Parenting advice: ED to play at D3 or attend a big school?

As a parent, how would you handle this one? D21 has already verbally accepted an offer to play at small D3 (coach needed an answer) but she is now second guessing her decision. She has always wanted that big campus/big name school experience and is is torn between the opportunity to play at a small D3 or just forgoing her sport (D1 not an option) and applying to big schools. The D3 is very small and stem focused. My girl is very smart but also super social and I know she would thrive at a big school. Applying ED, which is required, and signing that agreement to pull all other applications or offers is super scary to her. And also for us since we see her hesitating so much. But not doing so may cost her the only chance to play in college. If this was an upcoming wedding, I’d tell her not to get married. But she is not quite ready to throw away her offer. Just needs more time. I don’t know how to parent on this one, anyone has the manual? :wink:

My advice in this situation is always the same, and it is probably pessimistic. I always think about an injury or a sport being cut on day 1 and how they would feel at that school for 4 years without the sport. If she loves the school then I would say go for it. If she doesn’t (and it seems like this may be the case), keep looking.

Small schools aren’t for everyone. I’d say if she wants a big school she should follow her heart. She might look into options for club play at bigger schools, or just accept that she’s closing the chapter on playing her sport and opening a new chapter.

I agree with the above, she should listen to her gut. Of course, It can be difficult to discern between some normal second guessing and what could be a less than desirable fit…especially for high school seniors.

Is club an option at some of the DI schools she likes? Club sports can be at a high level of competition (sometimes higher than D3 programs) and fulfilling.

I empathize with everything you are going thru. Good luck.

While I appreciate that you’re looking for board wisdom, this is really a personal decision for your D. And to your point, she’s 17 which means her thoughts and opinions will likely change often over the next 4 years.

With that said, here’s my opinion, but you know what they say about opinions…

I’m a bit concerned that she’s “always wanted the big campus/big name school” because to me, name recognition is not a reason to pick a school. So I would go play at the small school and it’s not not the experience that she expected, transfer. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind.

Can she play her sport at the club level at one of the larger schools? That might be best of both worlds. D3 can be great when you love both the school and the team, but it’s a big limb to go out on when you’re only considering the school because of the team.

@Mwfan1921 yes club definitely a possibility at the bigger schools.

@eb23282 thank you for your thoughts. I dont disagree with you. The wisdom i seek is more about how to guide her into making the best decision. As a parent, I could make the decision for her but not sure if that is the right way to go. Im encouraging her to write down pros/cons etc as she is truly conflicted and is not ready to write off one option over another.

I am definitely concern of the binding ED process if she continues being so conflicted.

@eb23282 Some schools offer less merit scholarship aid to transfer students than freshmen. IIRC from OP’s earlier post, OP wanted schools with a COA ~25-30K w/o financial aid—a target that’s hard to achieve w/o merit scholarship aid at a private school or out of state. OP would also have to adjust to an entirely new environment, so it’s definitely not a decision for everyone.

@stacysmom21 From my experience applying this past cycle, I applied ED to Brown b/c I LOVED the school and was 110% sure I wanted to attend. IMO, your daughter shouldn’t be applying ED if she doesn’t truly love the school (past it’s name, are there aspects of the curriculum, internship programs, student life features etc. that she really, really loves?) However, I have close to 0 athletic ability—if only playing in college (not professionally) is important to your daughter, some schools (like Rice, according to my alumni interviewer,) have intramural competitions etc----you may consider looking into these options.

Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!

@PikachuRocks15 right, you are familiar with our situation. The D3 checks almost every box. She does love many aspects of the school that help her overlook its size such as location, great academics, good outcomes, guaranteed admission support, generous merit etc. So a lot of positives for sure.

I wish she was as certain about ED as you were for Brown. But she is not there. While there is nothing wrong with transferring, Im trying to avoid it. I rather her make her first choice the right choice :slight_smile:

Is it normal for a teen to flip flop about their decision so much? Argh!

The way I see it, we have two doors in front of us and she has to walk through one and close the other before 11/1. Not easy given how torn she is.

I am sorry to veer so off topic, but every time I see your username @stacysmom21 this song instantly stsrts playing in my head: (it is one of my favorite songs :slight_smile: )

Is the big school affordable? If not, that makes the conversation easier.

I do think it’s normal for kids to flip flop. It’s a big decision!

I’m also in the camp that if she’s not sure about this D3 school, don’t commit. That said, she needs to be 100% comfortable with potentially not playing her sport AND potentially not being accepted to her true #1.

I think having her write out the pros/cons list is smart.

