D1 Commit - just one college app?

My HS junior has verbally committed to a play a team sport at a strong academic D1 (Pac-12). I know NLI will be signed next November in senior year. Since there is no guarantee of admission, no likely letter and no ED process, should kids in this position apply to other colleges as backups just in case they are not admitted where they committed? Thanks in advance for your advice.

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Doesn’t the NLI guarantee admission?


To the OP, yes, it is prudent to have a back up plan, which can include applying to another school or schools, often a school with rolling admission or early action. While one might technically be able to wait to hear from the school where recruited about admission before applying elsewhere should things go south, why not just get another app or two in? Congratulations on the verbal commitment!


I’d have some sort of backup plan in mind but in practice it’s highly unlikely you’ll need it. Not only is admission highly probable, but a PAC-12 level athlete will have other good options should something not work out at the committed school. Check in with the coach next summer on when admissions actually get processed; most of those schools have a process set up for just this reason.

Also: congrats!


My daughter only applied to one school, but she had her acceptance (rolling) before she signed her NLI. She knew that if anything went wrong (like finances) she’d either be scrambling to find another school or take a gap year. She was fine with that as she was very young and wouldn’t have minded a gap year.

I think it depends on what your child is comfortable with. I do know quite a few kids, mostly boys, who committed as sophomores (allowed back then) or juniors who balked at signing the NLI and switched commitments late senior year.

One guy I know never signed an NLI and ended up not deciding on a school/team until late April. He was a top recruit and had many coaching willing to wait for him. Most kids don’t have that much pull.


I know someone who committed to play a D1 sport (had been verbally committed as a sophomore, when it was still allowed) and found that neither the college nor the program was a fit, so they ended up withdrawing after 3 weeks and coming home. They contacted another college that had offered admission, and they were able to start for the January term (as a student only, not playing the sport).

Someone else committed to play a D3 sport but the head coach ended up leaving the program and they didn’t get a good vibe from the replacement and worried about playing time, so they decided to choose another college that had offered them admission (not as an athlete), which they felt was a better fit.

I think it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan.


Recruits in most sports can and [sometimes] do still verbally commit before junior year.

Like previous posters I have plenty of examples of things not working out after a student is committed. It’s not common, but happens more than many probably think.

Just last year I had two committed seniors fall out in May. May of their senior year.

One coach (power 5) told one kid he in fact didn’t have enough room for him on the team (this is after the recruit signed an NLI and was accepted). Of course the student could have stayed at that school, but didn’t want to do that.

Second recruit to a military academy failed his mandatory-for-admission physical, when a previously unknown (and automatically disqualifying) medical condition was diagnosed.

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It definitely happens.

I personally know FOUR students who were given verbal commitments to two different Ivy League schools, plus an urban D1. Three different sports.

One of them made the mistake of not applying anywhere else at all, so certain was he that he would be attending that school. When decisions came out at the end of March, he was left scrambling to find a college to attend. He was lucky because another college (D3 LAC) that had expressed interest still had room on the team and he ended up there, but he was not at all sure until late in the process (June) where he would be attending.

Another ended up, luckily for him, at a different Ivy. I’m not sure how that was arranged, but it happened because the bigger Ivy backed away.

The young lady I know was given a verbal commitment from an Ivy after getting the test score required, only to have the coach then choose a different athlete. She ended up at an OOS public, D1, on the team. But, she didn’t get much action, as she was not one of the top athletes. That was very upsetting to her. She then transferred back to a state flagship close to her home and was not on the team. She continued her sport locally.

And finally, the fourth student applied to only one college after a lukewarm endorsement from the coach, submitted a sloppy application at 11:59 pm at the deadline (not an Ivy, but a well known D1 school— around 18% acceptance rate) and was, of course, denied. He was blindsided by this. He thought the coach really meant it when he said he wanted him on the team. The kid took a gap year and reapplied to several schools from a sensible list. He has applied to ED to one LAC well known for the sport, and if he doesn’t get in, will apply to several other LACs and a couple of publics.

Have applications ready to go.


Can I just clarify? Coaches often say they would like a kid on their team, and are being sincere. They *would * like the kid on the team. BUT THIS IS NOT AN OFFER. This does not include coach support.

A candidate needs to hear 1. “We would love you on the team” and 2. “I am offering you my full support with admissions”. If in doubt it’s perfectly acceptable to ask “Are you making me an offer?”

I remember a conversation with the coach (campus visit, he wanted to meet/speak with me) where he said exactly “we’d love you on the team” to my son, and I said “you haven’t made him an offer, yet, right?” Which the coach confirmed.


