Many parents who inquire about our services are eager to ask if we are familiar with the college athletic recruiting process and if so, how much do we know about the NCAA. The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association and is the governing body for more than 1200 colleges and universities and the Division I and II sports they play.
At least 55.5% of our students (and students nationwide) play some type of high school sport. The decision of whether or not to play collegiately is multifaceted and brings up a host of issues to consider when finding the right fit school for our clients. We are familiar with this unique process and are happy to help students and parents navigate this part of their college search. However, it does change the playing field, (pun intended) and thus we need to impart some important information right up front so there are no misconceptions.
First, it is important to differentiate the four levels of college sports; Division I, Division II and Division III . . . and club. They are vastly different in more ways than one – and some will involve scholarship money. Division I college sports are the creme de la creme of college athletics. Students who play at this level are recruited by coaches of top colleges and universities at the end of junior year – sometimes earlier – and represent the highest level of play. They can often (but not always) also combine the highest level of academics (Ivy League). Sometimes, money is offered in the form of a scholarship, but there is no guarantee. Division II is a slightly less competitive level of play and those programs sometimes provide athletic scholarships. Division III is much more focused on the student first and is not nearly as rigorous as DI and DII. No scholarships are offered, but financial aid and academic – or merit scholarships – are often involved. Division III still keeps students very busy, but not to the extent of the higher levels. Club is just as it sounds – “just for fun” and includes intramural play for those students who want sport to be part of their college experience without the rigors of both the NCAA and beyond.
The process has many nuances and can feel like “smoke and mirrors” for many families. Add to this the growing pains that are currently being felt by the NCAA, and it can make a complicated process even more mystifying. Like the college search process, the athletic search process has different steps. First, a student is identified and evaluated by a coach. Sometimes, however, student athletes need to be proactive and contact coaches on their own. This is an area with which we can help. For Division I and II sports, potential student athletes must register at the NCAA Eligibility Center by visiting the NCAA website at http://www.ncaa.org/. For Division I and II players, the NCAA set July 1 as the mandated date before which a coach may not contact a junior. There are many instances where this is worked around and this also adds to the confusion of this process, but those are the rules and it behooves a student to adhere to them. Once a coach has reached out to a student, there will be a dialogue of emails, texts and phone calls followed by school visits and the “official” visit. Prior to the visit a coach may request a video tape. Coaches will often want to see a student’s transcript and SAT scores when things become serious. The deal is really closed when a letter of commitment is offered. This can happen after an official visit, or on the national “letter of intent day” but it is usually at some point in October of a student’s senior year.
This is, of course, an abbreviated version of what can seem like a long and drawn out process. As with everything, knowledge is power, so it is important to know up front the channels students must traverse in order to end up where they will be happiest. Blending a student’s academic and social fit with what they want to achieve athletically can be challenging and adds another tier to the “right fit” we aim to help find for our clients. Playing a sport and being a team member can add dramatically to a student’s overall college experience. It can also be quite a lot to juggle the books and all the team’s commitments so going into this “eyes wide open” is extremely important. We are skilled at incorporating this exciting process into our program and enjoy watching students and their families find the right school with the right program – it’s a win-win!