4 College Search Tips for Student-Athletes

The college search is a little different for student-athletes, so if you're thinking of playing sports in college, here's what you need to do and know.

In a world full of competition and rivalry, student-athletes are always asking themselves, “How do I become better?” This question may have flitted across your mind a seemingly endless number of times. That’s what college—and college athletics—is all about: becoming better. Are you ready for the challenge? You will be soon! Here are four college search tips just for student-athletes.

1. Recognize your abilities

If you’re serious about playing your sport in college, you should start by getting to know the difference between NCAA (and NCAA Divisions I, II, and III), NAIA, NJCAA, NCCAA, and other major college athletic governing conferences. All of these organizations and the schools under them offer different programs and scholarships for student-athletes. You should figure out which conferences and colleges fit your athletic goals and abilities. For instance, NCAA Division I schools tend to award a lot more scholarships to student-athletes, but they’re also the most competitive. Division III schools usually have little or no money to give to their student-athletes, yet they may have more money to give in merit-based financial aid for all students, whether they’re athletes or not.

Related: Why Student-Athletes Should Consider NAIA Schools

2. Know what you're looking for

Picture yourself at your dream school. Trust us—you don’t have to have a crystal-clear vision just yet or know exactly where you want to go. But it’s important to figure out which university traits are the most important to you, both athletic-related and not. Ask yourself simple questions to get a clearer picture of what you want in a college, like “Do I want to be in a city, suburban, or rural area?” “What kind of dorm living do I want?” and “What athletic culture does my ideal college have?” If you're looking at a school strictly based on athletics, make sure to get the facts about what the rest of your college experience will consist of. 

3. Contact college coaches

Contact the coach in your sport at the colleges that interest you. Whether it's through email or phone, just contact them! This shows your high interest in their school and gives them some more insight into the type of person and player you are. This is also beneficial to you as an athlete because it can give you some clues as to how they run their program and their personality. Before you call, make sure to do extensive research on this school and the sport you are interested in; it’s helpful to know their overall record, notable players, and maybe even the mascot. This builds another level that coaches can connect with you on. When talking to a coach, ask them thoughtful questions like, “Why did you choose this college in the first place?” This will give you insight into who they are as a person and what they value.

4. Talk to college athletes

In the world of sports, it’s super important to listen to others—which you probably already know from your time on the field! You need all the help you can get in your college journey, and others can help you all the way just like your teammates. So ask for help when you need it, and talk to some college student-athletes about their school and their general experience with playing a sport in college. If you go on an official visit as a potential student-athlete, this is a great inside look at what the day-to-day life of a student-athlete is like. This way you will be more prepared to take on a new start at college and on a new team. It might even help inspire you to reach for your goals and push harder for what you want on the court and off. 

Related: An Inside Look at College Athletic Recruitment

The student search is a little different for student-athletes, so it’s natural to seek out information specifically for your situation. Treat your college search like the athlete you are and take every aspect of your sports future into account. If you truly want to be a student-athlete, that can’t be a secondary factor in your college search—so give it the front-and-center approach it deserves.

Looking for more college search and athletic recruitment help? Explore our College Athletics section!

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