Student-athletes bring a unique quality to the table when it comes to college admissions. They offer a special talent that can improve the institution’s visibility and raise the level of popularity among future attendees. College officials understand this and, in many cases, offer strong support to student-athletes both in admissions and with financial aid.
The college recruiting process can be a daunting effort if it is not well planned and executed with organization and enthusiasm from start to finish. Below is a simple snapshot of terms and athletic recruiting rules and procedures you will run into as you navigate the college search for athletes.
Recruiting contacts is essential for both college coaches and families to become familiar with each other. Whether contacts are made by phone, e-mail or face to face, the aim of the college coach will be to simply make an effort to cultivate a strong relationship with the prospect and family in an effort to determine the likelihood of a good match.
Parents and prospects should understand the importance of initiating contact with the college coach. Coaches are bound by NCAA rules that prohibit them from contacting prospects and families during certain times. Families, on the other hand, can contact coaches at any time, with rare exceptions.
These are opportunities for college coaches to assess the academic and athletic ability of a prospect. Evaluations typically occur off-campus and coaches are permitted no more than seven “recruiting opportunities” (contacts and/or evaluations), with no more than three opportunities resulting in face-to-face contact (There are individual sport exceptions).
Evaluation timetables are sport-specific. Recruiting calendars for your sport of interest can be found in the NCAA Manual and are available to view at www.ncaa.org. The evaluation offers the coach a chance to get an early read on future prospects. It is also used as a recruiting tactic by college coaches in order to create visibility. This “celebrity effect” can have a powerful impact on a prospect and the family, especially if the evaluation is timed and communicated properly.
The NCAA Eligibility Center is an organization that collaborates with the NCAA in the area of student-athlete eligibility. Basically, the job of the Eligibility Center is to determine eligibility for all incoming Division I and Division II freshmen student-athletes. This is achieved through the evaluation of high school academic records. Each division has individual standards for entering freshmen.
Student-athletes can register with the Eligibility Center either at their high school, or online at http://web1.ncaa.org/eligibilitycenter/common/. It is suggested to begin this process soon after junior year grades are in. This will provide coaches with preliminary “reads” on eligibility. Final eligibility will be determined after the senior year grades are presented to the Eligibility Center.
UNOFFICIAL VISIT: The unofficial visit is a great way for prospects and families to begin to become familiar with a number of colleges and universities. It is a visit that is made at the expense of the family and can be taken at any time (with few exceptions), including before July 1 following the junior year in high school. Institutions typically offer information sessions and tours which can be very useful in gathering general information. (Before visiting, contact the Admissions Office to determine times and dates for information sessions and tours.)
It is suggested you make unofficial visits to the colleges that are on your radar, beginning as early as the end of the sophomore year in high school. Alert the college coach to your impending visit and attempt to arrange a meeting. This will give families a perfect opportunity to begin cultivating a relationship with the coach and alert the coaching staff to your sincere interest in their institution. These visits impress the college coach and reinforce the family’s effort to become familiar with the institution and learn more about the coach and his/her program.
OFFICIAL VISIT: The official visit is a wonderful means of narrowing down your college choices by spending quality time with the coaching staff, current student-athletes and college administrators. These visits differ from the unofficial visit in cost, time limitations and the total number permitted by the prospect and to each individual institution.
The official visit is one that is paid in part or in full by the institution, can be taken beginning the first day of classes in the senior year of high school and is typically the “clincher” when a prospect and family are narrowing down their final choices. These visits provide a great opportunity for the family to witness firsthand how the entire process (social interaction with team, team practice, attending classes, living in the dormitories etc.) operates from a “production” standpoint.
- Telephone contact: College coaches are bound by very strict rules as to when and how often they are permitted to contact prospects (in most sports beginning July 1 following the junior year in high school). On the other hand, prospects and families have virtually no limitations here. My suggestion is simply this: If you plan to call the Coach, make sure you have a good reason, and you are well prepared!
- E-mail: Probably the most effective means of communicating with the college coaches. Coaches can begin initiating e-mail contact beginning September 1st in the prospects junior year in high school. I suggest not waiting until then to determine the volume of e-mail in your inbox…Get on the radar early!
- Face-to-Face Contact: There is no better way to present oneself than through a face-to-face meeting. Remember, for this to happen before July 1 following the junior year, the family and prospect must arrange an on-campus, unofficial visit.
- Control the Field: As a former college coach, I remember clearly the edge I had over families and their children during the recruiting process. That said, I suggest making a concerted effort to continually grow an educational awareness of NCAA procedures and develop a clear plan to how your personal college search quest will proceed. Remember…this is a major “life decision” our children will make.
I have learned that when prospects and families are choosing between schools, the well-informed individuals reached their decision with relative ease. The decision was based not only on the information they gathered and the commitment to prepare thoroughly, but on a feeling of self-confidence that developed naturally after putting a well-designed plan into action.
This article is only the “tip of the iceberg” of information you should gather before launching your college search effort. An educational approach where we see the brass ring and understand how to bridge the gap between start and finish will not only give families “their” edge in college recruiting, it will make it an enjoyable and a memorable journey.
Tom Kovic is a former 19-year head coach at Penn, and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting." For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.
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