Recruiting ABC's - the Board's Collective Wisdom

OK, based on some feedback it appears many think it would be helpful to have a sort of generic basics of recruiting thread, and then maybe highlight where the Ivy/NESCAC process differs. Kind of a “This is what you need to know when your kid starts the process” type of thread.

I will start by laying out some basic points I think are helpful. Please add your suggestions below. I will keep this thread tacked up for a bit and then when replies tail off try and harmonize everything into a single post which we can keep in the featured category.

The most important thing to me is to know the odds. Very few high school athletes end up participating in college, at any level. The NCAA publishes these statistics regularly, and everyone who is thinking about playing in college or with progeny who is should read them. They are at http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/estimated-probability-competing-college-athletics. To my mind, it is crucial to be honest with yourself about the actual skill level and recruitability of yourself or your son/daughter. People who successfully navigate the recruiting process do so by being open to schools at the appropriate athletic level. I and many others can tell several stories about kids who passed on great opportunities because they were quite sure Nick Saban was just about to call and extend an offer. There is an old saw I first heard when I was recruited back at the dawn of time “you should play one level below where you think you can, and two levels below where your dad thinks you can”. Unfortunately, I believe this is still true today. Do your best to be realistic, and if possible seek out neutral opinions from knowledgeable people on the recruit’s actual skill level.

The second thing to understand is that many sports simply do not have significant scholarship assets to use on recruits. To understand this you need to understand a couple of things. First, NCAA Division 1 schools are able to provide the most scholarship assistance, Division 2 schools are able to provide somewhat less and Division 3 schools are prohibited from providing any athletic factor financial aid at all. In addition, even though the Ivy schools and the Service Academies participate in Division 1, they provide no athletic factor assistance. Period. Full stop. Second, within Division 1 there are certain sports; namely football (FBS only), basketball, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis and women’s volleyball which are head count sports. That basically means that every scholarship awarded in those sports is a full scholarship. In the other sports within Division 1 (including FCS football) and all sports within Division 2, scholarships are frequently doled out as partial awards to several athletes. Third, with the exception of FBS football, no school is required to fully fund the NCAA allowable scholarships. In fact, several schools and conferences in both Division 1 and Division 2 do not fully fund certain sports. That means that while the NCAA may allow 9.9 total scholarships on the men’s swimming team, school A may only fund 5.

The third thing to understand is the applicable timeline. If you spend any time at all on this board, it quickly becomes apparent that there is some variation in the timing of recruiting based on both the particular sport and the specific division. To that end, it is often most helpful to get your information from other parents involved in the particular sport who have recently finished the process. In general though, everyone has to follow the contact rules as laid out by the NCAA. They can be found here http://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/resources/recruiting-calendars.

Within the context of the applicable contact rules, be aware that no one will act as an advocate for the recruit except the recruit him or herself and the recruit’s parents. In my personal opinion, there is nothing wrong with beginning to reach out to schools once a potential recruit has significant varsity or applicable club level competitive time. In my opinion, this contact should come from the recruit, not the parent. Once initial contact has been made, it becomes crucial to ask specific and direct questions of the coach. Help your son or daughter formulate good questions. Will you offer me a scholarship? is unlikely to provide you with usable information. Can you describe the recruiting process at your school? or how many athletes are you considering for how many available slots in this cycle? may get you better information. Listen closely for clear answers. Coaches go through recruiting multiple times a year over several years. Most are not interested in wasting time, and will give a recruit information to let them know where they stand.

Random unorganized advice, with some overlap of above.

For most questions, ASK THE COACH. He/She knows the answer better than we do, and is used to getting uncomfortable questions. Every time I asked something, and with a few coaches I asked a lot, they seemed to appreciate the question, even if it was about a problem with their program. It gave them a chance to address it. Every sport is different, every school is different, and to a certain extent every recruit is different. I found the general information I received here to be very helpful. But for things like “What ACT do I really need”, “what does green light mean”, “if a coach says xxx, what does that mean?” you have to ask the coach. Just as an example for the ACT question, we received different answers from almost every Ivy coach, and those #'s were different than usually gets posted on this board. And they changed based on his position in the recruiting class. My experience and that of most others here is that coaches are not always forthcoming, but are pretty much always honest if you ask the right question. Be specific.

When you ask a question on the board, go ahead and say your kid’s year and sport. We can’t give worthwhile advice without this information.

