Why Athletes Need Help From Counselors More Than Ever
College admissions and recruiting for high school athletes can be tricky. Many athletes end up at colleges that are not a good academic and social fit and many are dissatisfied with their choices.
by Avi Stopper, founder, CaptainU
College admissions and recruiting for high school athletes can be tricky. I recently heard from a 12th grader named Megan who plays for a travel soccer club. She explained that after soccer tournaments she would be contacted by a couple college coaches and she made the assumption that her college options were limited only to those schools that had reached out to her. In some cases the schools were not necessarily the right fit for her - academically or socially. Many athletes end up at colleges that are not a good academic and social fit and many are dissatisfied with their choices, resulting in high transfer rates.
This is why high school athletes need help from counselors more than ever. Here are five important lessons you can teach athletes to help them avoid the confusion Megan and so many other athletes encounter.
Start early. College admissions for student athletes is different than for other students. Many college teams have their recruiting finished before a student begins his/her senior year. Get ahead of the curve by starting on a list of colleges as a sophomore or junior. Start communicating with coaches right away - even though NCAA rules might restrict their ability to respond.
Promote yourself. Recruiting is incredibly time consuming for colleges coaches. In fact they often spend more time recruiting than they spend on the field with their teams. Coaches love athletes who self-promote. Send regular updates on recent achievements, profile changes, new videos, campus visit plans, and sporting event schedules.
Focus on athletics last. This point is counterintuitive, but the best thing an athlete can do when searching for colleges is set athletics aside initially. Focus on schools that are a good academic and social fit and create a list of 30-40 colleges. From there, narrow the list based on which schools also have the right athletic fit. The result? A list of 10-15 colleges that are a great academic, social, and athletic fit.
Don't be obsessed with Division I. Often, the first thing an athlete will say is, "I really want to play Division I." The best response to that statement is "Why?" Typically, athletes will answer that DI is the highest level or because there are scholarships in DI. While that may be the case for many top DI teams, it is important to stress that many DII and DIII teams can compete with the mid- and low-tier DI teams. Similarly, athletic scholarships, while alluring, are very limited in DI. In fact, some studies have suggested that the average DIII athlete receives more financial aid than the average DI athlete.
Be persistent. Communicating with coaches at least once a month can feel awkward, but it is the best way for an athlete to show his/her determination and interest in a college. It is a great way for a student athlete to distinguish themselves from others. Don't worry if a coach's responses are delayed, continue regular contact until a definitive answer is given. No opportunity should be considered closed until a coach gives a definitive "yes or no". If it is a "no," don't be discouraged. With adversity comes opportunity - and this is a huge opportunity to focus efforts on remaining schools.
One of the most empowering lessons counselors can convey to athletes is that athletes can take control of recruiting. This is a bit of a paradigm shift. Athletes spend most of their time thinking that they have to convince coaches. In reality, coaches are desperate to find and sell athletes on their college programs. This is a fact that athletes can use to their advantage. Asking simple questions like "Why do you think your college and team are a good fit for me?" can go a long way towards reversing the dynamic so coaches are pursuing and selling you on their schools.
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