Five College Recruiting Steps for the High School Senior Athlete
College recruiting activities for senior year for every student athlete will be focused primarily on applications, visits, and financial aid. But what else you do will depend on how much recruiting attention you have received. If you now have a group of schools that you're interested in and that are expressing interest back, you can move on to the next set of activities. But if you don't, you will need to cycle back to the steps mentioned in my articles about junior year and tactics for contacting coaches. The majority of Division I scholarship spots are filled at this point even if the letters of intent haven't actually been signed. Despite this, there are plenty of schools that will still need athletes to fill their rosters in partial and non-scholarship spots.
Here are five steps that need to happen during the first part of senior year:
Get your college applications in, the earlier the better.
Make sure you know the application deadlines as there are some variations but the majority of applications need to be in by January 15 or February 1. You shouldn't wait this long if you can avoid it. Many schools offer rolling admissions which means that applications are considered as they are received, and once the spots are gone, they're gone. As an athlete with a competition season coming up, it's great to know where you're going sooner rather than later.
You also need to decide if you want to pursue early admissions at your top school. This will be most relevant if you don't have a scholarship offer and you're applying to very selective schools where early admissions may increase your chances of getting in. Also, at the Division III schools where there are no athletic scholarships and therefore no commitments, early admissions might make sense for another reason: if a coach is pursuing two athletes for a spot and one gets in via early admissions, they may stop pursuing the other one.
Make official and unofficial visits to any schools you're considering but haven't seen yet.
Official visits are paid for by Division I and Division II schools. You can take a total of 5. Unofficial visits are paid for by the student athlete and you can take as many as you want. Most Division III visits are unofficial. Do not make a decision about a school without visiting it. Liking a coach is not a good enough reason if you know nothing else about the school and keep in mind that if you sign a letter of intent and the coach that you are so fond of leaves, you are still committed to playing at that school.
These visits should all be done by the late fall if possible although this will be tough if you're participating in a fall sport. Try to go when the team is not in season so both the coaches and players will have more time to spend with you, and you may be able to informally scrimmage with them.
Bring your parents or another responsible adult with you if possible. You will be starry eyed during these visits, you need someone else to help keep it in perspective for you.
Take care of the financial aid application process.
If you plan on applying for need-based financial aid (and most people do), make sure you get the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form filled out and submitted on time. This will help schools figure out how much your family can contribute and how much aid you will need.
You should also check the websites of your top schools and see what kinds of merit based scholarships you can apply for. Many of these require additional applications with essays and letters of reference and they have varying deadlines. If you have decent grades and test scores, you can finance a lot of your education through these kinds of scholarships . There may also be lots of scholarships available through your local community. Check with your high school counselor as they usually have lots of information about local scholarships.
Here are a few things to do if you don't have the kind of interest and offers you were hoping for:
E-mail or call coaches at schools you're applying to. Let them know how much you're interested, that you are applying, and that you'd like to be able to walk on. If they still have a need for someone in your position, they will let you know and you may get an 11th hour offer if they see your profile and like what they see. If they're already full, they may agree to have you try out as a walk-on. It's unlikely that you'll get a scholarship that first year but you may end up being able to play where you want to.
Check for showcase types of events. Some sports have unsigned senior competitions so that coaches who still have needs can see who is still available.
Ask your high school coach and athletic director to help. They may have some contacts that know about openings that you wouldn't know about.
Breathe easy and enjoy the rest of your senior year.
Once you've taken care of the applications, the financial aid, and the visits, you've done what you can. With a little luck and some good planning, you'll have this all out of the way so you can enjoy your senior sports season without it hanging over your head. Making the final decision is a topic for another article. Hopefully, you'll have some choices to decide between.
You are welcome to reprint this article. However, please credit me as the source with the following:
Laurie A. Richter, author of Put Me In, Coach: A Parent's Guide to Winning the Game of College Recruiting.