How to Maximize Your Chance of Getting an Athletic Scholarship - Friday's Scholarship Guide

by Yannick Weihs

The key to increasing your chance of getting an athletic scholarship is contacting the right coaches. Sounds easier than it is though, and many people struggle with this task. That's why we advise you how to go about it in this week's issue of Friday's scholarship guide.

Photo credit: Lauren Nelson

Why do so many people spend such a significant amount of money on personal agencies, to help them get an athletic scholarship? The main reason is that they need an assessment of their chances. What most people don't know though, is how they do it. In this article we'll give you a 3-step guide, with which you will be able to assess your chances of getting an athletic scholarship all by yourself, while actually increasing your chances of getting it.

1. Evaluate yourself correctly

As already mentioned, it all comes down to contacting the right coaches. The first step is evaluating your level of competitiveness correctly. This can be done without having inside knowledge and without watching a college DI, DII or DIII game every other weekend. Depending on your sport though the assessment will be more or less difficult.

Individual Sport

If you are an athlete of an individual sport, you can consider yourself lucky. Generally, individual sports have rankings or some sort of proof of one's level of competitiveness. Golfers for instance have a certain handicap, which says a lot about their athletic ability. Swimmers can track their development according to their personal best times, and tennis players always fight to climb up the rankings. While this ranking points and best times are a natural outcome, the difficult part is comparing your own level to the level of competitiveness in college.

Team sport

As a team player, it is a little more difficult to evaluate one's performance; especially without the availability of statistics. A hockey goalie could compare his level of competitiveness based on his or her saving percentage, but even that is highly influenced by the teams' and the opponents' levels. In addition, statistics like that are generally not widely available for junior sports. So the best thing you can do is to evaluate your team's performance. How good is the league you are playing in and how good are your opponents? How important are you for the team? Are you a key player, a leader or someone who can be replaced easily? When answering those questions, make sure to be honest to yourself. In addition, ask friends of yours if they can help find an answer to this question. If they are good friends, they will be honest, even if the truth hurts sometimes.

2. Benchmark yourself to college athletes

A correct and realistic self-assessment is highly important, since the second step is to compare yourself to the athletes on the college teams. If this comparison is based on an unrealistic self-assessment it only harms you, since you will end up contacting the wrong college coaches. In addition, make sure and be ready to invest some time in this step. The more thorough you are, the better your chances of getting an athletic scholarship. Once again the approach is different for individual sports and team sports.

Individual sport

As an athlete of an individual sport you will once again have an easier time evaluating the level of competitiveness of the current student athletes, since you can assess their performance based on their results. In order to get a holistic overview you should take the following approach.

First, pick six teams of each division. Of those six teams, two should be highly ranked, two teams should be barely in the rankings and two teams should be unranked. Now, look at every athlete individually and see what their performance has been over the last year. Based on your sport, there will be different indicators. The important thing is, that you get a feeling of how good or bad the athletes are on average per team. This will not only tell you whether you could have a spot on the team, but it will also tell you, whether you'd be one of their key athletes or whether you'd be at the bottom of the lineup. Based on that you can assess your chance of getting a decent scholarship.

The important part here is to be very thorough. This step will take quite some time, but when done correctly, your benefits will be enormous. In the end you should know what teams have athletes with your level of competitiveness. This may be a mediocre NCAA DI, a decent NCAA DII or a NAIA school. Knowing where to place your level of competitiveness can save you not only the money you'd pay for an agency, but also the tuition fees for a period of four years.

Team sport

As an athlete of a team sport you will have to take a different approach. The only consistent part is the sample. Again, pick six teams from each division to analyze.

Since it is very difficult and takes a lot of experience to evaluate the strength of an individual player within a team sport, you should evaluate the team as a whole and see where the coaches are recruiting from. If you are an International for instance you should determine where the international college athletes are coming from; in essence which league they competed in before college. This gives you an expectation of the coaches' requirements. National prospective student athletes should check where the current players are coming from. Often college coaches recruit the majority of their athletes from specific high schools for instance due to the compatibility with the high school team's playing style. Especially in soccer, coaches state that they favor athletes from certain high schools, since they know that they will fit into the team. When recruiting Internationals they state that they only talk to athletes who competed in a certain league; with the league being different from country to country.

Overall it takes more time to get a feeling of where you'd fit in as an athlete of a team sport. Just make sure to identify where the current student athletes have been recruited from and figure out the coaches' coaching philosophy. This will give you an idea of whether you'd fit into the team or not.

3. Contact the right people

After assessing your capabilities and comparing them to the athletes' capabilities of various teams, you will know which coaches you should contact. Pick the team where you feel like you'd fit into the most and see what their performance has been over the last years. This means if an unranked NCAA division II team would be your best fit, you should identify as many other unranked NCAA division II teams as possible. Once again you have to do some research. In the end you should have a list of 50 schools. You might think that 50 is a lot, but it is highly important that you actually do this and create an extensive list, since it will increase your chances of getting a scholarship significantly.

Now you have identified the right coaches to contact, good job! The next step is crucial for yourself and for your college experience. Don't go ahead and send a mass e-mail to all 50 coaches saying that you want to be on their team. Instead, take your time and look at each school individually first. This decision will determine your life over a period of at least four years - most likely even more than that. Therefore, you should look at each school in detail in order to figure out whether you would enjoy living there for four years. Consider factors such as the size of the university, the location, the surroundings, and the academic requirements. Eliminate the ones from your list, that do not meet your expectations. You should then be left with 30 to 40 universities/coaches to contact. The next step is to prioritize them and contact them one after another. Make sure to prepare yourself properly and to send a personally tailored e-mail. Everyone can tell the difference between a mass e-mail and a personally tailored e-mail.

We want to point out again that athletic skills are only one aspect coaches look at when recruiting prospective student athletes. Grades, work ethics, and character are in most cases equally important to college coaches. For more information on that read our articles why academic grades matter and why personality matters.

We hope we were able to help you in your quest for an athletic scholarship at the right university. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.

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