Athletic Recruiting Overview

This is the first in a series of three articles about the college athletic recruiting process – how it works and what has changed since the Covid-19 interruption.

There are four basic levels of college athletics.  This post gives you some thoughts to consider as you approach getting recruited to Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 sports programs.  The other level is called NAIA, the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association, and the schools that are members of this league also host competitive college sports.

The video to the right is a brief interview with my colleagues Caleb Fitzpatrick and Diana Hanson, both of whom have taken specialized, advanced coursework to earn a certificate in advising college-bound athletes.  Each offers a few tips for students who are considering the student-athlete option.  Here’s a little bit more information about how to determine if the athletic recruiting path is right for your student.

There are hundreds of thousands of talented high school athletes out there.  The ones who get to play in college aren’t just “discovered” by accident; they’ve put it in the hard work both at school and in their sports, and they’ve reached out to coaches to make sure they get seen.  It’s important to understand how to navigate the NCAA recruiting process, which is much more complex than regular college admissions.  Your son or daughter doesn’t necessarily need to be the best athlete, but there are two questions to start with:

1. Do they have the athletic ability to compete at the college level?

Ask someone with the knowledge and experience to properly evaluate your student’s level of talent, such as your club team coach, a private trainer, or your high school coach.  We know you’ve put in years on the sidelines and thousands of dollars into your child pursuing this sport, but in this situation, unfortunately, mom’s and dad’s opinion and the athlete’s own opinion DO NOT COUNT.

2. Do they have the desire to compete?

Are they feeling burned out?  Can they play for another four years?  Are they willing to put in the time and sacrifice it takes to be a successful college athlete and student?  If the passion is gone, and if they aren’t willing to be coached on improving, coaches won’t want them in their programs.

If your student meets these prerequisites and wants to get recruited to play at the college level, the work begins much earlier than the traditional college application timeline, typically in the spring of sophomore year.  Recruiting timelines vary by sport (here’s the D1 and D2 timelines by sport).

Some other important facts to keep in mind:

  1. Only 6% of student athletes go on to play in college after high school
  2. Out of 480,000 college student-athletes, fewer than 2% turn professional.
  3. Only about 2% of student athletes are awarded some type of athletic scholarship.  It’s very difficult to receive a full athletic scholarship (free ride) because only a handful of sports offer full scholarships.
  4. Athletic scholarships are one year only, and sometimes renewable.  There’s no such thing as a four-year athletic scholarship.
  5. Academics are crucial.  Be a student first, then an athlete. 
  6. Student-athletes at the D1 level must complete the core curriculum as laid out by the NCAA and graduate with a minimum 2.0 GPA and corresponding SAT/ACT score to be eligible.
  7. Pay attention to eligibility.  Students must have a 2.3 GPA in their first year of core courses to be eligible to play at the D1 level.
  8. Don’t just focus on the athletic program; make sure that the college is a good fit and you will thrive and graduate if athletics falls through (injury, etc.).  Keep perspective and be realistic.
  9. Being a collegiate student-athlete takes hard work and dedication. Time management is crucial and prepare to make sacrifices (it will be your full time job!).  NCAA offers this graphic illustration of how Division 3 student-athletes spend their time each week. 

We’ll post two more articles with more detail on the nitty-gritty of the athletic recruiting process.  Please contact us if you have any questions on your student-athlete’s college recruiting and application process.


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