your athletic abilities.
The right environment
Whether you’re a student-athlete or not, finding the right college environment, in the right area of the country, with an acceptable price tag is critical to having a positive college experience. Decide what’s important to you and do some research.
This part of identifying the right schools should be easy. Just ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want to go to a big school or a small school?
- Do I want to stay close to home?
- What is my college budget?
- Have I decided on a major?
- What other factors are important to me? Tradition? Climate? Area of the country?
Once you’ve decided what’s important, simply eliminate the schools that aren’t a fit.
Here’s the deal
The bottom line is that you have to contact the right schools to get a response. Be honest with yourself and take the time up front to put together a realistic list of college options to contact. If you do, your recruiting process should be fun, exciting and enjoyable. If you don’t, your recruiting journey may be disappointing, discouraging and frustrating.