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Recruiting When Not On The Field: Finding Your Best Fit Schools

The Coronavirus is having a significant effect on many different aspects of life including the college recruiting process. High school soccer players unable to play on a field may be getting anxious about missed on-field recruiting opportunities.

Despite being unable to play, there are a number of steps you can take to improve your chances of getting recruited in the long run. To help anxious soccer players, Future 500 is going to be running a ‘Recruiting When Not On a Field’ content series. This week we are going to be talking about how players and families can use this down time to really form a great list of schools that are a good fit both academically and athletically.

Properly evaluating and comparing schools as you navigate the college recruiting process is extremely important and can have long term implications on your college experience and outcome. To put things into perspective, the 4-year graduation rate in the US is approximately 40%. This means that you are more likely to add additional years to your degree (or drop out of college) than to graduate in 4 years. In fact, about 39% of students transfer to another college or drop out altogether after freshman year. What is the reason for these statistics? Why is the transfer rate so high and the 4-year graduation rate so low? The answer is generally that many students are making the decision to attend colleges that are not a good fit for them. This is usually the result of a flawed college evaluation process that does not consider the correct factors when determining which schools to attend, or in other words, which schools are a best fit.

The recruiting and decision making process can be overwhelming for student-athletes in particular with so many colleges to choose from and with an additional set of criteria with which to evaluate schools – athletic criteria. Many student-athletes focus primarily  on the athletic component to drive their evaluation process, asking questions such as “which division should I be aiming for?” and “what team am I good enough to play for?” and forming an initial college list based on these types of athletic questions. This is very much in line with what the majority of college recruiting companies tell you: focus primarily on athletic factors when deciding which colleges to pursue. Most recruiting companies place little emphasis on non-athletic factors. In fact, their technology is limited with the amount and quality of non-athletic college information for families to evaluate. Future 500 has learned from 30 years working with colleges and college coaches that this type of athletic-centric approach is actually harmful for student-athletes, greatly increasing the potential for a poor college outcome.

Future 500 advocates a different approach to evaluating and selecting schools: finding schools that are a good fit both on and off the field. Less than 2% of college athletes go on to play professionally, while most see their college education shape their career and the rest of their lives. This highlights the importance of the non-athletic component of the college experience. Student-athletes spend the majority of their time in the classroom and within the campus environment and culture. If their college selection is based solely on athletics and fails to consider major, geography and other non-athletic factors, they are much more likely to have a negative college experience. This negative experience often leads to poor grades, transferring colleges or dropping out of college. With every additional year of college costing an average of $60,000, not to mention the potential long term effects of a poor college experience, making the correct college decision becomes even more important.

The table below, created by Athlete College Advisors, consists of the 10 Fit Points, designed to assist student-athletes find their best fit schools.

The first 7 Fit Points above (in blue) are non-athletic factors while the final 3 (in red) are athletic factors. Future 500 recommends that you consider the blue non-athletic factors first before the red athletic factors when evaluating colleges. This is not to say that athletic factors are unimportant, rather that they should usually be considered after a college is deemed a good fit on non-athletic grounds. This will ensure that a student-athlete is happy, academically, socially and athletically – and give the student-athlete the greatest opportunity to thrive, succeed and graduate in 4 years. Note: The Fit Points above are not ordered sequentially in terms of importance, as different student-athletes will place different levels of importance on factors such as distance from home, or cost of the institution for example.

The 10 Fit Points and Coach Communication

College coaches receive thousands of emails from interested student-athletes. One of the best ways for a student-athlete to engage in a successful conversation with a college coach is to write a highly personalized email that tells the coach about his or her program. The best way to achieve this is to do so after narrowing down schools based on the 10 Fit Points above. Once you have a list of schools that best meets these criteria you can incorporate these Fit Points into your email to the coach, telling them why you like the location, major, or style of play for instance. This will show the coach that you have done your research and will greatly increase your chances of a response and a successful conversation with the college coach


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