When sending initial emails to coaches, make sure there is something specific to the school in the email. Also address it to dear Coach xxx, not just Coach. Attach an athletic/academic resume and have a link to video. What you need for video varies by sport, so ask. There are a bunch of resumes online. As a starting point I had a club coach give me a couple of ones he thought were good that he got when he was a college coach. Email from kid, not parent.

We set up a new email that was only used for communicating with coaches. That way if a coach sends an email it doesn’t get lost in the deluge we all get in our regular accounts. No one other than college coaches was ever given this one, so very few junk emails cluttering it up.

Mixed advice on filling out recruiting questionnaires. S never did them unless asked to because they are a pain. And I think that many coaches ignore them. But some do use them, so it probably isn’t bad to fill them out. But do it in conjunction with the email or you are going to get lost in the shuffle.

Let the kid take the lead role in talking to the coach. You are not being recruited, they are. On the other hand, you do need to provide guidance. Help them write the email and put together the resume. Role play a few phone calls, or at least go over potential questions and good/bad answers. My kid always asked about summer training. He wanted to stay and practice over the summer, so it was both a good question and a good way for him to let the coach know the level of commitment he planned on making.

Some questions are better handled by the parent though. My kid (and I think most) didn’t want to talk about the money. He had me ask, and if a coach asked him about what he needed for scholarship or financial aid he would give the coach my cell #. He didn’t like asking about ACT scores, because he didn’t want the coach thinking he was trying for the minimum. He also didn’t ask about standing on the team or other recruits, because he wanted the coach to think he was planning on taking the starting spot from whoever was there anyway.

The phone calls aren’t as bad as you and/or your kid expect. Your kid is probably bad on the phone. So is almost every other high school kid in America. The coaches are used to it, and most could carry a conversation with a lamp post for an hour. Your kid will get better at it though.

Try to visit a school or 2 lower on the list first. My kid said a couple dumb things on his first visit, and said what would have been a dealbreaker comment if I was the coach on one of his first phone calls. But most of them get a lot better pretty quickly.

If you are with your kid when they talk to the coach, listen to what is really being asked. Sometimes a 16 year old doesn’t get it. As one example every coach tried to tease out of S whether he was going to be able to handle a college training regimen. But they never asked, because every kid just says yes. He had an unusual training program even for an elite HS athlete, which always put the coaches at ease that he could handle the transition. But a couple times I had to prompt him to explain it, because he didn’t get that they were trying to feel out whether he could handle the step up in intensity.

Try to get some unbiased advice on what level your kid should play. Preferably from someone with college coaching experience. S’s coach (who coached college until a few years ago) told me after sophomore season he should be looking at top 10 D1 programs. I thought the coach was on crack. We started looking at mid/low D1 programs and D3. Ultimately got offers from multiple top 10 D1 coaches.

Having said that, don’t expect to have that experience, it usually goes the other way. I know way more kids (and especially dads) who overestimate their level then underestimate it. And even when S started talking to those top coaches, I felt much better about the process knowing that a couple lower level coaches at great schools were clearly treating S like he was their #1 recruit. It gave us some safety.

Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Assuming that you don’t absolutely need the scholarship money (which may not be coming anyway), don’t talk to coaches at schools the kid wouldn’t want to attend without the sport. S talked to everyone who called, and some of them, while great athletic programs, were at schools that were just a bad fit. It was a waste of everyone’s time.

The athletic career ends at 23 for almost all of these kids. Go to school where you want to be that will allow you to do what you want to do when you graduate. Playing the sport is a bonus. I know too many kids who went to colleges that either didn’t prepare them, or were still too expensive, or that they hated, just because it let them continue their sport. If it’s Alabama football, maybe there is a payoff at the end. If it is anything other than tip top D1 football/baseball/basketball where a pro career is a legitimate option, don’t go unless you love the school. If you can’t play varsity at a school you want to attend play intermurals instead.

I loved a couple of schools S didn’t. I should have let him drop them off the list sooner.

In most sports, D1 isn’t just about athletic ability. It’s about having a tremendous inner drive and willingness to let that sport be the driving factor in the college experience. I have always thought my kid was borderline unhealthy competitive. That’s pretty common with his athletic peers. If you don’t have that, there is no shame in playing down a level or 2. I have joked with a couple very successful guys in S’s sport that there has to be something wrong with you mentally to do what they did to be so successful. They usually get a sly smile and say “yeah, probably.” 99% of people don’t have that. Unless you are the 1%, don’t make yourself miserable trying to be.