Good example of why it is important to pick the school, especially a D3 where there are not any athletic scholarships or other money based on playing a sport, for the school fit. The sport can certainly be a factor, though I would put the fit and the academics above playing the sport. Coaches often move around, and kids end up not playing a sport for a variety of reasons (i.e. loose interest, they want to participate in other aspects of college life, study abroad, injuries, etc. )

IMO, the talk about verbal commitments , particularly by an Ivy, may be thrown around a little too loosely.


I completely agree, which is why my daughter elected not to pursue recruitment in her sport. Many of her teammates decided to play in college and I can only think of one that ended up somewhere that someone would choose for reasons other than the sport (an Ivy). The others ended up at places that I had to Google.

And that’s ok for those students…nothing wrong with continuing to play the sport if it’s important to them and all that goes with that (leadership, health and fitness, camaraderie, etc.), or perhaps those schools are where they had the lowest COA, or had the best fit for that student, or one of many other reasons. It’s all good, and as always the college decision is unique to each student.


I’m guessing that much of the time, a verbal commitment is worth the paper it’s written on.

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We looked at finding a college as building a three legged stool, with each leg being important to support the person sitting on the stool- academics, athletes, finances (my leg!), and daughter was able to find that. She decided a lot of things very late - to play in college and to major in engineering (this really came out AS we were looking at schools when she was a senior). Also my job ended when my kids were seniors in hs (I knew it for about a year) so finances were very important.

Was it perfect? Not really, but I’m not sure any school would have been and this one gave her a solid education, a chance to play (she started every game for 4 years and played almost every minute of every game), and came out without a lot of debt. She’s an engineer, she’s employed (pretty good job too) and her college debt is paid.

After she’d been in school for about 2 months she went to visit friends at FSU and said “I guess I could have ‘done’ a big school” but that would have meant not playing her sport. It’s a series of compromises.


Absolutely - especially if playing a sport makes college affordable. For most athletes who want to continue to play their sport and aren’t picky as to where, there’s a college out there for them.

I do think that some kids (and parents) get stars in their eyes during the recruitment process and sometimes convince themselves that a college is a good fit no matter what, just because a spot on the team and the money is being dangled.

Good grades get money offers too, and many sports have club & intermural versions at most colleges, so kids can still opt to play without the recruitment pressures and student athlete responsibilities.


My son applied and visited elsewhere and his school counselor told us she wished all athletes took the time to explore everything thoroughly like we did. He was accepted and attended/graduated from the excellent school he committed to but I’m happy the way he handled the process which included a back up plan.

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I have unfortunately have seen this many times among my kids’ teammates. Coaching changes, lack of playing time, home sickness, academically unprepared, injury, all ending up with the kid dropping out of college or transferring around. In some cases, the travel ball coaches/organizations did a disservice to the kids by feeding certain programs.


Verbal commitments benefit the coach, not necessarily the athlete. They are not a binding agreement, by any means. The athlete in good faith will stop being recruited by other schools, but meanwhile the coach is still free to look around to see if someone better is out there. I’ve seen multiple kids get burned by this, especially those who thought it sounded cool to be a freshman or sophomore “committed” to a college. Coaches move to other schools, and an incoming coach isn’t obligated to take the athlete, or for some schools the grades/scores don’t pan out to the satisfaction of the admissions office.

As other people said, always be aware of what can and does happen, and always have a back up plan at least in your mind.


When my kids went through the process there was definitely “true” interest and what I’d call “lukewarm” interest. The coaches that showed true interest reached out to my kids via email/text, set up calls, came to watch them play at different showcases. The lukewarm interest were post-camp emails which stated, “We’ll have a spot on the team for you if you get admitted.” My kids were the ones always reaching out to them, and it felt like they were being strung along. There was definitely a much different vibe when we knew they were a top recruit vs lower on the list at particular schools.

We made it a point to visit the schools where my kids were being recruited, be it the definite or lukewarm schools. I wanted them to tour the schools on their own and not just attend the camp. I wanted them to see the student body and the surrounding towns/cities. Could they envision themselves staying there if they got hurt and could no longer play their sport?

Your kids have to have honest conversations with these coaches. There is nothing wrong with asking them where they fall on their list of recruits. If it seems like your kid is always the one reaching out to the coach and not the other way around, and the coach is not offering full support (at schools where this matters), it would probably be a safe assumption that they are not a top recruit for that coach.

That all being said, they both only applied ED to one school where they knew they were getting coach support. Probably not the recommendation for everyone but for us, we felt comfortable with that decision and had other schools where the kids felt comfortable with applying RD to if need-be.