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College Recruiting Tips, Scholarships, Timeline 

Scholarship money aside, if you want to play soccer in college you must do everything in your control to make it as easy as possible for college coaches to find and scout you.   There are a few things you must address early on.  Be the best soccer player you can be.  Be the best student you can be.  Find a way to be a part of the best travel soccer team you can make and which plays at the national college showcase tournaments with a high number of colleges coaches in attendance (see GotSoccer.com for listings).  Get a feel for who is committing to different colleges by looking at an independent web site that tracks high school verbal commitments. There is also ESPN Rise Recruits and TopDrawerSoccer.com Commitments.   The data is provided by club coaches, players and/or parents. These lists do not have a athletic scholarship requirement in order to make it, it is strictly about verbal commitments, which usually occurs in the sophomore and/or junior year. It is considered a solid source for initial commitments but does not verify National Letter of Intent signings, which are official.   

How much money can a soccer player receive?  There is no official publication that can give you that information.  You could frequent some blogs or forums and read what others are posting but the best source is to talk with your clubs director who can guide you.  As a general rule, Division I & II can give athletic money as long as the school does not prohibit athletic scholarships.  Some do, some don't.  Division III schools cannot give athletic scholarships but they have a need-based financial application where you qualify for financial aid and which you do not have to pay back.   Are full scholarships really possible?  If you have financial need and great soccer skills and good grades the answer if yes.  The "full rides" you hear about are almost always a combination of financial-need, athletic award and possibly some merit scholarship money. 

If you have the ability to score well on standardized tests, then you want to prepare in advance for your PSAT, SAT and ACT's.  Students take a school administered preliminary PSAT in the Fall of their freshman and sophomore year and then the official PSAT (aka National Merit Scholarship Qualifyng Test) in the Fall of their Junior year.   Students should study in advance for the freshman preliminary PSAT, even though it is unofficial, because they can show it to a college coach as an "indicator of future scores".     This increases your chance of making a college coach's short list if you want to be recruited at one of the "academic" soccer schools.  It is important to put yourself in a position to be considered for the short list, by doing everything in your control.

The earlier the better in the recruiting process because entire coaching staffs do not attend showcase tournaments in tow.  A typical coaching staff consists of no more than three positions including head coach, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.  Usually just one coach will travel to a tournament unless it is geographically close and then 2-3 may attend.  You need to be ready at the earliest possible date.  You may not have a second chance with many schools. 

It is well known that coaches develop recruiting lists starting with high school freshman.  That list certainly changes over time but many of the players remain on the list and are seen by coaches for three years or more.  If you have solid grades, test scores and are a high quality player, you increase your chances of getting on that initial short list of prospects for many of these schools and with that the chance to be actively reviewed some top schools.  It does not mean you will make the final cut at these schools but at least you will be in the running. 

Many of the top twenty (20) college soccer teams don't really care whether you are in the top 10% of your class academically.  They are first looking for the best soccer players and if you are in the top 25% of your class that is a bonus, but the other 98% of colleges are going to want a combination of good students and really good soccer players.   Make it easy for them by giving your best in everything....early and often.  Remember the key phrase "early and often".  You must be consistent in everything you do. 

Most colleges want to see good GPA's with really good SAT and ACT scores. Do that early and also have a really good soccer game and you increase your chances playing college soccer.   The academic schools found in the Ivy and Patriot League pre-screen you by GPA (unweighted) not HPA (weighted, aka Honors), class rank and standardized test scores.  If you think you have the ability to be a National Merit Scholar go for it as it will open the door with another 10 - 20 schools.  If you wait until your third try on the SAT to reach their minimum, you have backed yourself into a corner because these college coaches will have already been scouting other players much earlier then you because they scored high, early and often.   Once the short list fills up it makes it that much harder for you to unseat someone.   

Start your process in your freshman or sophomore year by selecting a handful of colleges that fit your requirement of academics, campus life and soccer opportunity. Go to the particular college athletic web site and find the online recruiting questionaire profile.  Fill this out in the very beginning of the process because even emailing any coaches. They must have your information in their database. 