A letter from a coach isn’t an offer. A coach saying I think you would be really successful here isn’t an offer. When you get an offer, you won’t be 90% sure you have one you will be 100%. And you should ask pointblank when you think you just got one that you really did. When a coach told me S had a spot if he wanted it, I asked “So you are giving him an offer?” “Yes” “Are his grades/scores ok or do they need to go up?” “He’s fine” “How does he need to do at the national tournament next summer?” “I don’t care. I’ve seen enough, we can do the rest. He has a spot on our team if he wants it.” I made him repeat it a couple times a couple different ways just to be 100% sure. And if he had told S when I wasn’t there, I probably would have called to confirm. Some information is too important to be potentially mistranslated by a 17 year old.

Ivy/NESCAC High Academic mom here, son had a career at Midd, DD starting hers at Haverford…

Test early. If you can never get a 29, you are never going Ivy or NESCAC, no matter how good you are. Try after sophomore year in June, then study what you need over the summer so you can ace the September test-so much pressure is now off you. For the Ivies, you also need 2 SAT 2s over 700…Pay the tutor if that’s what is holding you back.

Rock bottom ACT varies by sport(cough cough football and LAX) and school- For my kids in less recruitable sports, what we heard as minimums: Williams 29; Georgetown 30; Middlebury, Yale, Bowdoin, 31, Amherst, Swat and Haverford, 32. Others may have heard other numbers, and if I didn’t hear an exact number, it isn’t here, but you can imagine they are similar.

Ask for a “pre-read”. If the coach doesn’t want your transcript and scores between July 1 and the end of the summer before your senior year, you aren’t a top prospect. If the coach is evasive about the pre-read, that’s a red flag.It should be positive before you push “send” on that ED apllication.

The Ivies send a “likely letter”, meaning you are likely to be admitted. If you aren’t offered one, you aren’t on the list.
NESCACs and other high academic schools have nothing in writing. It’s scary. Ask if you are getting a “slot”-pretty much guaranteed admission-but Coach only has a few, depending on the sport-or a “tip”, which isn’t worth much at some schools(cough cough, Bowdoin). For a “tip” , Coach says s/he wants you but admissions can do what they like-and they do. They aren’t exactly running a special for smart girls from the NE. NESCAC teams are under a “diversity push” from the Adcoms-teams are supposed to “reflect the diversity of the school in general”. This may work for or against you. Beware.

You MUST apply ED, usually ED1 for that “likely letter”, “tip” or “slot” to help you. That’s when the coach can be sure that his distance runner or goalie will actually come. They aren’t going to waste the limited support they have on a “maybe”!

If you need fin aid, the calculator SHOULD match what you end up with. It’s all need-based at the Ivies and NESCACs. ANyone who tells you about someone who got a “full ride” or any kind of support to “play X at Princeton” is blowing smoke. Ditto “committed” before July 1 of end of Junior year.

If you have to wait for RD and other offers, don’t despair. There will be “walk-on” try-outs in the Fall. Tell the coach you are coming, and hopefully s/he will be happy to see you.

You do NOT need a recruiting firm. In fact, all the coaches we cared about told us NOT to do it, and that they never even opened those e-mails.

Good luck! I’ll be posting a “tell-all” softball summary eventually. Til then, feel free to PM me. I have experience with said sport, plus swimming(DS)

I would put a twist on @Ohiodad51’s general point no. 1. In addition to “knowing the odds,” I suggest “playing the odds.” This leads to the bones of the process:

  1. Know your objective. Is it going to an Ivy over anything else, then depending on a coach's need and the recruit's ability, it may mean giving up the sport. Is it getting merit aid at an academic D3, then it may mean giving up options like the NESCAC, which do not offer merit aid. Certain desired majors (like engineering) may also inform the process.
  2. Know your kid and his or her ability. Don't set your kid up for disappointment if he or she wants to play soccer at Stanford. This is why I suggest watching a college practice at a location near you, even if your kid has no desire to attend the school. It allows you and your kid to get a sense of the level of play. Even if your kid still has stars in his or her eyes, the parent should try (as hard as it may be) to accurately asses where your kid fits in athletically.
  3. Keep an open mind. You should definitely cast a very wide net in the beginning to see where if anywhere you kid gets traction. Maybe your kid says "I would rather stop playing than play other than D1." Bear in mind that this is probably your kid's teammate doing the talking and your kid repeating the mantra. Discourage early emotional commitments.
  4. As things firm up, play the odds. You may find that a given terrific NESCAC school has had two pretty pathetic past seasons in your sport and may be looking for a large recruiting class. You may find that another college is in desperate need for a left handed pitcher, and will take someone that pitches 83 mph instead of 86. Take advantage of those odds.

