Welcome, amigos, welcome.
By clicking on this blog, you’re taking a huge step towards getting recruited to a US college on a sports scholarship!
You’ll discover all the ins and outs of the recruitment campaign which will help you get you foot in the door and the ball in your court (see what I did there?).
It’s important to know that gaining a sports scholarship, unfortunately, is not purely about how talented you at your sport.
While it definitely helps to be the best at your sport, getting recruited as a student-athlete is also about the kind of person and student you are.
For this reason, you need to take time to build up the rest of your application – developing relationships with the coaches, hitting the books and visiting your choice of schools to negotiate for a scholarship!
Sound like a lot? Well, to be honest, it kinda is!
All the while you’ll need to finishing off your final year of high school, exams and all!
So you need to take time to plan, prepare and execute. It certainly ain’t easy, but rest assured, we’re here to help.
The College Sports Recruiting Campaign
Getting recruited is a bit like running for president. There are many stops along the way and at each stop you need to convince people why you're the best candidate for the position. Whether it be a big game in front of scouters, an official visit to a school or an interview with a coach.
Seriously, it's like a whole campaign trail that can go on for years, starting as early as your first year of high school!
To make the whole process a little simpler for you, we’ve broken it down into seven crucial steps – each as important as the next!
Pretty straightforward, right? Hmm, well maybe a little complicated. Anyway, let's quit lolly-gagging around and get straight into it!
Step 1: Start Early (academically and athletically)
Be aware that coaches start scouting as early as freshman (first) and sophomore (second) year of high school, which means you must begin thinking about college that early as well!
This isn’t just in relation to performing your best on the field, but it also means working hard in the classroom to show you’re capable of earning solid grades too.
And if you want to really put a bee in the bonnet of college recruiters and get them super excited about signing you up, you can start getting involved in things totally unrelated to school and sport, too... we all know how much US colleges love extracurricular activities.
You could volunteer at a community centre, organise a charity event or even start a business on the side... anything!
Coaches want to ensure they are recruiting the best of the best – this goes for their team and the college at large too – so the earlier you show potential, interest and quality of character, the better.
Obviously, all of this could be wasted if you fail to catch the coach's attention, which can be difficult particularly if you’re an international student. So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can capture coaches’ hearts!
Step 2: Build Your Portfolio
Making your application pop comes down to how well you're able to highlight and communicate your strengths.
It’s important to collect all of your achievements – academic and athletic – into a document and continue to update it as you go through school.
Your portfolio should have the following sections:
- Academic info
- Past playing experience and results
- Planned competitions
- A section about related achievements for your successes outside of sports (optional)
It’s best to compile all of this info online, so you have a one stop shop available for all recruiters and coaches to check you out and find the details they need.
It can be a good idea to include any highlight reels or awesome videos of you playing online too. Make sure they’re not too long, though; you don’t want to coach switching off mid-video and missing all your best bits!
A highlight reel should:
Be short and dynamic
Present you as a confident and positive athlete
Give a brief introduction about you, your personal goals and ambitions
Include all aspects of your game, especially the best bits!
For example, if you’re a tennis player, try to include all strokes/shots and different game scenarios in an easy to digest format. Have 30 second to one minute sections per stroke (forehand, backhand, serve, return serve, etc.) and then some extended footage for situations like tie breakers or fifth set battles.
Basically, just make yourself look as boss as possible in the fastest way possible, you dig? There’s no point including information about a failed pen licence test you had in primary school... try to focus on your strengths.
Step 3: Email Coaches
Keeping an epic online profile is important, but it really means nothing if no coaches get to lay their eyes on it. Don’t be the afraid to be the first to reach out to a school’s sporting department or coach and share your profile.
I mean, what better way to get on a coach’s radar than contacting them directly?
When emailing coaches, there are a few key tips and insights to remember.
Firstly, the NCAA places restrictions on how much contact coaches and schools can actually have with you. The exact restrictions will depend on the sport you play and the recruiting calendar for the year.
While recruiting timelines differ slightly between sports, there are always four stages:
+ Contact period: When a coach is allowed to talk to you face-to-face.
+ Evaluation period: When a coach is allowed to watch you play, visit your high school, write or call you or your parents but not contact you (or your parents) face-to-face.
+ Quiet period: When a coach is only allowed to talk to you or your parents face-to-face on the coach’s college campus. The coach isn’t allowed to visit your high school or watch you compete unless it’s on the coach’s college campus.
+ Dead period: When a coach can ONLY write or call you or your parents but cannot watch you watch you play, visit your high school or contact you or your parents face-to-face.
On top of this, coaches can’t actually contact you at all two years prior to when they are going to sign you, despite the fact they might actually be watching you play and scouting you.
