Top tips for prospective NCAA athletes in the admissions process


Each year, The Edge advises hundreds of students on the college application process to US universities. While the application process might seem straightforward for many students, there are “special” cases such as athletes, artists, and performers for which the process probably seems as easy as navigating an Alice in Wonderland-like labyrinth. Today’s post will focus on prospective athletes and will offer some tips for navigating the process.

1. Put Yourself Out There

Unless you’re an All-American athlete, you need to make yourself known. Even if you know a coach is going to be at a certain game or tournament where you are playing, it’s not guaranteed that he’ll be watching YOU. You need to introduce yourself to coaches and let them know when you’ll be playing and what your number is. In your introductory e-mail, make sure that you include both athletic statistics AND academic highlights (especially if you’re applying to a top university).

2. Know the Rules

The NCAA has strict rules about when coaches can contact athletes. In general, the year is divided into recruiting and non-recruiting periods. Coaches CANNOT contact you during the non-recruiting periods. It’s important to know this so you don’t get frustrated about why a coach isn’t e-mailing you back. In general, a coach cannot contact a high school student until AFTER September 1 of his or her junior year. Before then, they CANNOT respond to your e-mails or return your calls. If you happen to call and reach them directly, then they can talk to you. They can also talk to you in person at a game or tournament. You’ll also want to know the difference between an official and unofficial visit. Talk to your coach or check out for a list of all of the rules.

3. Don’t Be Shy

Once you send your e-mail and inform specific coaches of tournaments you’ll be attending, don’t be shy! If you see them after the game, go up to them and shake their hands, introduce yourself, mention the e-mail you sent, and talk to them about WHY you like their schools and the specific athletic programs. Also, make sure that YOU (and not your parents) are the one to do the calling/e-mailing/talking. Remember, your parents won’t be with you at college so it’s time to start interacting with the coaches yourself.

4. Be Specific and Honest

One of the worst things you can do is send out mass mailings to the top 100 schools for your sport. You want to be targeted and focused when thinking of schools. If there are several programs that interest you, that’s fine, but when you send your initial e-mail, make sure you know why each school would be “ideal” for you. It’s also a great idea to know this information before you meet a potential coach so you can speak thoughtfully about his program and the university. You also always want to be upfront and honest about your commitments. For example, if School A wants you to commit, but you know you’d never go there, be honest and don’t take a spot from someone else who might be really interested in that school.

5. Keep Your Grades Up

This applies to both high school and college grades. Even though you need to spend a lot of time focused on your sport, it’s important to remember that you’re going to college for an education. Coaches want to make sure that you’ll be able to keep up with the rigorous practice/training/game schedule without letting your grades slip. While certain schools might lower the SAT/ACT score or GPA requirements for athletes, they are still requirements, and the higher your scores, the more likely you are to get into your top schools.

Jessica Brondo has 10 years of college counseling experience and is the Founder and CEO, of The Edge in College Prep. Jessica offers Unigo Live Sessions on Getting In, Paying For It, and College Life.

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