Finally, I couldn’t agree with you more that no one else is going to go to the mat for your kid. Don’t rely on high school coaches or even club team coaches. Rely on yourself and kid to plan out your timeline and to implement the plan. Rely on yourself and kid to approach the coaches. The process will not run itself. Sure, if you are known across the country as a 15 year old NFL prospect, the coaches may come to you. For everyone else, it is nose to the grindstone. I also think that there is a definite place for parental structure. While it would be nice to let your kid do everything, it may not be realistic to do this without some teamwork.

This is going to be a great thread. I echo much of what has been said above. NCAA D1 recruiting rules changed dramatically in April 2018, understand those. Notably, no unofficial visits (student pays) until junior year and official visits (school pays) can start junior year (previously only senior year). And, to go on an official visit now requires an SAT or ACT score, which is early if you want to go in September of jr year. Soph PSAT does not count.

Regarding test scores, there is huge variability in the Ivys, other elites and NESCACs. Ivys (and some others) use a calculation called the Academic Index, with a certain minimum needed. Min varies by school and by sport, with helmet sports the lowest. There are many kids in Ivys (and other elites) with ACT scores below 30, lots are athletes. Look at U Penn’s 17/18 CDS: 7.7% of 1,318 enrolled freshman who took the ACT had scores below 30-thats 101 kids. Coaches will tell you what they need, admissions officers will confirm it. Don’t hesitate to call admissions officers.

To add to that last point, the ACT (or SAT or AI) that YOU PERSONALLY need will vary based on where you are on the coach’s list. One coach told S he would take an ACT of 27 for his top recruit, 34 for the guy in the last spot.

Great thread
The one thing that I would stress is trying to take schools off of your list. The number of actual recruiting trips/weekends are limited by NCAA rules and for D3 by practicality. You do not want to waste an official visit on a school that as soon as you walk on campus you know that school is not for you. Do as many unofficial visits as possible.
Meet the coach, tour the school see if it fits. If not get it off of your list. IMO, it’s as important to get schools off your list as it is to get them on your list. Whittle that list down to a handful, then select the ones that you think really will work for you.
Some people will use all of their allowable visits most will choice two or three. Figure what works best for you and enjoy the process.
Do you like the team? Can you see yourself at that school even if you get injured day two and cannot play your sport?
Best of luck

My two cents based on our experience. Son plays football at one of the Ivies:

  • Fit and comfort level should be a primary focus. Student needs to ask themselves "If I have a major injury freshman year and am unable to play the rest of my time in school, would I want to be at this school?"
  • It's a cliche but this really is a 40 year, not a 4 year decision. Do I want to sit on the bench my four years in the ACC or do I want to have the opportunity to play early at an elite Ivy or NESCAC school?
  • Coaches can blow a lot of smoke during the recruiting process. Almost every Ivy position coach or head coach sent handwritten letters saying to my son "You are the top "insert position" we are recruiting in your class.
  • To me the biggest thing is to get an OBJECTIVE opinion of the student's athletic skill level and recruit-ability. This is why we used a Consulting Firm that specializes in placing students at top academic institutions. Their primary benefit was setting us straight on the most likely level he could play in college since they are staffed by ex coaches and have network of coaches they have regular contact with at elite colleges. They also gave us honest feedback on the level of interest the coaches had at the schools that were recruiting him (based on their relationships with these coaches). He was getting interest and contact from coaches at Michigan and Stanford and although he was "on their board", we received good advice that it was unlikely they would offer him anything outside of a "preferred walk-on". Also provided clarify on the Academic Index - - for some Ivies my son was in one band, and for others he was in a different band. That can impact chances of getting that "offer".
  • I also know of several kids at different Ivies playing football or lacrosse who had less than 29 on the ACT. Puts them in the lower bands but just because your son/daughter has a score less than 29 does not mean Ivies or NESCAC coaches will rule them out
  • The academic pre-reads are critical and we decided to go the ED route. He received a "likely letter" in Dec of his senior year. Very smooth process and it did take a lot of the stress/angst out of the decision, as he made up his mind about the school he really wanted to attend after the summer camp circuit.