However, while there are a whole bunch of restrictions on coaches contacting you and your family, this doesn’t mean you can't contact them.
Who doesn’t love a loophole?
This is where your trusty email skills will come in handy and your online profile will be vital!
Begin by emailing any assistant and head coaches at your dream schools and let them know you're keen to be scouted. Be sure to include your online profile with your stats and PBs and see if you get any nibbles!
The more nibbles the better, obviously, but remember a coach might not be contacting you due to restrictions placed on them by the NCAA, so don’t get disheartened due to lack of replies. Just keep updating your profile and performing well.
In order to help you improve your chances of getting some nibbles, here are a few vital pointers to keep in mind:
- Make sure you have a professional email address. Steer clear of “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com” (it’s okay, we’ve all had an email name we regret). Simply opt for an email address that includes both your first and last name.
- Research the school and stay up to date on current events surrounding the team and/or school. This will show the coach just how interested you truly are.
- We’ve already mentioned this, but I can’t overstate its importance: share your online profile so that the coaches have a quick and easy way to learn all about your achievements.
- Include the time and dates of your upcoming competitions or games. If a coach is interested in you, they may send a scout to watch. You never know who’s in the stands so make sure to kill it every time!
- Make sure each time you email the coaches you’re providing them with beneficial information such as a new milestone or big upcoming competition, not just reaching out for the sake of it.
- Most importantly, don’t forget to reach out early.
Oh and before you get hung up on this email thing, here’s another loophole for ya: pick up the phone!
A coach is allowed to talk to you over the phone at any point during the recruiting process. However, the coach may not be able to call you back. If the coach doesn’t pick up, leave a message with the day and time that you plan on calling again so that they’ll know when to expect you.
Remember, don’t become disheartened by a lack of response. Not only are there a bunch of contact restrictions, coaches are busy people. Just influence you chances wherever you can, play well, study hard and continue to demonstrate an interest in their school and their program.
Don’t be too pushy, but try to stay on their radar.
Step 4: Build Relationships
Your relationship with a coach begins well before you ever meet them.
Usually, you’ll be brought to the head coach’s attention by one of his recruiters in year 9 or 10. In order to get your relationship off on the right foot, you need to be aware of how early they'll be looking at you
As I've mentioned, being a strong candidate ain’t all about being the best athlete. So y’all better be on your best behaviour, ya hear?
Recruiters actually take your on and off the field behaviour very seriously. How you carry yourself and how you treat your teammates/coaches can make or break your chances of getting an offer. so always be a team player first and a star second!
Oh, and it’s worth noting that coaches are a gossipy bunch. If you get caught yelling at a ref or hassling a teammate unfairly, you better believe all prospective coaches will know about it soon enough.
Presenting the best version of yourself is the first key to building a strong relationship with your future coaches.
The better your relationships are, the more likely you are to get recruited and maybe even get a large scholarship offer! What’s more, a strong relationship will just make your time at their school much more enjoyable!
Step 5: Meet Coaches
Eventually, you’ll need to actually meet the coaches who are interested in you, and this is where your relationship will either flourish or fall apart.
The rules to crushing your meeting are the same, regardless of where or how it takes place. Just follow these tips and you'll be sweet:
- Be excited: Remember to smile, make eye contact and show that you’re keen!
- Thoroughly research the school, the coach and the team: Read about everything related to the school and the sports program, then compile a list of relevant questions to ask the coach. Don’t be afraid to ask about things other than the team such as the campus lifestyle, living situations and maybe even the coaches’ personal interests. At the end of the day, it’s not just about the coach wanting you, it’s also about you wanting the coach, so it’s important to make sure their goals, program and culture align with yours.
- Show your commitment: The more interest you show in the school, the more interest the coach will show in you.
- Be honest: If coaches ask you whether or not you’re talking to other schools, be honest with them but don’t boast about all of the other incredible schools you are talking to.
- Play up your strengths: Don’t be shy! Tell the coaches about your excellent grades, community service projects and anything else you might be proud of! Remember, you don’t need to be the best player to get scouted, just the best all-round student-athlete. Coaches love team players, not just strong players. Beyond that, admissions officers love accepting a student-athlete who is talented beyond sports, so try to show your talent in other areas where possible.
- Meet current players: If you are meeting the coaches on campus, ask the coach to help set up a meeting for you with current players to get their perspectives on the college, the team and what daily life is like.
All of these aspects will play a key role in whether or not you will enjoy your time at the college and on the team so make sure you take your meeting seriously and come prepared in order to get the most out of your experience.
just be your gorgeous, happy-go-lucky self and you'll kill it!
