The best piece of advice I can provide to student-athletes looking to play college sports is that you need to completely understand the environment that you are seeking out, and understand how that environment matches your abilities, personality and ambition. We call this a “FIT”, how does what you think you are looking for align with what you need to be most successful?
When we begin the college search process it is important that we have a broad search, and that we gather as much information about as many different environments as possible:
- D1 vs D2 vs D3 vs NAIA vs Junior Colleges
- School Size
- School Location
- School Cost
- Financial Aid Options
- Degree Options
- Campus Facilities
- Academic Resources
- Athletic Resources
- Level of competition
Once we have an idea of the framework of each of the potential schools it is important that we evaluate our current environment:
Level of current team & role in current team
Size of High School
Class sizes & learning capacity in different size groups
Current GPA & study habits
Does what I am looking at “FIT” the environment I am currently in, and would I be able to make that transition? This is extremely important, and we need to be honest in our evaluation.
The college I’m looking at is 50,000 students, but my high school is only 800 students. Would I be successful in that social environment, or classroom environment?
The college I’m looking at is on the other side of the country. Would I be successful that far away from home?
The college I’m looking at costs $70,000 a year, is that manageable for my family?
The college soccer program I’m looking at is a Top-10 Division 1 program. Am I one of the best players in the country?
The college soccer program I’m looking at carries 45 players. Am I comfortable competing in this environment?
Remember that athletics is only one aspect of the college experience. Being a college athlete is great, but it can be hard to enjoy when the rest of your college experience is bad. If a school does not have any majors you’re interested in, is too far from home, is too big or too small, or you don’t like the culture, there is a good chance that it won’t be a good fit for you. Playing Division III sports at a school you love will always pan out better than playing Division I at a school you hate.
Being an athlete can be one of the most rewarding parts of your college experience, but only when it’s done at school that is the right fit as a whole. As you go through recruiting, stay open-minded and consider all of your options. Your perfect fit is out there, you just have to go out and find it!