Just one person’s opinion, as I know every experience is unique.

I think it is also important for the student athlete to understand whether their major will work for their sport… especially during the sport “season.” My D athlete is an engineering major… it is tough, but doable for her at her particular school but her grades are not quite as high during her sports season. She also has a couple of friends at Stanford who were strongly discouraged from pursuing any hard science/stem majors. Just something to be aware of during the process.


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If the sport is not fully funded then scholarships can be split>>

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They can be split up to the max number of scholarships allowed for that sport. If there can be 10 full scholarships awarded in gymnastics, only 10 on the team can receive partial scholarships.

My advice is to look at the team’s past few years to see where and when they travel, who they play, do they play in the conference once or twice a season and how far is the travel. It makes a big difference if you are playing every weekend and have to travel 8 hours.

Look at how many juniors and seniors are still on the team and how many students transferred onto the team (most teams list the former school on the roster, so if it is another college that’s a transfer student). It gives a good idea on how the coach develops talent or just transfers in players. It may let you know if you are going to be rising in the ranks or if a spot is going to be filled by a transfer student.

A couple of points. First, thanks for everyone jumping on this thread. This is exactly what I was hoping would happen.

That said though, let’s try and keep this generic, and not devolve to “this must happen” or “that must happen”. The idea here is to put somethings together that will be generally helpful to parents and kids across sports and as an initial primer. Because there is so much variation sport to sport, conference to conference and division to division, I am concerned that a basketball parent who reads advice from a lax parent about what always happens or what is required may become confused. Does that make sense?

To that end, let me lay out a couple things I think I know that are kind of specific to high academic recruiting:

1)When we talk about high academic recruiting in the context of this board, we are primarily referring to recruiting in the Ivy and Patriot conferences in D1 and the NESCAC conference in D3. Of course there are high academic schools outside of those conferences (Vandy, Duke, Notre Dame, Stanford, Rice, etc in D1; JHU, UChicago, MIT, etc in D3). But the three named conferences are unique in that they have standardized conference rules that apply to the peculiarities of high academic recruiting, and this generally informs the discussion about how that world works.

2)For the most part, these rules revolve around a quantifiable measure of academic achievement known in the Ivy and Patriot as the Academic Index. The Academic Index is most prevalent in the Ivy and is a formula which assigns a numeric score to each enrolled student based on that student’s high school unweighted gpa and ACT or SAT scores. In addition, if the school requires that SAT2s be taken as a condition of admission, the SAT2 scores form part of the formula. Learn your recruit’s AI score, because it will inform virtually every bit of recruiting in the Ivy, NESCAC and Patriot. Google academic index calculator and find the most recent version. This will give you the Ivy academic index. To the best of my knowledge there is no publicly available Patriot academic index calculator, but in my experience knowing the Ivy AI score will help in discussions with Patriot schools.

3)All Ivy, Patriot and NESCAC coaches are limited in how far from the median stats of the previous entering class they can drop for a desired recruit, and all are limited in the number of recruits they can support. The NESCAC uses a band system where recruits are placed into A, B or C bands. B and C banded recruits are recruits with academic stats below the median in the preceding class. A banded recruits have stats above the median. It appears that schools are limited by conference rule as to how many B and C band recruits they can support, and that each school sets ts own limits on the number of A band recruits it will take. This is my understanding based on a number of years following recruiting, but it is in no way authoritative. The Patriot has a 3 band system also, but there is very little publicly available information on the Patriot band system. The Ivy requires that the average AI score of all supported recruits fall within one standard deviation of the average AI score of the four preceding enrolled classes. Within that stricture, the ADs can set individual AI targets for various sports with the exception of football, basketball and men’s hockey which are governed by a band system.

4)Standard test score targets and gpa targets are going to vary recruit to recruit, sport to sport, school to school and conference to conference. I think everyone can get their head around the fact that football players may have a lower threshold to cross than cross country runners. It is equally easy to grasp that a NESCAC school operating in D3 may be less flexible in its academic requirements than an Ivy or Patriot school which operates at a higher athletic level. What is sometimes harder to understand is that within the same conference a coach at school A may have a different academic threshold than the coach at school B. Particularly in the Ivy, where the ADs have a fair amount of control over which sports to favor, a basketball recruit may be academically in range at Penn but not at Columbia. Even more important to understand is that within the same sport individual recruits likely will have different academic thresholds in light of their athletic desirability. As an example, Princeton signed a quarterback in this cycle who was rated with 4 stars and choose to attend Princeton over Alabama. It is very likely that his academic requirements were lower than my son’s, who was a 2 star recruit who most assuredly had not been offered by Alabama. Life is unfair.

