Women's Soccer - D3 (NESCAC probably) vs D1 (Patriot's League or similar)

My DD22 wants to play soccer in college and we are trying to get a sense of the landscape in terms of competitiveness. Our sense (from coaches) is that she would be pretty competitive for a spot on a good (maybe not top) D3 team - maybe not all, but probably some of the NESCAC schools, etc. However, she recently started thinking she would like to look at schools that are a bit larger in size, and is particularly interested in schools like Bucknell and Lehigh, both of which are in the D1 Patriot’s League.
Does anyone have a sense of the difference in recruitment/competitiveness for those programs vs. reasonably high-level D3 programs? She hadn’t planned to look at D1 schools because she doesn’t want soccer to be “her job”, but she does love the idea of continuing to play year-round at a high level. She has been a starter on Varsity since Freshman year of HS as a mid-fielder, and while her current club team isn’t playing in the top leagues, she has enough experience at those levels to make us (and her coaches) think she is competitive.
Not sure it matters for here, but academically, she should be competitive (although just a sophomore now) at most of the schools she is interested in (prob not Amherst/Williams, etc but some of the other NESCAC schools).
Note: we live in California, so most of the coaches here are much more familiar with the local schools and don’t know much about NESCAC/Patriots League and other similar leagues, so any advice or help here would be great.

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Here are a few thoughts, as there are many considerations going on here.

The easiest is size. If your D is looking for a larger school, Tufts is bigger than Bucknell. Wesleyan is not, but still larger than some of the other NESCAC LACs. Explore all of the schools in each league (and don’t forget Colgate in the Patriot League).

More difficult is level of commitment. You say on the one hand that she doesn’t want soccer to be her job, but does want to play year round. As you know, the NESCACs have limited practice and game schedules and DI schools do play far longer. However, every NESCAC has captain’s practices throughout the year. So one way or the other there will be plenty of soccer.

Another factor is academic. These Patriot League and NESCAC schools are all terrific. The Pennsylvania Patriot Schools may be stereotyped as engineering schools, which is far, far from the truth. However, you might want to consider what types of academic programs are offered by the schools and how that gels with your D’s objectives.

Athletic ability. Who would know better than you? The NESCAC is a very strong athletic league and the Patriot League is Division I. I suspect that on given days, given Division III teams could beat Division I teams. Then again, as a whole, I think the hat is tipped toward the Patriot League, if only due to the more aggressive schedule. The only way to get any sense about where your D might fit in is to send videotape to the various Patriot League and NESCAC coaches and wait to hear back.

Why is she thinking east coast rather than west coast? Is the idea to use soccer as a hook to get into a more selective school?

Soccer will be a 30+ hour commitment in season at either DI or DIII programs. If she doesn’t want it to be her job, she might research schools with good club teams.

For example, at Duke there are women on the varsity soccer team who were recruited, yet never travel with the team, and get minimal playing time at home games. But…Duke has a very good club team, where the women travel all over the US for matches and high level tournaments.

I agree with gointhruaphase, there is overlap in athletic talent between DI and DIII. Patriot league schools will likely have more flexibility wrt gpa and test scores , as compared to some of the highly selective NESCACs…Bowdoin, Colby have sub 10% acceptance rates, William, Amherst in the low teens. Some of the Patriot League schools use an academic index AFAIK, but not sure the calc is the same as at the Ivies.

Fill out the online recruiting questionnaires at the schools she is interested in and contact coaches via email by expressing interest and sending video. Coaches can’t communicate directly with your D until June 15 after soph year, but again your soph D can email the coaches…copy the asst coaches on the email as well. It is not uncommon that one of the assistants spearheads recruiting efforts and/or acts as a gatekeeper.

On time commitment at D1, the D1 soccer players we know estimate their in-season time commitment as about 40 hours per week and out of season commitment about 15-20 hours. In comparison, my D3 Men’s soccer player spent 25-30 hours per week in season and 5-15 per week out of season (varies depending on how much extra work a player puts in.) Those estimates include early work at practice, team meetings, watching film, plus matches, travel etc. – the daily practice is, in many ways, the least of the commitment.

As @gointhruaphase noted, NESCAC, as a conference, does not authorize spring season, though there will be unofficial captain’s practices etc. which can take a fair amount of time in the off-season. For reference, in my kid’s non-NESCAC conference, while they have 4-6 total coach-led practices in the spring, anyone who wants playing time next season knows they better be be at “optional” captain’s practices plus conditioning and lifting in the off-season. My point is – D3 offers plenty of immersion so that a student feels they are still “living” their sport, but can breathe a bit more during the spring semester.

In terms of gauging level of play, take a look at current rostered players to see their bios – are their backgrounds similar to your student’s, in terms of type/level of team, championships, recognition etc.?

