High Academic D3- slots vs tips vs support?


I’ve been reading this forum for a while now and appreciate all the collective wisdom and experience out there. I think I have a pretty good understanding of how athletic recruiting works for D3s and my kid is currently in discussion with about 20 schools from a variety of conferences (including NESCAC and UAA) and will be getting pre reads. Coaches have communicated various levels of enthusiasm so it does seem clear when a recruit may be offered a slot.

So my question is this: if NESCACs are limited in the number of slots, then how strong is a tip/support when it comes to admissions given how many more applicants there have been the past 2 years?

For instance, a coach needs to fill 5 positions but only has 2 slots; if there are 15-25 PSAs who have a positive prereads, are there tiers of support amongst the rest? Are they all just encouraged to apply and then the coach hopes it works out somehow? I am wondering what is the relative weight in admissions of any coach support beyond the slot. I guess this is NESCAC specific but also am curious if you all have insight into other schools.


There are different bands that they use. Bowdoin uses Bands A B and C. Others have a similar system. The colleges in the NESCAC have an agreement on how many student athletes they will accept in the lower bands.

For details read here:

There also was a wonderful 3 part story in the Bowdoin Orient a few years back which explains the athletic recruiting process.

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Thanks for the reference! I read this a while back and found it interesting. So the pre read will determine which band a recruit falls into but I am still puzzled by the following from the article:

   "Those recruiting caps of supported athletes are then subdivided into “bands”—sometimes referred to as slots—which separate recruits academically based on how they compare to the averaged statistics of accepted students. Students in the B band have scores slightly below the averages, while C-band recruits are lower. Parker said that schools cannot consider prospective student-athletes whose numbers would make them fall below the C band’s lower boundary. Students whose scores place them well within the averages fall into the A band, but these individuals are not factored into the athletic support numbers."  

   "For those prospective students who fall above the B band—whose scores are indistinguishable from the average student at a given college—a coach can still be supportive in admissions.  However, this support will not be as strong, and in the words of Parker, “Would be no more helpful than the symphony director or the head of the studio art department. There’s a point at all the NESCAC schools when you can’t make any more academic distinctions because everybody is so good.”

The article is from 2014 so maybe things have changed but this suggests that A band recruits don’t get as much support. But what if a coach really wants that recruit? Will they use a slot in that case?

You are right that the level of support outside the fully supported slots can be different from school, and at some schools that’s not even a thing.

Some coaches can and do offer ‘soft’ support (some coaches call this a ‘tip’) to positive pre-read athletes who don’t make the final cut for the fully supported slots, and that student would typically apply RD (but could still apply ED1/2).

The stronger athletes who might be offered a positive pre-read, but not a fully supported slot, may very well move on and take a fully supported slot elsewhere, because there is substantial risk that some soft support athletes won’t get in. There’s a huge variance from year to year, and at the schools with single digit acceptance rates one can’t count on acceptance at all.

Many athletes at a given school have a positive pre-read, but ultimately get no offer of coach support. Some coaches don’t even circle back with these students.

Your S should stay in touch with coaches as best as he can. His issue might ultimately be one of timing. If he receives an offer, he might not know the full picture before that coach wants an answer. Coaches do not want to lose top recruits, so will often give exploding offers. Of course the student can use that offer to spur the process/decision making elsewhere, but the timing can get complex.

I wouldn’t worry about bands at the schools that do use them (it’s different now at Bowdoin with President Rose than it was at the time of that article in 2014) as the coaches will likely not talk bands with your S. Good luck.

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This comment has to do with NESCAC only. Slots are for recruits whose academics fall below the academic achievements of non-athletes and who likely wouldn’t be admitted if they were not a recruited athlete. The bands (e.g., A band, B Band, C band) refer to how far down admissions is willing to go to get the recruit. Tips are for recruits whose academics are on par with the other admitted non-athletes. Thus if you are a C Band recruit, you will need a slot. If you are an A band recruit, a tip will suffice. Both slots and tips are fully supported by the coach. In other words, in a perfect world, all 5 recruits will be admitted with coach support. In one meeting, a NESCAC coach explained how it was unnecessary to use a slot for his no. 1 recruit because of the recruit’s high academic achievement. The number 1 recruit was admitted as a tip. Incidentally, many articles and reports about the NESCAC don’t use the words “slot” or “tip” - they use the terms “academic factor” for slots and “coded athlete” for tips. I use slots and tips for simplicity.

Soft support occurs when a coach goes beyond (in your hypothetical) the 5 recruited athletes, such as no. 6 on a list of 5 recruits, with the hope that a letter of encouragement will positively impact the admissions process.

I do not believe that the total number of applicants to a college affects the admissions or recruiting outcome, although it may affect what constitutes an A, B, or C Band at a given school. By way of example, a B band at Williams will be different than a B band at Conn College, although both are fine schools.

Coaches establish an order of preference for their recruits. So, in your example, there are 25 recruits submitted for a pre-read. The coach will establish an order of preference - or it you will, a list. Let’s say 15 of those students have what they believe are better offers. The coach will have a list for the remaining 10. Let’s say 3 don’t do well on their pre-read. That leaves 7. Chances are the top 5 will be admitted with the remaining 2 left on their own (unless . . . the coach advocates for more recruits, there is horse trading for support between coaches, or an applicant fills another type of admissions preference). If at the last minute a D1 prospect drops into the coach’s lap, that may push out the no. 5 recruit.