5)There is similarly great variation over what requirements coaches will attach to an offer. For some recruits in some sports in some conferences applying to a school ED or SCEA may be a requirement. For others it may not be. The same applies to early recruiting. Some sports at some schools may recruit the bulk of their squad very early in the cycle. This may mean that an average recruit for that program could be late to the party if they do not jump on the recruiting bandwagon. On the other hand, a recruit who is a true athletic outlier is likely going to be able to find a spot on a squad regardless of timing. In all these things, academic requirements, application requirements, timing, etc, it is helpful to think of recruiting like a graph. On one axis is the recruit’s athletic desirability, the other axis is the school’s requirements. The higher you go on one, the lower you can be on the other. Again using a personal example, my son was probably close to an average athletic recruit. But he scored high on the requirement axis, his academic scores were well within range, he attended the camps, he didn’t wait past any imposed deadlines to commit, etc. Other teammates are better football players and had less stellar academics, didn’t attend the camps, etc. Again, it is a very individual process.

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For Ivy recruiting I second what others have said: take all standardized tests early. You should know well before senior year starts if you have the stats to be recruited

Also, if you are only interested in one Ivy league school, you should consider looking at others (even if its not a top choice). We noticed coaches were very interested in what other Ivies the athletes were visiting, and that seemed to play into who got chosen between two comparable recruits. Plus if you get pre-reads from multiple Ivies you can possibly get more financial aid.

One of the points above regarding knowing how/if your major will work with your sport is very important. In the set of conferences we are talking about there is wide variability here too. Problematic majors are typically sciences (the labs tend to be the issue) and/or engineering. Some coaches will say yes you can be X major, others will say that probably won’t work. At some Nescacs, all classes/labs are over by 4p everyday, so there it can be easier than other conferences from that perspective.

Talk to the coaches about these realities, find current student-athletes in your target major and talk to them too. Obviously academics are priority one at all of these schools, but not all professors are accommodating about missing classes.

@OutaState, Under the NCAA rules, D3 schools cannot give athletic aid. What you are essentially asking whether in practice D3 school violate the NCAA rules by giving athletes a boost in merit aid because they are athletes. There are probably schools that do violate the rules, but I bet there aren’t too many (there is too much risk at too great a downside) and they certainly aren’t going to publicize it if they do.

On the other hand, I suspect there are some really great D3 schools that might give merit aid to your son. Without knowing a lot about D3 swimming, Kenyon comes to mind as a pretty sound swimming program at a school that gives merit aid.

Asking @Midwestmomofboys is your best bet, having successfully gone through the D3 merit aid process with soccer. There was a detailed entry written on this a while back by Midwestmom that was quite good. You might want to take a look at that.

@gointhruaphase Thanks for the kind words! And, @OutaState – our experience was that schools were very careful not to step on the wrong side of the “no special treatment for athletes” line. We did run across one school which was heavily sanctioned by the NCAA because a new asst coach mentioned to a family that the student might be eligible for “extra” aid as a recruit – which was false.

At the same time, athletes are eligible for D3 merit aid on the same terms as other students, so if a high gpa/high test score kid would get $X at a school, the fact that kid also is a recruited athlete doesn’t change anything. In terms of D3s giving merit aid – the NESCACs don’t give merit aid, though there is chatter that both Trinity College and Conn Coll have started within the last 1-2 admissions cycles to offer merit aid. At Amherst, Williams, Midd, Bowdoin etc – no merit aid, it is financial aid or bust. Swat and Haverford don’t give merit aid either.

Schools which could be interested in a high stat swimmer would include Kenyon, Denison (has won Men’s Swimming and Diving national championship 3 or 4 times within the last 8 years, a title Kenyon used to dominate), Oberlin, Dickinson. Macalester gives merit, as I understand, but not Carleton ( we didn’t look closely at either for D3 recruiting, so I may be mis-remembering).