Thanks to all the really helpful responses thus far. Just to clarify/address a few things:

@gointhruaphase : Overall, totally agree. Very happy with all of them academically -she is more of a humanities than science girl, but I think any of the schools in these divisions, and plenty of others, would be fantastic for her. Tufts would obviously be a fantastic choice, but I also want to be realistic (side note: I have worked in admissions for years, but not with athletics) and while she might be viable there, think it would be a reach. I think my question is just competitiveness for recruiting: are NESCAC (and similar) type schools as competitive for spots as mid-level (one reason I noted Patriots League, and not UCLA/Stanford, etc) D1s?

@Mwfan1921 : East Coast over West Coast just because of family/personal reasons - has always wanted to go East for college, and still hasn’t budged on that. My DH and I are both NESCAC alumni, her brother will be starting at one in the Fall, and lots of family back East. Selfishly, I’d love for her to stay West, but I don’t see that happening. I do like the idea of the club teams, as you noted, and will have her look into those a bit as well. I guess, “overlap in athletic talent between DI and DIII” is what I was looking to hear, so that helps - thank you! Don’t have a lot of video yet - hoping to get that in the Fall. Also, not really as a hook but kind of - if one of the schools she likes was interested in her for soccer, it would move to top of the list, I think. She would be totally happy to find a great match, apply ED, etc and be done with it - but I also think she would pick any of those schools without soccer, too.

@Midwestmomofboys : those numbers are helpful - thank you. I will share them with her. I think she is nervous about it being the only thing she is allowed to do. To note, her BFF is a super stud - US YNT and committed to top 3 school as a freshman - but she doesn’t want (nor is she capable, obviously) that level of “this is why you’re here.” Maybe that means D1 at a lower level not a good fit or does look to club teams at those types of school? She has no issue with lots of hours, intensity etc - but she has seen what having soccer as a “job” looks like and she thinks it takes away some of the love of the game, if that makes sense. My DD has been 3-sport Varsity athlete the last 2 years (ok, maybe not this spring anymore :frowning: , involved in some clubs, etc, able to take advantage of all the high school experiences, but her BFF has all-soccer all the time.
I did go down the rabbit hole of looking at players, etc but not a lot of CA kids and so a bit harder for me to understand/gauge level - we live in a crazily competitive area for soccer - but I’m pretty confident that she’d be competitive for the D3 - thus my question about if lower D1 is same level - schools… Thank you for all your help!!!

My daughter will be a freshman playing at one of the NESCACs in the fall (if they are there and if they are playing!). She mostly got interest from NESCAC coaches by going to their ID camps to or ID camps where that coach was also attending. One of those coaches told her that she should be looking at top D3 schools or mid-level D1, so that coach thought there was a fair amount of overlap. One other thing to think about, the NESCACs seem to recruit a little bit later than D1 schools. They were still compiling their list of recruits in June and July after junior year and they can’t do pre-reads until July 1 after the student’s junior year.

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Thanks @Gleebee - that is really helpful. I guess we just have to hope that ID camps start up again, and that we can go to a couple in the Fall or next Spring! Since mine is only a sophomore, we still have a little bit of time, but I’m appreciative of all of this so we know what to be on the lookout for! Best of Luck to your daughter - here is hoping they are on campus and playing sports this Fall!!

We are in almost the same situation as you. My daughter is looking at those same schools, and went to the Lehigh ID camp over spring break. She plays in a high level league, but not top-level. Her coach has suggested she target D1 schools in the 40-100 ranking range, or top 20 D2/D3 schools (his was just from a soccer perspective, we have other academic criteria too). My DD did pretty well at the camp, and is confident she could play at that level. We live pretty far away as well, and her coach is reaching out to schools she is most interested in.

My daughter is a rising HS senior and has committed to a NESCAC school for soccer right after her Sophomore yr. Soccer is very important to her yet she wanted the experience of a liberal arts education. NESCAC girls soccer is about equal to lower level D1. Better than a lot of D2 programs. My daughter had D1 and D2 interest, some fairly strong. A lot of girls in NESCAC had chances to play D1 and instead chose a top flight education that offers competitive soccer.
Attending ID camps is key - given that there are 30-40 players at a camp you also have to open some eyes, play well and have strong grades. Follow up and don’t be afraid to ask where you stand with them. If you are a very good player with a 2.8 GPA there is little or nothing they can do. Better to know that early on. And make sure you get the coach’s support with admissions otherwise you are on your own. This is key!

We are a bit late to the D3 recruitment game for NESCAC girls’ soccer. (Would actually love to know timing of their 2022 recruit decisions by NESCACs. We had the best of intentions in planning for ID camps last spring and summer, but covid hit. What’s the best way to have her seen by NESCAC coaches? Our teams’ showcases don’t go north of NJ. I hope that NESCAC ID camps/clinics come back soon. And am wondering if there are any for-profit ID camps that are worthwhile – especially given COVID and the inability to have coaches see daughter play in person. Other suggestions? I know we’re late to the party. Thanks for your thoughts.