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Being recruited vs. Recruiting: How to Increase your Ability to Choose What College You Attend

I read an article the other day about a recruiting seminar by a “renowned speaker.” He says: “You don’t choose the colleges. The colleges choose you.” I beg to differ!!!

While your non-athletic classmates are busy researching, applying to and “choosing schools”, high school athletes seem to think they are “chosen”, and they often wait for the process of recruiting to unfold around them and wait to see what coach calls them and what offers they get!

There are three kinds of student-athletes vying for college athletic roster spots, – athletes that get recruited – athletes that recruit – and athletes that do neither but expect to be recruited. While athletes that get recruited often have an easier time with the recruiting process, it’s the student-athletes that recruit a school who often are the most successful in the process and find a good balance of school and athletics. This is because the latter group chose colleges based on certain criteria, rather than having a college and a coach choose them. Many blue-chip athletes allow themselves to be chosen by a school solely based on athletic prowess and could care little about what else the school offers. One highly touted football recruit a few years ago when asked why he chose the school he picked over several others simply said, “The cafeteria had a soft serve ice cream machine!”

The recruiting process is about discovery, knowledge, desires, and making an informed decision that is the best decision for YOU, not right for the coach, not right for the school, and in some cases not even right for your parents. Best doesn’t mean the most scholarship money, the best team, the team on TV every Saturday, or the team featured in Sports Illustrated every week, or the strongest athletic program. Best we believe is the school that provides you the combination of these four ideas.

1. The athletic program that allows you to participate at your desired level against the best competition you can compete with and against.
2. The academic programs that allow you to learn and succeed, and prepares you for gaining employment and a successful working career after college in a subject, field, or major you have an active interest in.
3. A social environment that allows you to go grow as an individual, experience things you may not otherwise get the chance to experience and make life lasting friendships.
4. A school that you can afford to pay for without incurring large student-loans that will hang around after you graduate.

Again, geographic location should be considered if you think you will be unhappy far away from home, if traveling back and forth may be a problem, or if your family will want to watch you play often. If any of these four attributes are out of balance, it can cause major problems for student-athletes.

Now, back to the question of whether the colleges choose you! There is some truth to this because college coaches will contact or come into contact with perhaps a few hundred high school athletes and then based on the coach’s needs, and the feedback they get, they reduce that list of potential recruits and eventually make offers. The coaches in a sense choose who they want. But the process works both ways and you have to take control of what you can control in your process.

You can control how hard you work in school. If you want straight A’s, that is achievable, it will just take a lot of hard work! What will straight A’s get you, you ask? Well, it will open application doors to colleges other recruits might not be able to gain acceptance to on their academic record and it will make you more attractive to admission boards and college coaches. While a college coach may start with a list of a few hundred recruits each year, I can guarantee you that list becomes pretty short when grades and test scores start arriving on the coach’s desk. Grades alone might wipe out half of their potential recruits.

What else can you control? Well, you can control how hard you work on the field or in the gym. Some high school athletes are just naturally good at sports; others have to work harder. The harder you work, the more you will improve. If you are weak in a particular area, work on your weaknesses!

What else can you control? How about how far you extend your recruiting reach. If you are simply playing high school ball for 2 months and not getting out on the road in different tournaments or camps against higher level competition, you are reducing your exposure. Very few college coaches have the time, resources or desires to recruit athletes at high school games in this day and age. Their season takes place when your season does and much of their recruiting efforts take place in the summer when they are free to recruit.

What else can you control? How about how many schools you research! We spoke earlier about how many high school athletes wait to be recruited, but it’s the families that kick the most tires that create more recruiting opportunities. If you live in New England, there are probably a 100 colleges within 200 miles of your house in ANY direction. There is no excuse for not getting out on the road and touring different colleges or spending more time online researching different colleges. If you live in a place where there are fewer schools, you are going to have to find a way to research more colleges.

The ultimate control you have is how you package this all together. College coaches want to recruit smart, talented, hardworking and dedicated athletes who express a desire to attend their college or university. It is as simple as that. They start with academics. If you cannot get in, they will not recruit you. Then they move onto athletic skill and they ask themselves if this recruit can play and succeed at their program. Then they move onto personal character, meaning is this recruit a good person? Then they move onto desire, meaning, does this recruit have a real interest in being a college athlete and attending my institution? And somewhere in that process they might ask themselves if this recruit can afford to attend their institution?

Ok, let’s tie all this together. If you are a successful academic student who is a good person and a successful athlete who works hard on the field and you research colleges that will be a good fit for your skills and you connect with coaches personally to express your desire to attend their institution, you can increase your ability to CHOOSE what school and program you attend. The best blue chip athletes in the country are choosing the schools they attend because their skills are so high and every coach wants them. You have that same ability, but you cannot apply to the same schools they are applying to or take the same approach! You have to find colleges where your “skills” might exceed what the college coach typically looks for in a recruit. When you package that with a strong academic record and the desire to succeed on the field, in the classroom and in life, you will have the ability to choose what college you attend and what athletic program you play for!