I would guess that the D3 coaches do help their athletes navigate the process, which is helpful. They probably know every scholarship that is available and steer their athletes the right direction. Some D1 coaches do this as well so their athletes can get merit money to supplement the athletic scholarship.

So technically they aren’t getting any money not available to everyone, but the typical incoming freshman will not be as familiar with the process and what the scholarship committee is looking for. So there probably is a benefit. Although this is a pretty intense and involved parent set on this board, so the benefit probably isn’t as much as it would be for a kid who doesn’t have a parent as actively involved in the process.

Some more semi-random thoughts:

At the start of the recruiting process, stack rank the following attributes in priority order: academics, athletics, money. The recruiting process can be emotional, and there is likely to be a natural tension between the attributes, so it’s important to keep perspective on how each school/opp. aligns with your priorities. Eliminate schools that represent gross misalignments early.

As already stated by OhioDad, whenever possible seek the counsel of people who are familiar with the sport you are pursuing. (I’ve seen a number of people on this board provide unhelpful information/bad advice to posters because they were projecting experiences from a different sport)

College athletic recruiting is a very inefficient and dynamic process. Lots of exceptions happen and recruiting boards can change a lot in the fall of senior year. Maintain an open mind and keep multiple options open.

For a kid who is a rock star athlete with an “on the bubble” academic profile for a high-academic institution, do give some thought to the overall college experience vs. the prestige of attending the school. Struggling with academics is not fun, can be depressing, and can negatively impact athletic performance, too.

Consider the location of the school and the travel schedule of the team when you are gauging the time commitment for sports. Travel adds up and takes away from sleep, studying, and social time.

  • Parent of Ivy track athlete (per item 2 above)

One of the basic rules for all schools, all divisions, is to be honest with the coaches and NEVER burn your bridges. The coaches all know each other and you never know when Coach @ School A will become Coach @School B where you happen to be.

If you aren’t interested in a school, tell the coach. I’ve recently read pieces by coaches who feel they are being ‘ghosted’ when kids won’t return their texts or messages. It’s okay to say you just aren’t ready to commit, can’t go ED, have another top choice, but don’t leave them hanging.

If possible, an overnight with the team is very informative. Coaches can charm, facilities can awe, but it’s hard for a room full of teammates to keep many secrets. If they love the coach or hate the travel or can’t get classes or only starters play or they spend the whole time getting high, there’s a good chance a PSA can get a fair grasp of the vibe and know a lot more than web sites and stats can show. If you’re down to a short list can can’t decide, try to get a night with the team.

I could see various “buckets” of advice…for example: Standardized Testing; How to Build a Smart List of Possible Schools/Programs to Target; Recommended Timelines (though new rules will necessitate a rethink of tried and true practices); A Recommended List of Questions; Coach Correspondence Tips; etc.

Here are some general suggestions I thought of, some of which may or may not overlap with suggestions already mentioned.

  • Getting a trustworthy, expert third-party objective opinion/evaluation of the prospect’s ability/potential is key. I love that quote above about targeting schools two tiers down from where “your dad thinks you can play”. In our case, we knew 2 college coaches and asked both if our daughter was good enough to fence in college…when she was in 8th/9th grade. Both of them said they felt she was. Had we not gotten that early validation, I don’t know that we would have pursued the sports recruiting route.
  • Even if competing in a timed sport, get some video of the athlete in action. I don’t think it has to be anything fancy or a professional production. But it lets the coaches see the kid in motion — and allows for a sense of size/build.
  • If you are shooting for a selective school (and maybe even if you’re not), get your standardized testing done as early as possible. My daughter took practice tests in the summer between soph/junior year as a diagnostic step to see what she needed to work on. She prepped throughout the summer and took the SAT in October of her junior year. Took it again in Jan and her superscore was in range for even the most selective schools she was considering, so she was done.

The advantage of having strong scores in hand early is that, in tandem with unofficial transcript/GPA and school profile, a prospect can offer a coach documented proof of academic admissibility. The scores might also help you be smarter about developing the list of schools to target.

  • Cast a wider net than you initially thought you would and try not to “fall in love” with any school/program before you know they love you.
  • In the end, chances are a parent is going to know their kid better than anyone else…so don’t be afraid to digest information from your various sources (including College Confidential) and use what YOU think is right for your kid/your kid’s situation.
  • Love the advice above to “ask the coach”. There are so many questions that pop up on the forum that could probably be answered more quickly/directly by asking the coach whose program/intentions you have a question about.