Step 6: Visit Schools
As a prospective student-athlete, there are two types of school visits you can have:
1. Official visit
2. Unofficial visit
An official visit is a formal invitation from the school, where they pay for everything – all travel within the city, accommodation, meals, and sometimes even your flights!
You’ll meet all of your prospective coaches, tour the facilities and get a feel for the campus lifestyle as well as the culture of the city the school is located in.
During your campaign trail, you’re only allowed to make five official visits. Got that Mr. President? Only five.
If you receive an offer for an official visit, you can be certain that you are in with a red hot crack for a spot on the team.
Then there's an unofficial visit, which is a lot less glamorous.
You’ll need to fork out the moolah for everything on your own. Not only that, but you’ll need to put in all the effort to organise meetings with the coaches and find a time to take a look at the facilities.
While an unofficial visit may be awfully expensive and time consuming, it’s a great way to show your prospective coaches how eager you are to go to their school.
Step 7: Negotiate for a Scholarship
Once you’ve been through the six initial steps it’s time to get down to business and begin negotiating for the perfect scholarship.
But before we get too excited, you need be very, very lucky to be in this position. I repeat, very, VERY lucky!
Basically, in order to be able to negotiate for a scholarship, you must have multiple offers from different schools… and getting one offer is hard enough!
If you do find yourself in a position where you have multiple offers on the table, you are in a very enviable position to boost the quality of those offers. You can start wheelin’ and dealin’, baby!
Say your dream school offered you a spot with little-to-no scholarship funding while another school offered you a full-ride, you can use your other offer to leverage more money from your dream school.
Just remember that coaches value honesty, so don’t get all shady and sly on them, be open and honest at all times.
Let the coach know that you received other offers with more scholarship money but that you are really keen on attending his/her school and playing for the team.
If the coach truly believes in you, they’ll do whatever it takes to get you on their team, including offering you more scholarship money!
What are the odds for my sport?
So with all of this in mind, what are the odds of you reaching the dizzying heights of playing your dream sport at a US college?
Well obviously there are a lot of different factors that come into play when applying to a college: academics, financial aid requirements, and of course, how good you are at your sport, just to name a few.
However, there are some sports that give you greater odds of securing a full scholarship than others. Additionally, there are many more opportunities to receive funding in the NCAA as woman, as there are more scholarships on offer for women than men - the numbers do vary per sport, though, so make sure you’re doing your research!
The same goes for international students, there are many sports that have a greater percentage of international students competing and have a greater tendency to scout internationally. These tend to be the sports that are played professionally on an international stage, such as tennis and soccer, so if your sport has a strong global footprint, you could be in luck!
Oh, and before we jump in, it’s important to note, that while teams are limited to the amount of full scholarships they can hand out, they are able to divide the scholarships up amongst as many student-athletes as they wish. So don't be turned off by the number of scholarships available because there's plenty to go around!
Anyways, without further adieu, here are some insights and statistics into some of the most popular US college sports:
Great news for tennis lovers from outside the US: NCAA tennis has one of the highest percentages of international students competing of all NCAA sports!
For women’s teams in Division I, a massive 35.4% of competitors are international students while in Division II 26.9% of tennis players come from outside the United States.
For men, the number of international competitors are equally high, with 34.3% of Division I and an astronomical 40% of male student-athletes playing in Division II come from outside the US!
Having said that, the average team size for tennis at Division I and Division II colleges is rather small and as such is quite competitive. For men’s tennis in Division I and Division II, respectively, the average team size is 10.
Unfortunately, even in a team of 10, getting a full scholarship in Division I is quite difficult for males, with the NCAA limiting men’s tennis teams to just 4.5 full scholarships. That’s not even half a scholarship each. For this reason, you might be needing to look for academic scholarships too.
As for women’s teams in Division I and II, respectively, while the average team size is smaller sitting at just nine, the chances of scoring a full-scholarship are much greater. The NCAA allows Division I women’s tennis teams eight full scholarships per team. Almost one each!
Top Five Men’s Tennis Schools:
Top Five Women’s Tennis Schools:
Swimming & Diving
Swimming and diving teams for both men and women have a high number of roster sizes with an average of 28 swimmers and divers per team in Division I. So, despite being more of an individual sport, swimming and diving can be a great choice if one of the main reasons you compete is to socialise and make new friends.
Once again, while both men and women have the same number of average roster size, women are afforded more scholarship per team by the NCAA.
Division I men's teams are limited to 9.9 scholarships to award per team. This means the average award covers only about one third of annual college costs for an average size team. For women, the NCAA sets the full scholarship limit at 14 per team, which works out to half a scholarship per student-athlete on an average squad.
