Welcome to our Recruiting 101 page. Here you will be able to further educate yourself on many aspects of the college recruiting process. Our Recruiting FAQ’s, Recruiting Myth’s, and Helpful Recruiting Resources pages will help you sort through the basics of the recruiting process in a straight-forward and easy to understand way. Select a question to learn more.
- Written by First State Preps
What Do College Coaches Look For?
The college coach is looking for an athlete that will fit in and help the program succeed. Coaches want to keep their jobs, receive promotions, and get better jobs. Success on the field is their best way of doing this. Most often college coaches are looking for athletes who are solid students, difference-makers, and high character kids who love to compete and have a true passion for their sport. The higher the level of play the larger the emphasis will be on measurables (speed, size, raw data). Program positional needs and timing can also play a role in what coaches are looking for at a specific time. Remember your agenda is to play a college sport and receive a quality education. Coaches may have a different agenda or vision so use your head and evaluate each situation individually. What situation is best for you and feels right? Ask each college coach what they are looking for and where they see you fitting in? The most important part of recruiting process is finding the right 'fit' between a coaching staff, school, and athlete.
How Do I Know If I Am Being Seriously Recruited?
There is a huge gap between getting an e-mail, letter, or camp invite and receiving a scholarship offer in writing. Phone calls are a better indicator, but even that doesn’t mean a school intends to offer you. Some coaches and programs just use the phone more than others. So how then do you know where you stand? The best thing to do is simply ask the coach where you stand. Do not do this in your first conversation with the coach. How could they answer that? They don't know you yet and have not had a chance to evaluate you compared to their other prospects. College coaches tend to have very close relationships and steady commuication with their top tier recruits. If you have to wonder if you are a top tier recruit for a specific program, it is highly likely that you are not. That’s why it’s a numbers game. The more schools and coaches you are communicating with the better positioned you will be in this process.
How Important is a Highlight/Skills Video?
It's essential. Due to budget and time restraints coaches are not able to see most prospects in person. They depend on video in order to initially evaluate prospects they recruit. Sure there are college coaches who prefer to see each prospect in person either at games, recruiting events, or their camps. However, even in those cases the highlight video is used to introduce an athlete to the coach so the in person evaluation can happen later. It's essential to have a concise and easily viewable highlight video if you are a serious college prospect.
When Is Too Early To Start The Recruiting Process?
Unfortunately, in today’s recruiting environment you can’t be too early. In fact, in a recent survey, more than 65% of college coaches prefer to start targeting prospects during the sophomore year or earlier. Some sports are actively recruiting athletes in 7th and 8th grade. We all wish this wasn’t the case as do many college coaches but because some of their colleagues are identifying prospects earlier and earlier they understand they have to as well so their programs can stay competitive. All college evaluation processes are different. NCAA Division I schools like to identify and follow prospects for several years. The earlier you can get started and the more information you can provide the colleges with, the better chances you have of achieving your academic and athletic goals. Waiting until your senior year to try to attract colleges is a HUGE mistake. It may not be too late for all colleges, but it certainly limits your chances.
What are my chances of playing college sports?
Only two percent of high school athletes will play college sports. But don’t let the numbers mislead you–The only statistics that matter are the numbers you put up in the sport you play.
Do your research on teams that interest you. See how you line up with their current players and don’t hesitate to contact the coach to see if he is interested in an athlete with your talents. Every team is looking for something a little different in their athletes. You have options: Be open to looking at NCAA Division 1, 2 & 3 programs as well as NAIA and Junior College Programs. Even if you don’t have the skills a coach is looking for in a scholarship athlete there may be an opportunity to walk-on to the team. At the very least a coach can advise you on what you should be doing to get closer to your goals.
What should I look for in a college?
Look for the best fit for you. A great question to ask yourself is, “Would I consider attending this school even if I’m not going to play sports?”
Does the college have the academic majors and social features that are suited to you? What are the graduation rates for student-athletes and in what sports? Do you want to live at home, close to home, or be as far away from home as possible? What size school do you want to attend? Are you willing to go to a college affiliated with a religious denomination that is not your own? You will want to start a list of things that are important to you in a college and revise the list as you refine your search.
Who should I rely on to help me get a college athletic scholarship and a spot on a team?
Coaches are not interested in recruiting your friends, coaches, or parents. You need to make the effort and contacts–your goal of getting recruited will not just happen. Make lists, ask questions, write letters, and surf the web for information. Ask your coaches and academic advisers for tips and advice. If you know someone who has been through the recruiting process make it a point to talk to them and seek their advice.
How important are grades and test scores?
