Families seem to be in the middle of a perfect storm as they look to send their sons and daughters to college. The stock market has wiped out a lot of the savings people thought they had; college tuition has climbed; the economy has wiped out millions of jobs; house prices have collapsed and destroyed equity; and more kids than ever want a higher education.
Maybe the promising circumstances for you is that your child plays a sport – even plays it pretty well. Sounds like you, right? You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. So help in the form of an athletic scholarship may well be on the cards. You will need to navigate the recruiting process, and make some difficult judgments about contacting college coaches, bringing on college consultants, negotiating terms (if you are lucky enough to get that far) and all the rest of a potentially complicated process. But for those with prospects, and need, there is just no other way.
And there is no question that a sports scholarship can help pay for that college education. It may not be a full ride – but any contribution would be welcomed by most of us. The challenge for parents though, especially those new to the college recruiting process, is to navigate the unfamiliar terrain in a race where the stakes could not be higher. Hey, it’s only your child’s education!
Jennifer Noonan of College Sports Quest has been counseling high school athletes in Southern California for around 10 years and has advised over 500 families in that time. She warns against leaving everything to the student. It is just too important for the athlete not to have the full backing of the family.
And as Jennifer Noonan she sees it, there are five common misconceptions when it comes to college recruiting and sports scholarships.
Myth #1: If you are good enough, coaches will always find out about you
And all good things come to those who wait. In a perfect world, this is exactly what would happen. Alas, our world is less than perfect. And a college scholarship is too important to leave to chance. You must be proactive. I
Myth #2: You have plenty of time
Not nearly as much as you think. Around 25% of high school athletes are identified as college scholarship prospects when they are freshman. Another 35% are identified as sophomores. And another 45% or so are identified when they are juniors. Not that many get identified as seniors. So you don’t have as much time as you think. According to Noonan and College Sports Quest [http://www.collegesportsquest.com], the time for you to start your own recruiting efforts – in most sports – is by September 1 of your junior year (or earlier).
Myth #3: Your coach has connections and will get you recruited
Coaches’ first job is to train you – so you can get recruited. And they are busy – many have teaching duties on top of their athletic duties. Not to mention families and personal lives and all the rest of it. Sure, use the help you get offered from coaches, even ask for it and leverage all the connections they have. But don’t make this your only recruiting strategy.
Myth #4: College camps and exposure tournaments mean you will get noticed
By the time most college coaches get to tournaments, they have a very short list of prospects in mind that they are watching. In a camp of 500 student athletes, a college coach may only be seriously looking at 2 or 3. The lesson is that you need to do the work getting on their radar screens before the tournament. And be realistic (but optimistic) about your abilities and the college tournaments you target.
Myth #5: Grades don’t matter
Colleges and the NCAA have high school course requirements and GPA/SAT/ACT minimum standards that you will need to clear. But meeting the minimum standard the NCAA and your college set does not mean you will be able to continue to meet the required levels of academics. And, all things being equal between you and another prospect, higher grades will count.
It always helps to visit the colleges you are interested in. Try to time your visit so you can see your sport being played. Avoid applying to colleges for sports scholarships that you would not consider attending otherwise. In other words, whatever happens with the team – you still have a degree to get!