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by Kim Penney
High school student-athletes who plan to continue playing their chosen sport in college need to start the college search process earlier than most students. It takes time and effort for any student to find the right college fit, and when the athletics piece of the puzzle is in play, the college search can become even more confusing.
Perhaps one of the most common mistakes student athletes make in their college search is searching for schools based on the "Athletic Fit" alone. What if you get injured and can't play? You're more than just the sport you play, so your college should be a good fit for you beyond just athletics. Keep in mind that your athletic talent should not be the only factor determining where you'll attend school; treat it instead as a tool to help you gain acceptance to the best overall college fit.
As a student-athlete, your final target college list may need to be revised several times before it's complete. Unlike most students, you'll need to go through the college search process twice: first as a student, then as an athlete. Once you've targeted your academic "reach", "middle", and "likely" schools, you'll then need to cross-reference that list with your "Athletic Fit" list.
Your search can be further complicated by the (sometimes conflicting) advice you may receive from several sources including your parents, teachers, friends, school counselor, and coaches (high school and AAU). Though these people care about you and have your best interests at heart, they may be suggesting schools that fit only one aspect of you. Listen to those around you, but be sure to always keep focused on the "whole" you.
Whether you're a "blue-chip" athlete or the sixth-man off the bench, you need to be proactive in your college search. Don't assume college coaches will find you and initiate contact, as this is often not the case. Due to recruiting budget constraints and NCAA rules and regulations, college coaches are limited in their ability to contact you. It's therefore up to you to promote yourself actively and to initiate contact with college coaches to express your interest in their athletic programs. Keep in mind, however, that it's important that you do your homework before contacting a college coach. It's a waste of your time and the coach's time if a school doesn't actually fit your social, academic, and athletic search criteria. For example, you may fit the academic profile for a Boston College student and you may love the social atmosphere on campus, but are you a Division I-level athlete?
The 3 Search Criteria a Student-Athlete Should Consider in a College Search
The above information is just a start for student-athletes. After you've compiled your target college list, you'll need to perform a "second-tier" of research that digs deeper into each college's athletic program. This includes reading rosters, pros/cons of athletic scholarships, etc.
For a student-athlete, the college search process is a journey full of adventure. Be sure to explore all of your options so that you can make informed decisions. Do your homework and seek out the appropriate help to find the answers you need. It is your future. You're worth it!
Kim Penney is an Independent Educational Consultant with One-on-One College Consulting.
One-on-One College Consulting guides student-athletes and families through the college admissions and athletic-recruiting process.
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