Men's Lightweight Rowing Recruiting Guide (October 2019) - PART II of III

(continued from PART I. I wanted to do it all in one post but College Confidential limits the # of characters you can have in any one post)


So throughout the Winter and Spring of your junior year you want to be regularly communicating by email with the coaches, and you want to get some unofficial visits in so you can actually meet these coaches face-to-face. (I should mention in my son’s case that the unofficial visits varied in terms of what occurred; on some we observed practice on the water and went in the launch with the coach, on others we just observed lifting and erg sessions.) A note on your correspondence with coaches; let’s say you haven’t gotten any responses from your emails to schools X and Y, even though you’ve been in correspondence with other coaches regularly for months. Don’t give up on those two schools: try a new subject line with your latest 2K PR or SAT score–keep persisting, because those schools may be just a little more disorganized than the others or they mat start their active recruiting much later in the process.

Most importantly, you want to do two things heading into summer: first, nail a good SAT score; and second, drive your 2K erg score down to the magic sub-6:35 area. Summer before your senior year is crunch time and if you don’t have a sub-6:35 erg score by July/August, you are limiting your chances at being recruited. While there are several factors that go into being recruited–SAT, GPA, erg score and race results–the 2K erg score is, in our experience, the most critical if you want to be recruited in this league. Looking back on it now, my son seemed to get some heightened attention at 6:40 but the time when we noticed the most enthusiastic responses from coaches was when he broke 6:35 in mid-June. That was a game-changer. And again you want to have that erg score score by July 1st, which is the date when the coaches can officially start contacting you.

Getting to summer now…in my son’s case, a couple schools contacted him in July to offer official visits (OV’s). In August, after he broke 6:30, a couple more schools perked up and offered him an official. You are only allowed to take five (5) OV’s, and if you are fortunate enough to be offered five (or even more than 5), you will/may want to pare down that list to your favorite schools. Taking all five OV’s–if you are offered that many–is possible but would be a lot of time away from school and travel, and you may know from your unofficial visits back in the spring which are your favorite places. But the bottom line here: sub-6:35 by July 1st.


You will know if you are being seriously recruited by a school if you get offered an official visit. In my son’s experience, a coach he had been communicating with for nine months–perhaps the coach who corresponded with him the MOST–went silent around July 1st and it became crystal clear that he was not going to get an OV and the recruiting was basically over for him at that school. In contrast, a few other coaches that hadn’t communicated nearly as actively as the aforementioned coach suddenly perked up, so you never know, and that is why you should persist in communicating consistently even with coaches who don’t respond right away or perhaps don’t seem super-interested. July tells all. Bottom line: you’ll know if you’re a real recruit if you get offered an OV.

Before you even get offered an OV, however, the coach will do a “pre-read” with admissions on you. (They would not offer you an OV if admissions hasn’t given a thumbs-up on your file.) For the pre-read, the coach will ask you for four things, two of which you probably will have already given him: (i) your SAT score report; (ii) your transcript; (iii) a list of the courses you will be taking senior year; and (iv) a profile of your school (you get that from your school counselor). If the pre-read checks out OK, the coach will come back to you and schedule the OV.

My son went on only two OV’s and committed very early in the process because he knew which school he wanted to go to, and fortunately that school liked him as well and offered him full support with admissions. The OV’s were fun and my son had a good time but behaved–i.e., he didn’t drink. By all means be yourself but don’t do something stupid. Never forget that on an OV you are being evaluated closely. At the conclusion of your OV, you will have a sit-down with the head coach and may or may not be offered a spot at that meeting. If you are, congratulations–you are one of the lucky ones. If not, the coach may say something like, “We like you a lot but need to see how things shake out with our top guys–guys that have a faster erg than you. Let’s keep in close touch over the next month.” If you are offered a spot, the (good) coach will give you time to complete your OV’s and make the best decision for yourself; but there is at least one school that is notorious for doing the proverbial “squeeze play”–that is, your offer of full support (if they’ve told you have it prior to the OV) ends at the conclusion of the OV, so you have to tell the coach right then and there if your are accepting his offer. Makes it tough and I’m glad my son didn’t find himself in that position.


If you are lucky enough to get an offer of full support from a coach and that is the school you want to attend, then you verbally commit to that coach and then let the other schools who gave you OV’s (or expressed interest in you) know that you are committing to school A. Do that immediately–it’s only right, and it gives the coaches the real-time info they need to bring someone else in for an OV or make whatever adjustments they need to make to their recruiting plans. If you get an offer from a school but prefer another school where you have yet to have your OV, you may choose not to accept the offer but recognize that you run the risk of that offer not necessarily being there if/when you come back around and want to take it later. The recruiting process is extremely fluid, with OV’s happening every weekend in September and the first weekend in October. I was very happy that my son didn’t try to juggle too many offers and play games and just committed to his favorite school early–it took a lot of heartburn out of the process. We know of one kid anecdotally who was very coy with HYP, trying to rack up offers from all of them, and ended up with nothing. Don’t be too coy and always be honest and transparent with your dealings with the coaches. Don’t tell a coach his school is your #1 unless it really is.

The final step after you’ve committed is to file the application as quickly as possible so that you are in a position to receive a “likely letter” (if it’s an Ivy) before the November 1st early decision application deadline. The coach won’t be able to request your likely letter from admissions until October 1st, but even if he requests it as soon as possible, you won’t get the likely letter until your application is submitted. Our understanding is that you don’t actually have to have all your recommendations into admissions to get the likely letter, but your part of the application (the Common App, supplemental essays, etc.) must be submitted in order for you to get a likely letter from admissions. The sooner you get your application in, the sooner you can get the likely letter. Aim for October 1st, around the time that the coach will make the formal request to admissions to generate a likely letter for you.

Then, you are done. You will find out your definitive fate on December 15th like all other early applicants, but if you’re applying to an Ivy and have gotten a likely letter, you’re good.

(This guide concludes with Part III which is a school-by-school analysis of our experience.)

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Thank you so much for all this info! So incredibly helpful!! So no other schools besides ivies offer likely letters? Is there a possibility that you won’t get accepted even if you verbally commit?

Yes, some other schools offer likely letters, U Chicago and Case Western to name 2 DIIIs that do.

A verbal commit is not binding on the coach or athlete. Athletes generally have to achieve a certain GPA and test score, and not get into any kind of disciplinary trouble.

Coaches usually don’t reneg on their offers, but if a new head coach comes in, it’s not uncommon that they start fresh because they want to get their own recruits.

This is a wonderful guide, particularly for somone like me who is unfamiliar with the rowing world. I am wondering how your son juggled spring practice with his high school team while doing 20K/day on the erg?