Finding the Right College as an Athlete

January 14, 2019

Guest Post by Isabella Luaces. Isabella is senior at Denison University.

Growing up, I used to dream of playing college sports in front of sold out crowds. I was a basketball player, so playing for Tennessee under Pat Summit was my goal. When I got to high school, my athletic aspirations made it difficult to find a school that was the best fit for me, because my college search process became limited to schools that were interested in my athletic ability. My dream of playing Division I basketball conflicted with finding a school that matched my academic and location needs, and I eventually realized that Division I was not the best fit for me.

The recruiting process can make the college search hard, but here are a few quick tips that will help you find a school that fits ALL of your needs.

1. Research the various levels of college sports and figure out which is the best fit for you. Less than 2% of all high school athletes will compete at the Division I level in college. While this may feel disappointing, there are still plenty of ways to play the sport you love at a school you love. Many college athletes compete at the Division II or III level, and a lot of schools offer club or intramural sports for students who don’t play on the varsity team. Division III was the perfect level for me, because I was able to play competitively without committing my entire life to the sport. I was able to be involved with a lot of other clubs and activities on campus, which is not as easy to do at the Division I level.

2. Take an active role in your recruitment process. There are millions of high school athletes out there, and it’s impossible for coaches to know everyone. If you find a school that you would love to attend, it doesn’t hurt to put yourself on the coaching staff’s radar. In another post, Find the Right College explains how students can demonstrate interest on their own. But your high school coach can be a big help if you are an athlete because they can advocate on your behalf and get you your stats and film, which most college coaches will use to gauge if you would be a good fit for their program. My high school coach helped me make a highlight tape after my freshman year, and he pointed me towards schools that he believed I could do well at athletically and academically. I also did my homework to make sure I was eligible to compete for NCAA institutions. The NCAA provides students and parents with a “stress free” eligibility checklist. These steps allowed me to really take charge of my recruiting process.

3. Remember that athletics is only one aspect of the college experience. Being a college athlete is great, but it can be hard to enjoy when the rest of your college experience is bad. If a school does not have any majors you’re interested in, or you don’t like the culture, there is a good chance that it won’t be a good fit you. A lot of my friends from high school let athletics be the sole factor when deciding where they go to college, and I’ve watched them all transfer because sports was not enough to make their experience enjoyable. Playing Division III sports at a school you love will always pan out better than playing Division I at a school you hate.

Being an athlete can be one of the most rewarding parts of your college experience, but only when it’s done at school that is the right fit as a whole. As you go through recruiting, stay open-minded and consider all your options. Your perfect fit is out there, you just have to go out and find it!

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