The Recruiting Process
The preparation you do before you engage in the recruiting process is a crucial factor in how your recruiting process goes. You need to prepare by making yourself as attractive a prospect as possible from a college coach’s point of view, by identifying colleges that are potentially a good holistic fit for you, and by putting together a profile that you can send to college coaches. To make yourself as attractive a prospect as possible to college coaches, obviously you have to train hard, get good instruction, and improve as much as you can, both your athleticism and your skills. The level of athleticism and the level of play in college is a significant leap up even from elite youth teams, so no matter how talented you are, you should push yourself every day to get better. Obviously, the more athletic and talented you are, the more likely that more college coaches would be interested in recruiting you. You also need to register for the NCAA Clearinghouse. If you’re not registered with the Clearinghouse, schools are not permitted to proceed with the recruiting process with you. Registering with the Clearinghouse doesn’t advance the recruiting process, but it allows it to advance. It’s simple to go online and sign up, so just do it, and then you won’t have to worry about it anymore and interested schools can move forward with recruiting you, once that time comes.
Finally, to make yourself an attractive prospect, you need to enhance your academic profile as much as possible. It is very important that you make good grades and have a high GPA, so you need to discipline yourself to have good study habits, and get tutoring if you need it. It is also very important that you have high test scores. You should take a prep course for the SAT and/or ACT so that you can do well. You need to find out the dates when the standardized tests are administered and the deadlines to register for those test dates, and plan so that you can take the test multiple times, since you can usually raise your score a bit when you take it again, especially if you take a prep course. Your GPA and your test scores will have a massive effect on your recruiting process. If your GPA and test scores are not high enough for you to be admissible at a school, that coach can’t recruit you no matter how much he might like you and want you for his team. If your GPA and test scores are not impressive, you might not qualify for better universities, and even if you do meet a school’s minimum admission requirements, the coach at that school probably will be less enthusiastic about recruiting you than he would about recruiting an academic standout. \If your GPA and test scores are impressive, that will definitely get the attention of college coaches – almost as much as your performance in your sport! That’s the truth. Having an impressive GPA and impressive test scores makes you more likely to be recruited, not only because obviously you will be admissible at more and better schools, but also because coaches will be more interested in you and more enthusiastic about recruiting you. Plus, you will qualify for academic merit scholarships, which will make college more affordable for your family. Most colleges have posted information on their admissions-department websites about the minimum GPA and SAT/ACT requirements for admission, as well as information about what level of academic scholarship you would qualify for depending on your GPA and your test scores. Finding out that information, by going on their website or by calling their admissions department, is an important part of researching colleges that you think might interest you. That is the next thing that you need to do – research colleges to identify 10-15 schools that seem like they could be a good holistic fit for you.
At this point, most of the research you need to do can be done on the Internet, by reading about the schools and exploring their websites. You obviously need to consider the academic level of the school and whether it is appropriate for you scholastically. People tend to be more familiar with Ivy League schools, nationally-ranked schools, and regionally-ranked schools, but some student-athletes should also consider junior colleges (those options are often overlooked, but they shouldn’t be, if they’re a better fit for you academically and financially), and everyone should include at least one “safe school” on their list (where you know you can get in, even if you don’t get in anywhere else). You should also consider whether or not a school is known for being particularly strong in a certain major or academic department, and whether that area of strength matches your intended area of study or projected career path. Also you will obviously be interested in the college team’s level of play and whether it will be appropriate for your ability level. (Your coaches’ evaluation may be helpful in determining this.)
You need to determine schools that are appropriate for your ability both academically and athletically. It is very important that you identify schools that are a good fit for you in both of these areas. If you do that, then probably cost will not be a problem, because you will be a candidate for scholarships to offset expenses. Nevertheless, obviously your family does have to be able to afford to send you to school there, one way or another – between what your family is able to contribute and/or any need-based financial aid you apply for (i.e., FAFSA), and academic scholarships you qualify to receive, altogether that sum total needs to cover the cost. (If you receive an athletic scholarship, obviously that would also help with this, but athletic scholarships are hard to come by, so it’s safest to leave them out of your calculations at this stage.)
Finally, your personal preferences should be taken into consideration. Is it important to you to stay close to home, or to be in a certain region of the country? If you hate cold weather, eliminate schools with a climate in which you wouldn’t want to live. Do you think you’d like it better at a large school or a small school? In the end, you want to identify 10-15 schools that check all of the boxes for you – academically and athletically and socially, geographically, etc. Once you’ve done this, you are almost ready to begin engaging in the recruiting process.
Before you’re ready to contact the coaches at the schools you’ve identified that you’re interested in, the last thing you need to do is put together a profile. Some players create a webpage, but this can be as simple as a one-page Word document that you save as a PDF. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just needs to look professional. Your profile is essentially a simplified type of résumé. (Putting together a profile is good practice for creating your CV later on, and the format and impression of a clean résumé is a nice guide for the look and feel you want your profile to have.) Here’s the essential information you need to put on your profile. At the top you should have your name and your grad year, and list your contact information. You should have a section for your academic information. List your GPA, class rank, SAT and/or ACT scores, and any significant academic honors (such as National Honor Society, National Merit Semifinalist, etc.). You should have a section for your club team that lists your club team’s name, your jersey number and position, and your coach’s name, phone number, and email address. You should also have a section for your high school team that lists the same information items – team, jersey number, position, coach’s name, and coach’s contact information. Finally, if you have any additional references you would like to list, or any other extracurricular activities or volunteer work you’d like them to know about, you can include those things too. You are unique and so your profile will be unique – this is just a guide – but it’s always best to keep it simple, short, and impactful.
The timeline for the recruiting process varies by sport, but in general, you should be far along in your recruiting process by your senior year. In some cases, the recruiting process may even culminate late in your junior year. So, if you are a freshman or a sophomore in high school, it’s a good time for you to do this preparative work now. If you are older than that, start right away!
The recruiting process takes time, and ideally you want to start engaging in your sophomore year. That means that this preparation has to happen in your freshman year and the beginning of your sophomore year. If that seems early to be thinking about college, yes it is early, but it’s also the right time to start preparing, and you’ve got to do it. Do not procrastinate! There are a lot of recruiting services that try to convince you to pay them to help you with promoting yourself to college coaches. In most cases, I recommend against using these services because they are usually very expensive but not very beneficial. You definitely do not want a recruiting service to send a college coach an automated email on your behalf! That is not going to make a good impression. So, if you do use a recruiting service to help you make your profile look better or to help you put together a highlight video, that’s fine, but you should do the rest of the work yourself. Sending a personal email to each college coach is very important.
That’s the next step, and the first step of engaging in the recruiting process, which will be the topic of my next post, Part Two.
Authored by: Edward Cartee Assistant Coach, Trinity University Men’s Soccer Head Coach, Central Catholic High School Soccer United States Soccer Federation “A” License