Keep a detailed log book of just about everything you do in the recruiting process.  You do not want to be sending duplicate emails or forms to these college coaches. 

What about attending college soccer camps?  The overwhelming majority of college soccer camps are all about making money and that is it.  Plain and simple.  Yes, some players are legitimately scouted, analyzed and recruited at a college "ID" camps, but that number is certainly less than 1%, except for the academic colleges.  The academic colleges want to see you at their camps in the spring or summer of your sophomore year and then in the spring of your Junior year.  

For example, the academic institutions found in the Ivy League and Patriot League require you to attend their camps. They do not have the big budgets for traveling across the country in search of soccer showcases.   Yes their endowments are huge but they are not used for attending youth travel showcases.  The public colleges have seemingly unlimited resources because the public is paying for it so they will be at every and any tournament they can logistically fit in their schedule.

If you think you have the combo of great grades and class rank, very high standardized test scores and strong soccer skills and want to try for it then attend whatever camps you can afford or have the luxury of time.  Just remember they all may turn out to be a bust for you so you better be enjoying the experience because it is alot of time and money. 

There are some camps that are by invitation and communicated to you individually with the understanding that the schools is interested in you and you will be reviewed by the coaching staff.  These are usually 1-2 days camps billed as "elite camps".   You can tell if they are serious or not based on their price of $150 - $200, just enough to cover their expenses and they are usually limited to 30 players or less who have been seen by the coaching staff over an extended period of time and or were referred by their club coach. The coaching staff will almost always find you at travel soccer tournaments for these camps.   The coach might tell you to spend the night on campus with another soccer player, attend classes or something similar. These are clear signs that you are on a short list.   They might have a short list of 6-10 players for one position though. But that is how it works everywhere.  Count yourself fortunate if you find yourself in this situation. 

Players on U14+ National teams and National Region ODP teams usually don't have to concern themselves with many of these issues.  They may all end up being recruited by the Top 20 teams and will not have to experience the ups and downs of the recruiting process.  But they represent less than a fraction of one percent of the soccer players in the youth system.  Everyone else has to grind it out. 

Playing college soccer on scholarship is a privilege.   If you have to sacrifice your childhood to achieve a scholarship, I would label this grossly unacceptable as a parent.  There are plenty of colleges in every state where just about any travel soccer player can participate on.  You won't receive an athletic scholarship but you will have a chance to play. 

If you want to attend a top notch academic college and play soccer, you want to target a minimum SAT of 1300.  Without an athletic "support position", entry into an Ivy requires a minimum of 700 in each subject test.   It is easier to achieve a high SAT over a high class rank. You want to be in the top 10 % of your class with an GPA (unweighted) of at least 3.5.   

If you really want to play soccer in college you have to be flexible with your choices.  You may have dreamed of having your child play at UNC because you have a vacation home nearby and you have fallen in love with the prospect of being a Tarheel parent.  UNC Coach Anson Dorrance takes the nine best players in the country each season and that is it.   Nine being defined by how long they have been on the US National Team at various age groups.  So unless you are one of them, do yourself a favor and move on.  

Contacting coaches... There can be a hundred different colleges at various soccer tournaments.  If the tournament web site is hosted by GotSoccer.com or SoccerInCollege.com there will be a list of all the coaches who have pre-registered to attend on the schedule page.  They do this to let you know they will be in attendance.  There are no email addresses so you need to go to the college website and get their email contact information and then send an email from your daughter (not parent) asking them to attend.  First go to the college soccer website your freshman year and register as a prospective soccer recruit with each college you are interested in.  Then send them an email providing the tournament dates and location, your game date, time, field location and opponent name.    Send your first email out months in advance and then a follow-up about 2 weeks before the tournament.  Sometimes you will get confirmation and other times nothing.  Coaches are busy.   After the tournament ends send an email asking if they attended any games and ask for feedback. Coaches are busy, so it make take a few days or longer to get a response.   If they really liked the player then will respond within 3-4 days at the latest.  But don't give up it the delay is longer.   