Foreign students have the greatest chance of gaining a place on a swimming team at a Division II school, with 15.6% of male swimmers and 9.1% of female swimmers coming from outside the US. As for Division I, those solid numbers dwindle down to 7.5% and 6.8%, respectively.
Top Five Men’s Swimming and Diving Schools
Top Five Women’s Swimming and Diving Schools
Soccer is another NCAA sport popular amongst international students, particularly for male students.
In Division I, 16% of male competitors herald from outside the US, while for women, 6.2% in Division I are international students.
In Division II, 20.7% of male soccer student-athletes are international students, while just 5.1% of women competing in Division II are international students. The low number of international students competing in women’s soccer would have to do with the fact that the USA are actually number one in the world at women’s soccer, so they have a great pool of talent to scout from. Conversely, the USA men’s soccer team is ranked 27.
The chances of securing a full scholarship for soccer are also relatively high, particularly for women, with all women’s NCAA Division I schools allowed to award 14 per team. The average squad size for females is 28, which is the equivalent of half a scholarship per student-athlete.
NCAA Division I men's soccer teams have a larger average roster size of 29 players, but are only allowed a maximum of 9.9 athletic scholarships to award per team. This means the average award covers only about one third of a typical athlete's annual college costs.
Top Five Men’s Soccer Schools
Top Five Women’s Soccer Schools
Another popular sport amongst foreign student-athletes is golf, especially for top female golfers. However, having said that, there are limited places on golf teams making it a highly competitive sport to break into.
At NCAA Division I, while 13.6% of male competitors are foreign students, the average team size is just nine. To make things even more competitive for male golfers, the NCAA limits 4.5 full scholarships to be awarded per school.
For women, these numbers are drastically different, with a huge 20.1% of NCAA Division I golfers coming from outside the US. Basically, one in every five female golfers is from abroad.
While this is a real positive for international female students hoping to gain admission as a golfer, unfortunately, the average team size is a measly eight. The good news, however, is that the NCAA provides each team with six scholarships per team, meaning three quarters of the team can get a full-ride!
Top Five Women’s Golf Schools
Top Five Men’s Golf Schools:
The Importance of Studying as a Prospective Student-Athlete
Just remember, despite all the numbers, facts, figures and all we've shown you about the campaign process, gaining admission into your dream school involves much more than just being the fastest runner, most accurate shooter, or most technically advanced diver… you need to be the complete package!
Yep, unfortunately, making yourself a strong candidate in the eyes of a college is not just about what you’re like on the court, but also who you are off the court and how well you perform in the classroom.
After all, you’re hoping to become a student as well as an athlete.
Yep, that’s right. You can’t even start thinking about applying to a US college as a student-athlete if you haven’t considered the student half of the equation.
And if that last sentence sent you into panic mode, I suggest you might want to start studying more effectively… like, right now… today
Seriously, while academics don’t mean much to the millions of rabid fans who follow college sports, to college coaches and recruiters, they’re vital!
On top of all this, you have to be very lucky to secure an athletic scholarship at all. Each year, there are hundreds, in fact thousands, of students who apply for one and miss out.
So what do you think they do?
Well, one of the most successful back-up options for students who failed to receive an athletic scholarship is to make a play for an academic scholarship.
At many schools, it’s actually easier to get academic aid than it is to get athletic aid, particularly at tier II academic schools (outside the top 100) that want to be more competitive in the athletic arena.
So having killer academic skills will help you absolutely crush your applications to the US!
What’s more, even if you’ve been offered a partial athletics scholarship, if your grades are strong enough you might be able to secure an academic scholarship too!
With both sides covered, you could be looking at a full-ride!
But once admitted, it doesn’t stop there. As a newly fledged student-athlete, your academics remain crucial to your success.
If you’re not maintaining your grades while you’re at college, you risk being booted off the team until your grades get back up to standard. You need to be able to balance the study portion and the sports portion of the jam-packed student-athlete schedule.
Colleges are pretty serious about this student-athlete business, so you should be too!
Being a student-athlete is a dream of many young sports lovers out there.
You get to follow in the footsteps of some of the world's best athletes:
Michael Jordan, Billie Jean King, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady... the list goes on!
But it isn't just going to happen for you. It takes hard work, dedication, preparation and persistence.
Once admitted, the opportunities afforded to you are endless, but gaining admission is the hard part.
The road to securing a spot in a college team starts long before any coach has even heard whispers of your name. It begins in all the years of schooling and sporting prior to getting noticed that help you develop a strong mindset.
No matter what task it is you're approaching – a maths test, a premiership game or a match-winning buzzer beater, you need to be ready and willing to work your butt off to make each moment count.
Stay focused on your goals and I'm sure you'll be breaking records at your dream college soon enough.
Your day will soon come.