When to Start Looking at Universities and Contacting Coaches - Friday's Scholarship Guide

by Yannick Weihs

Are you still in high school and think occasionally about applying for an athletic scholarship at a US College? Are you unsure whether it would be the right choice or whether it would be better to go pro? Make a decision as soon as possible because time is running out.

Photo credit: Waag Society

It's a known fact and trend among college coaches that the recruiting process starts earlier and earlier every year. What that means is, that every year coaches start looking at younger and younger athletes. That's why high school juniors already, start committing to universities. Committing two years before high school graduation is quite early from my point of view.

Why coaches recruit so early

There are many coaches that are not particularly happy with the current recruiting trend. From a coach's point of view it is highly risky to commit to a high school junior since so many things can happen in two years. Among many other reasons the two biggest and most common risks are that the athlete could get injured or lose interest in competing for instance.

The problem as a coach though is if you want to have a shot at signing a top recruit, you have to go with the flow. Meaning that if a few other coaches start contacting kids during their sophomore year, most other coaches will start doing the same soon after. The recruiting process is highly important for a coach's success and the most critical part of the job. Therefore every coach is under a lot of pressure to get the best student athlete they can possibly get.

Implications for the prospective student athlete

The coaches' efforts to recruit younger and younger high school kids has some inconvenient implications for you as a potential prospective student athlete. It means that you need to think about your future way earlier than you probably want to. I personally didn't think about what to do after high school graduation, two years in advance. Unfortunately, if you want to go to a good college on an athletic scholarship these days, you will have to do exactly that, as spots are filling up.

I can assure you that most available scholarships for the school year beginning in fall 2015, are already gone. So if you are interested in going to college on a scholarship in fall 2015, take action as soon as possible. Inform yourself, take the necessary tests, and start contacting coaches.

Why you should take action as early as possible

Even if you are unsure about your future you should still be proactive and take action to put yourself in a position, where you could potentially go to college. Speaking from experience, the worst thing in life is having regrets. You never want to miss out on a great opportunity because you were too lazy or because you postponed a decision. By postponing a decision, in a way you actually already passively make a decision.

Therefore, you should prepare yourself for the "in case" scenario. Let's assume you prepared yourself for college but didn't end up going and turned pro instead. Well, you might have "wasted" some time and money on the college preparation but that's it. At least you had the opportunity to go to college, most likely even on a scholarship. You gave yourself the opportunity to do something. In that case you did everything right, because there's nothing better in life than having multiple opportunities. So do not waste it - it only takes some time and effort on your part.

How to start preparing

If you have recognized the importance of dealing with this topic early enough, then good job. Now, you might be faced with the question how to actually tackle this issue. What needs to be done and in which order should it be done? Since this is a very broad topic we will get into it in one of our next issues of "Friday's scholarship guide".

Nonetheless I want to state the most important thing already. Take care of your grades. Do not underestimate the importance of your academic grades. Not only will they enable you to get into better schools, but it also sends a signal about your personality to the coaches. In our last issue we explained why personality is so important to college coaches and having good grades is an important personality factor for them. I personally know many former and current student athletes, who regret not having worked harder in school, after not getting into their favorite college due to bad grades.

Conclusion

The key take-away of this week's scholarship guide is that you should start thinking about college at latest two years before your graduation. It takes time to figure out what you really want and which university suits you best. Additionally, every year coaches start committing younger and younger kids. Don't take that opportunity from yourself by postponing it and thinking you could deal with it later on. As long as you put yourself in a position where you have multiple opportunities, you will never have any regrets.

So, if you have a friend who has mentioned that he/she considers going to college, but will deal with it later on - go ahead and tell him that it might be smarter to start dealing with it now. The earlier the better.

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