The Bowdoin three-part series is good, but remember that it is a student article. I think the Amherst Report is a shade more reliable as it comes from the school.


@Mwfan1921 and @gointhruaphase Thank you for the providing details into the process- very helpful. Both ‘slots’ and ‘tips’ = ‘fully supported’ which makes sense to me since only 2 slots for most teams would not be enough to fill rosters but the number of ‘tips’ would vary by team.

I find this info. helpful. I guess the question is how far below the threshold AOs will go, and what that threshold is at different colleges. As I think the OP mentioned, has the threshold been raised at highly selective colleges over the past couple of years, or, has it not changed for recruits; especially if they are viewed as “impact” players (1 or 2 on “list”).

Really helpful insights, thanks for that. As someone who’s got a S25 who may be accomplished enough to be a NESCAC athlete but who, at least 1 year into high school, wouldn’t likely be on track to admissions other than at Trinity or Conn College without sports, it’s especially helpful.

The interesting thing we’re seeing with D-III sports (and I guess it’s true to some degree with D-I, too) is the close mirroring of “what it takes” academically and athletically, at least in individual sports. In other words, if you look at the recruiting rankings in golf or tennis in D-III, it starts with UofC and Williams, etc., and then just goes down the USNWR list from there. Case Western, Pomona, Carnegie Mellon, WashU, Middlebury, they’re all in the Top 20. Which may end up making it easier for a kid like ours, should he go that route: don’t worry that you’re not a four-star recruit who could play at Swarthmore; you couldn’t get in there anyway! And conversely, don’t worry if your grades aren’t up to snuff to get in without a “slot” at Amherst; you’re not a strong enough tennis player, anyway! It may be a matter of him figuring out where his numbers would make him a B band admissions profile (which I think of as no serious concerns academically, even if in the lower quartiles of raw numbers), and he’ll likely present like a B band player there, too - recruited, coach would love to have him and will go to bat but not the “absolutely gotta have this kid” type where a C student gets in.

I think your son is a tennis player? I know nothing about individual sports, but with soccer (and, I suspect, other team sports) one thing I did not realize during recruiting is that there are cuts on college teams. So recruited kids do get cut – just because you are recruited does not mean you will play 4 years. This means it might be advantageous to be a player “the coach really wants” i.e. an impact player.

That’s just the approach we took. Other families had different philosophies, there’s no one right way to do recruiting. I only wrote this because I had no idea the competition for a spot does not stop once the player is in college.


Yes, tennis. From what I’ve been able to glean thus far, there are usually more players on the roster than get meaningful play opportunities, so sometimes even upperclassmen aren’t getting on the court much. But it doesn’t seem to hurt a non-scholarship, non-revenue Division III program that much to have more players than they need - to the point that there are occasionally a few walk-ons, even. Especially if they don’t all travel to away matches/tournaments, it costs the school virtually nothing to have a few more tennis players. It appears the only time someone would get cut, other than for personal or behavioral or other individual reasons, would be if they were the last guy on the team and recruiting brought in a bumper crop of better freshmen players to a program that’s really on the move.

That said, it’s certainly a factor to consider whether a student gives more value to being the 14th guy on the roster at school X, which is their preferred academic institution, or being in the regular mix with a chance to have an impact on the court at school Y, which is a lower academic choice.

That aspect’s probably similar for team sport kids. I suspect both team and individual sports also have similar unpredictability factors - you can attempt to compare two kids in the same sport coming from different regions, but it’s imprecise, at best. You just never know until they’re on campus competing with one another (somewhat analogous to admissions decisions for students from different types of high schools or areas, other than the larger sample size of thousands of students over many years). Coaches also can’t account for growth spurts or leaps forward in ability from one year to the next. Some tennis players plateau when they’re 14, some go on to win D-III national championships from mediocre teams because they barely registered on the recruiting scene when they were 17. I’m sure the same holds for soccer and baseball and other sports.

My kid has submitted her prereads so will be keeping fingers crossed. It is curious how some schools really seem to value class rank. One coach was explicit about sending test scores to them directly and then they will assess whether to forward to admissions. I guess the next step after hearing back from schools is figuring out timing of various offers- hopefully if there are any. My kid does not have a clear top choice so it has been hard to figure out a strategy if there is more than one offer.

Remember that a student who is admitted as a recruit is still going to succeed in the classroom. Unlike big D1 schools that have academic liasons, who make sure students take courses they can handle, get tutors, etc., a D3 student athlete is really equal parts both. In the cases i know where a student has not passed a pre read, it has been because there was sufficient concern that the athlete would not be able to do the student part with the te available. In one case, one NESCAC school turned him down and another picked him up. The one that turned him down had more requirements and the best guess everyone had was that the more flexible school would allow him to dodge the academic land mines that he’d have no doubt hit at a school with requirements.

This is all to say, it’s not simply how much requirements are relaxed for athletes, but why there may be limits and why they vary from school to school.