Also ask your club coach and team manager to put together a team recruiting brochure with player names, grad year, GPA, position, email and photo.  Then find a "generous" or impartial parent from your team to be the one at tournaments to hand these flyers out to the college coaches at the field. Tell each college coach, you are there to assist them with any questions. This person can be a parent, just keep in mind that college coaches cannot speak with you at the field directly about your child. They can speak with you about the other players on the team, but not your child.  Which is why the term "generous" was used.  So if you find them asking questions about your child try and handle it like any member of the team. 

When should I communicate SAT scores to college coaches?  Well, that depends on your results.  Eventually the coach will have 100% of your test scores but it is better not to have yourself crossed off the short list early because you first score did not meet your minimum objective.  Let's say a college has a minimum SAT requirement of 1200 for non-athletes and you scored 1150, that  probably meets the minimum for athletes with most schools.   If you scored a 1250, rush it out quickly.   On the other hand if you scored 1050 you might hold off, study and retake the exam.  When you feel you are maxed out go ahead and send the score.   

Remember, soccer coaches are looking for soccer players first and then by grades which would meet the minimum requirement of their admissions department.  It really does not matter much to a coach if the soccer recruit is high above the minimum as long as they are at it. Each player is admitted individually, all the college coach really is interested in is if each player being recruited can stand on their own with admissions.  If a coach likes you and encourages you to come see the school, then do you homework and decide if you should go.  If you do go, email the coach when you will be on campus and then follow it up with an email letting them know what you thought of the school.  This will communicate to the coaching staff just how interested you are.  

How do I begin the process of finding appropriate colleges and then narrowing the list when my child is only an incoming freshman?   At this point, just begin by getting acquainted with the top soccer teams as ranked by NCAA.com for Division I-III and NAIA.com. Keep in mind that many D-I colleges require players to practice six (6) days a week beginning in the Fall and working right through the Spring season.  Top 20 colleges have their players training 30-35 hours of practice each week for up to nine (9) months.   Ivies, Patriot and other academic conferences usually cap the commitment to 15-20 hours each week during the Fall season and less during the Spring season.   Division I is by far the most competitive college league, followed by Division II; however, there are some Division III teams which could compete with both.  Next, you should begin the process of getting acquainted with the academic ranking and profiles of colleges.  Turn to Bloomberg BusinessWeek and US News to look at the "glamour" academic rankings.  Nobody really knows what the criteria is to make the various lists but at least they are a starting point for quickly culling together information.  After this, Google might just be your best resource. 

Last point.  Coaches recruit players, not parents.  The student should be emailing the prospective college coach from their personal email not from the family or parents email. The student should select a professional email such as "TaylorSwift@" not "SurferGirlTS@".   The student email should be on the team recruiting brochure.  

Coaches will let the parent know when the right time to speak with them is.   Don't hard sell your child or you will find a coach will drop your child quickly. They just don't have the time to deal with meddlesome parents.   The difference between 90% of players is often how a coach perceives attitudes.   Don't find yourself on the wrong side of the fence.   

Scholarships

How may scholarships per team should I be anticipating?

The NCAA sets limits for scholarships in any given season for Division I-III schools.  They are as follows: 

  Men Women
Division I 9.9 14
Division II 9 11.9
Division III 0 0
     

Don't forget NAIA schools which allocate 12 scholarships as well. For the most part, NAIA colleges are on par with NCAA D-II soccer.   NCAA D I-III and NAIA make up the top four college soccer leagues in the USA. 

So what does this mean?.   NCAA socccer is an equivalency sport where scholarships can and will be divided as many times as the coach deems appropriate. Each player on scholarship will get a percentage of their school expenses paid for but rarely does even a top college soccer program use one full scholarship for any single player.  These are the maximum  number of scholarships allowed but college athletic departments ("AD's") cannot afford to give out 14 full rides at $35,000 - $50,000 annually per player when the college soccer teams operates at a loss each year.  