Don’t believe the myth that a coach can get you into the school if he wants you bad enough. A coach still has to answer to the University and NCAA or NAIA on the GPA and graduation rates of their athletes. Most coaches won’t gamble on a student-athlete who hasn’t demonstrated he/she can handle the academic responsibilities of the school. Remember it’s called Student-Athlete. You need to perform in both.
What are the different types of financial aid?
For the overwhelming majority of potential college athletes, athletic aid will be the smallest amount of aid given. Remember, it’s the bottom line price, not how much athletic scholarship money a school gives you, that is most important!
There are four categories of aid (Need-Based, Academic, Athletic, and Leverage). Need Based Aid can come from the government to be used at any school or from the individual school. It is based on your family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC, a figure calculated by the US Dept of Education) and can come in the form of grants, loans, and work-study. Academic Aid is based on a specific College or University’s interest in you and considers your SAT/ACT, GPA, and Curriculum. Athletic Aid is based on a specific College or University’s interest in you and a specific ability in athletics. Leverage Aid is based on a specific College or University’s interest in you and the relative offers you may have received from competitive schools. This type of aid is not need, academic, or athletic- it’s simply business. The more financial aid offers you have the more leverage you will have.
I am already getting contacted by colleges, so why do I need to do anything else?
Receiving contact from a college is better than not receiving it, but it does not mean that you are being recruited by a college. Some colleges will send out thousands of questionnaires each year, especially if they are running camps that are huge revenue sources for their programs. It's a good sign to receive letters and even phone calls but do not make the mistake of thinking a college is going to recruit you or make you a scholarship offer just because they sent you a questionnaire. Other players are competing with you for the same roster spot and a schools interest in you can disappear overnight.
What kinds of schools can offer athletic scholarships?
My parents and I plan to write to several college to see if they are interested. Will that work?
That’s definitely better than doing nothing at all. However, 'several' schools is probably not enough. The first step would be to get properly evaluated and then start a target list of schools that is more like a couple hundred and send out some feeler letters to see where the interest is coming from. From there you can more specifically target several schools who have shown interest in you. Also, coaches expect a certain bias from parents and athletes. An objective source may have more credibility presenting your skills and accomplishments.
How valuable are exposure events?
The answer to this can vary drastically. Some events are great. Many can be a waste of money. A college coach usually goes to camps or showcases with a plan to specifically watch someone already on his or her list, not to 'discover' new talent. They've cross referenced their recruiting list with the rosters from the event and they've done their homework. They normally don't show up just to randomly recruit the athletes in attendance. That would be very inefficient for them. If you do utilize camps, clinics, and exposure events it's important you do the legwork on the front end to establish recruiting relationships with college coaches so that when they attend events that you will also be participating in they can specifically designate time to come evaluate you.
When am I allowed to contact college coaches?
Will I still need to pay for school if I have a scholarship?
What is an "unofficial" and "official" visit?
An "Official" visit is a visit that you make to a college that is paid for by the team or athletic department. The school is able to pay for transportation, lodging, meals and reasonable entertainment for the recruit while they are on their visit. The visit may be up to 48 hours long. Official visits can only be taken in an athlete’s senior year.
Does my athletic scholarship cover my entire time in school?
Can my High School or Club Coach help me get recruited?
You should always involve your coaches in your recruiting process. College coaches value the recommendation of other coaches. But don’t rely on others to do your recruiting for you. You alone should be heading up your recruiting process. If your coaches want to get involved you should ask them for letters of recommendation or–if they are willing–to be listed as references on your resume.
Recruiting help is always appreciated, but you should always take the lead in your own recruiting.
How important is timing when I’m trying to get recruited?
What is the NCAA Clearinghouse?
What is a NCAA National Letter of Intent (NLI)?
I am getting letters from schools and coaches. Am I going to get a scholarship?
How early can I give a verbal agreement?
What is the difference between the NCAA divisions?
When should I start the recruiting process?
During your Freshman year you will want to meet with your high school counselor and come up with an academic game plan. Make sure you are meeting all the needs of the NCAA and NAIA in addition to the specific colleges that interest you. Look for summer camps that will help you develop as a student-athlete and gain you some valuable exposure to coaches as well. During your Sophomore year research programs you are interested in and contact coaches. The summer after your sophomore year you should consider attending the camps held by those teams. Your Junior year is the most important in the recruiting process. This is the year coaches will be looking at your statistics and the admissions department will be looking at you academic achievements. Make sure you have already established a relationship with coaches so that when your senior year starts they already know you are interested in their program. By the time you start your senior year you should have narrowed down your list of realistic school options to at least 5 to 10. If you have not already established a relationship with the coach you should do it now.