(Before you get into this post, can I ask for your help? If you haven’t responded yet, I’d like to get your response to a few questions in our Athletic Scholarship and Recruiting Survey. I’d like to know your what you’re thinking and experiencing. I’ve gotten a lot of helpful responses in the past few days. Thanks for adding your voice!)
One of the most common questions I get from athletes and parents is, “When should we start?”
You’re asking the question of “when is too early, when is too late, and when is just right?”
I recommend families start, ideally, in the athlete’s freshman year in high school. But this rarely happens, so don’t get worried if you didn’t do that. You can make up the time. This is the year when, together, you want to look at possible good fits. Research schools from both the academic and athletic standpoint. Gather as much information as you can.
As schools rise to the surface, those are the ones you need to dig into further. Find out as much as you can about the athletic programs and about the academic areas of interest. I believe it is too early to contact schools because the coaches are looking at juniors and seniors that can help their programs in the near future.
In the sophomore year, if you have identified your key schools, begin contacting them. You won’t receive phone calls until after sophomore year (except for ice hockey), but you’ll receive camp information through the mail, as well as information on the program. Coaches will ask you to complete a questionnaire if they feel you may be a prospect. It is still early in the recruiting process, and if you have varsity or club experience, that really helps. I like to see this as a year where you can show coaches you have interest, although they may still not put forth much effort to recruit you.
Junior year is your big year. This is when coaches will look at prospects and start to make serious contact. Phone calls from coaches are permissible for most sports according to strict guidelines. You can read the full schedule for all sports on the NCAA website. This is the year you really want to keep the communication going with all the schools on your list and show the coaches your continued interest. You may feel that a few dozen schools is too many, but you really need to keep your options open.
Senior year is a fast-moving year. Coaches are allowed to call and you’ll have the opportunity to make official visits. It can be intense as the clock winds down. I recommend prioritizing your list this year. Keep all the options open, though, until you begin getting offers. You never know where the offers will come from and the monetary value of each until the offer is really made. Coaches will give you verbal indications, and even figures, along the way. This year will be a lot of hard work until you make your school choice. I don’t recommend waiting until senior year to start the process. When you begin your senior year, you want coaches to know you already and a relationship built. That takes time.
Whatever year you’re in, it is rarely too early, and rarely too late. But there is something you can do each year to work towards your scholarship dream.