One more thought - My D is at a big D1 school. I will tell you that her friend group is actually quite small and tight. Even if you are at a place with 40K+ students, those you typically see are in your major, your dorm, at your ECs. You aren’t interacting with all those kids. I’ve been much more surprised at how much the university does to make it feel more like a small school - living learning communities, hall “teams”, honors programs, major specific clubs/activities, etc…

@cinnamon1212 LOL!

@momofsenior1 at the moment, the D3 is the most expensive. Even with generous merit it is close to $40K COA. But we feel it is worth it due to published outcomes, ROI etc. We can afford it, just prefer to spend less.

The big D1’s we are letting her look at are those where she has chances for merit either automatic or strong chance :slight_smile: And, funny, I was having that same conversation with her about how in the end, your circle becomes tight and small regardless of where you go.

I’m in the mind of going to the big school. If the small school didn’t have the binding ED decision or if she wasn’t waivering I wouldn’t hesitate.

S17 attended a big D1 school. His sport wasn’t available there but he was able to play in club and organization teams in other sports and totally enjoyed it. The club levels of many sports was quite high! School of 18,000 felt small and he made great friends and got a great education (now in veterinary school).

His gf’s sister attended a small school for her sport and was miserable! The sport was good but the small school ended up not being what she wanted. This year she transferred to the big D1 school and is loving it! She did give up some merit scholarships to do this that she could have gotten if she had gone there in the first place.

2 of D’s friends attended very small D3 schools for their sports and were both very happy but the both wanted small schools since they came from a high school with a graduating class of 100 or less and didn’t want the big school experience. One is now in medical school and the other is a teacher.

Either way can work well but you need to go over things. Can she visit the big school, or has she? I know some are having in person visits now, others you can go and just walk the campus or do a good virtual tour.

One of the things I loved about college was that almost every day for all four years, I met someone new. Depending on how small the school is, your daughter might end up feeling like she is stuck in another high school environment and if, for whatever reason, she doesn’t “find her people,” she would have fewer options than if she were at a larger school.

@momocarly thank you for sharing that. @sherimba03 agree. My little social butterfly would love meeting new people all the time and participating in all sorts of activities.

Do any of you think she would benefit from talking to a college advisor or even therapist? There have been many tears over this lately. She says she is trying to figure out on her own and only comes to me when she needs to ‘talk it out’.

I do think she could benefit from talking with an outsider.

Is she continuing to have communications with other coaches as well?

Not with other coaches. The D3 is her only offer and she is not pursuing any others. So it’s that one or not playing at all.

I feel school fit is very important. I personally know quite a few recruited female athletes that went to a D3 and even D2 schools in part for sports reason but ended up not liking the experience and transferring.
My opinion is a little different than some on recruiting and committing to schools, but unless your daughter is 100%+ sure And needs coaches support to get admitted, I would not apply ED. I did not like being forced ED for recruiting reasons and we wanted to take our time as a family and have options as we went thru the decision process which ED locks you out of. That said I did have a D/S ED to a high end school as a recruited athlete but by then (Oct. Sr. Yr) they were sure.

Also, I do understand as I had kids that were good recruited athletes but chose a big university with a good academic ranking over smaller schools. They could have played sports at D3/D2 schools and considered it but they knew that they wanted the larger school experience and did not regret the decision.
There was a particular smaller D3 school that was very actively recruiting my D/S and I was encouraging it at least on our short list as it had a high academic ranking but I remember after some discussion my D/S telling the coach very nicely and politely thank you very much though it is not the right fit for me, which was the right decision and the coach understood.

I do believe to some extent the saying that you can make a big school feel small but you can not make a small school feel big. Small colleges can have a lot to offer though if you are coming from a larger HS, a small school may feel quite small after a short while.

@stacysmom21 It’s very normal to keep changing your mind. Part of it is the anxiety of college decisions; part of it’s buyer’s remorse b/c you end up researching schools so much that you fall in love with multiple of them, but can only go to one; and part of it’s just being a teen. :lol:

While I don’t have advice about choosing to ED or not (it’s up to you and your daughter to decide how important playing sports is to you when considering “fit,”) but once she submits her applications, make sure she takes the time to do something else that’s not stressful to get her mind off of decisions (reading, running, gardening----anything not college-related.)

Regarding ED and her college choice, the “prestige” of the school honestly depends on what field she wants to go into. If she wants to go into business/consulting that tends to recruit from a certain set of schools, then there is an advantage (to what extent, idk) to going to a well-known business school (Penn Wharton, IU Kelly.) If she wants to go to graduate school or professional school, especially if medicine/law which are largely unfunded unlike PhD programs, saving money for undergrad may allow her to have more help from you to pay for graduate school—especially because graduate schools offering financial aid tend to consider parental assets when calculating awards.

Hope that helps!