Most large D-I college AD's will advise their soccer coach they will only have 8 +/- scholarships to apply to there entire team.  That means 2 scholarships per incoming class divided by the number of recruits, in theory.  The reality is a group of 8 incoming freshman might find themselves with 2 players each receiving a 1/2 scholarships, leaving 1 scholarship to be divided between the 6 other players.  Smaller D-I colleges might limit the number to 6 full scholarships for the entire team. 

That's the part that parents just have a hard time understanding.  If the NCAA allows 14 why limit it to 8?  The reason is money. The AD is run like a business. They might have 30-50 different sports to manage and they have to minimize their losses each year.  And Title IX does not mandate women's teams get to receive the maximum number of scholarships, even when a school has a champion football team like the Gators. 

Let's take a case, right here in Florida.  For the 2010-2011 soccer season, the Gators begin the season with 38 players on their roster.   In all likelihood, there are no Gator players on a full-ride.  Why? Because UF does not have to offer 100% to get these players to come to the No. 1 rated sports college program in the country.   Of the 38 players, 18 or so will receive absolutely zero athletic money and in fact will probably have to come out of pocket to cover expenses on the team.  And 15-20 of those players will never travel on the road to away games because that extra cost would cripple the team budget.    

NCAA College Recruitment Timeline 

In a fully funded NCAA Division I women’s soccer program, there are only 14 full scholarships available at any point in time.  Therefore, in programs with 20-30 players, most of them are only receiving partial scholarships, if they are on scholarship at all.  It is only in the most special cases (US National team/regional teams caliber players) where a sizeable scholarship might be given.    NCAA Division II and NAIA programs also offer scholarships, but at even lower levels in most cases.  NCAA Division III programs do not offer athletic scholarships, but will often work very hard at providing academic assistance to interested players with the necessary grades. 

Unless you are participating on the National Team or in the upper levels of the Olympic Development Program (ODP), it is unlikely that any major college coaches will come to you directly.  You need to take your game to them and initiate contact with the college coaches at the schools you might be interested in attending.  Pick 20-30 schools and really work them. You should begin the process as early as your freshman year.  

Beginning with that perspective, it is important to follow these three simple rules in selecting a college or university: 

1.  Be sure that the school you are interested in attending offers the major that you are most interested in pursuing, and that it is academically challenging enough for your needs.

2.  Be sure that the size, location, distance from home, and social environment of the school you are      interested in is comfortable for you for the next four to five years.  If soccer were to be taken away from     you for any reason, would you be happy staying there and completing your education? 

3.  Does the school you are interested in offer a soccer program that you believe you can participate in at a level of your choosing.  You may want to be an impact player immediately, an impact player later in      your career, a role player, or just a part of the team.  This however, must be the final part of the equation, NOT the first. 

You will have your education and your degree for a lifetime, but soccer will not last forever.

Chasing the Dream

The following is an adaptation of a guide offered by the University of Kentucky soccer program. 

 Sophomore Year

This is a great time to make initial contact by letter and/or e-mail with the schools you are interested in attending.  Initial contact should be made through conventional mail, with updates through e-mail and/or letters.  It is never too early to start!  Players should begin to formulate a list of 10-12 schools, varying in division and level of competitiveness (dream big – but be realistic also).  Division I and II schools can only respond to the introductory letter with a general questionnaire and/or summer camp brochure.  By making contact, it lets the prospective school know of your genuine interest.  It is also recommended that your follow up on this initial contact with schedules  (high school and club), tournament updates, recent awards, academic awards/scores, etc.  Update as often as you would like! 

Your introductory letter should stress your interest in and awareness of the specific program.  Personalize each letter, and remember – it’s okay to be creative!  This is done by reviewing that team’s past successes (i.e. season record, tournament bids, player awards, etc), which demonstrates you are well researched.  It should also highlight your own personal and/or team successes, both high school and club.  Also include in the letter a complete resume’ and any pertinent high school/club schedules.  A request for further information about the soccer program and the college or university as well as summer camps should be made at the closing of the letter. 

It is also recommended that you take as many unofficial visits as possible to many different types of schools.  You have an unlimited number of unofficial visits.  Most coaches are more than willing to meet and talk.  Campus tours can usually be arranged through the admissions office and/or visitor’s center. 

Sometime during the sophomore year, it is also recommended you enter the NCAA Clearinghouse.  See the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Athlete, in your high school athletic department and/or guidance department, for further details.  It is also wise to evaluate your core courses and grade point average at this time. 

Junior Year 

As of September 1st of your junior year, prospective student-athletes may begin to receive letters, media guides and other soccer/university information from college coaches, faculty members and students (not boosters).  Your “Top 10” list will vary from week to week or even day to day.  Therefore, it is a good idea to continue your research and recruiting.  You must also begin to research the academic side of schools in great detail.  Your recruiting should  continue along the same lines as your sophomore year but with some more focus and deliberateness.  Even though the high school season coincides with college soccer season, you should watch as many women’s college games as possible.  I can’t stress this enough!  Continue to request further information as well as take unofficial visits. 

I strongly encourage you to take your ACT/SAT tests during the fall and as many times as you can.  Don’t wait until the fall of your senior year.  Most academic packages from colleges are put together in the fall of your senior year based upon earlier scores and early deadlines.

Senior Year

As of July 1st of your senior year, you may receive phone calls from coaches of both Division I and II schools.  Coaches are limited to one phone call per week.  Messages don’t count as a phone call.  If your parents speak with the coach about the university and/or soccer program, that phone call will count for that week even if they did not speak with you directly.   Letters, emails, faxes, etc. are unlimited.  Also, beginning your first day of class, you can begin official visits.  You have five official visits total.  Official visits are by invitational only, however.  Official visits are expense paid visits.

Miscellaneous Resources:

HIGHLIGHT TAPES and CD-ROMs:

Highlight tapes aren’t a necessity but can be a useful tool if done properly and professionally.  However, they tend to be very expensive in production, very time consuming, and costly in distribution.  They can be used to generate interest in those schools you are most interested in, like your top five.  It is a personal choice.

RECRUITING SERVICES:

The majority of services or resources offered by recruiting services are things you can do yourself with some time and hard work.  It’s a personal choice.

SUMMER CAMP:

Somewhat expensive, but very productive and useful, summer camps provide you with an opportunity to get “an insider’s view” of the prospective coaches, facilities, and campus.

ON-LINE RESEARCH AIDS:

www.socceramerica.com

www.collegesoccer.com

www.soccerbuzz.com

www.womensoccer.com

www.soccerlocker.com

www.soccerinfo.com

www.ncaa.org (rules and explanations)

GOOD QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT YOUR COLLEGE

When you meet the coach (or even potential teammates), they’ll at some point ask you if you have any questions.  Make sure you ask some.  In addition to those you come up with , here are some good ones you might not have thought of.

 YOU NEED TO ASK THE COLLEGE COACH AND TEAMMATES..

1.  How many hours a day does the soccer team train? What seasons?

2.  May I choose my major and attend classes required in my major even if practice conflicts?

3.  What percentage of scholarship athletes graduate in four years? Five years?

4.  Is free tutoring available?  How do I arrange for this service?

5.  Do I like and admire this coach?  What do the players say about him/her?  Is he/she returning?

6.  Does this college environment (size of town, living arrangements, students) appeal to me?

7.  Can I afford the personal costs of attending here (travel back and forth, etc., fees, tuition, room and board)? 

8. If they offer a partial or full scholarship, how can it be terminated?

9.  What is the varsity team composition – year in school, transfers, red shirts?

10. What is the attitude on campus toward athletes?  Professors’ attitude?

11. Will I live in a regular or an athletic dorm?  How many in a room?

12. How many classes will I miss due to athletic commitments, travel, etc.?  Can I make up tests before or after an absence?

13.  What accident/health insurance does the school offer athletes?  What is the procedure for injuries?

14. What is the academic expectation to keep the scholarship or eligibility?

15. Are my scores and high school academic record adequate to project success at this college?

16. How many hours a day do most students study at this college?

 

Good Luck!

 

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