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OCT 06, 2020 • 18 min read
Welcome back to our blog series helping parents decide why studying overseas at a top US or UK university is right for their child, and how to make it happen. If you haven’t already, feel free to check out part 1, part 2 and part 3. Today’s blog is a special athletics edition, focusing on how you parents can support your child in their college sports recruitment process. Let’s get started!
In the US, college sports are a BIG DEAL.
College sport (aka. varsity sport) is a fundamental part of a US colleges’ culture and school spirit. Each week (at least prior to COVID-19) hundreds of US college students are busy practicing and competing, with thousands more cheering them on from the sidelines. College football fields or basketball stadiums are often the beating heart of a college, and the place where students unite to forge lasting memories cheering on with their friends.
College sport is also popular beyond the gates of the colleges themselves, and is undoubtedly one of the USA’s favorite pastimes. All you need to do is switch on your TV to ESPN and you might catch a nationally televised college football game.
Because of its significance to colleges and US society generally, varsity sport is very organised. The governing body for US College Sports is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), who oversees over 460,000 student-athletes in 24 different sports, funds over 90 inter-collegiate competitions, and has over 1200 member colleges.
Getting back to the question, generally a student athlete is anybody who represents their college in sporting competitions in the NCAA.
Many of these student athletes (especially at NCAA Division I and Division II schools) will be on scholarships to attend the university and compete at the highest level for the varsity teams, and across the United States there is more than US$3 billion in scholarship funding available annually. As a parent, unlocking financial support through a scholarship can make a huge difference to the affordability of your child’s college education.
However, it is important to know that not every student-athlete is on scholarship. Some universities, in particular the top academic institutions and NCAA Div III schools will not offer many sporting scholarships.
At these schools, applying to university as a student athlete serves another purpose - avoiding the competitiveness of the regular university admissions process. In-short, the College Sports Recruitment Process might be your child’s best option for admission to the US’s top universities.
The typical road to a top-US college almost always involves fantastic high school grades, competitive standardised test scores (either the SAT or ACT), provoking essays, insightful letters of recommendation, and a diverse extracurricular profile. The most difficult thing about this kind of application is standing out from the crowd, given that some universities have tens of thousands of applicants, resulting in acceptance rates as low as 4.6% (Stanford).
The key idea to the alternative route provided by College sports recruitment is that colleges need to fill spots on their competitive college teams. If recruited as a student athlete for a college sports team, your child may still need to complete the typical application, but will compete with a smaller pool of applicants to fill these spots. Colleges look for students who are not only great athletes, but also great students.
Thus, the first thing you should know about college sports recruitment is that student athletes will still need to have great grades and standardised test scores. Indeed, it is a misconception to think that college sports recruits only need to be good at sport.
Secondly, it goes without saying that to be recruited as a student athlete, your child must be very good at their chosen sport. You must research what level you will need to compete at or achieve to have a chance to be accepted in your child’s chosen sport.
Thirdly, prospective student athletes need to build up a student athlete portfolio over a number of years. It should be able to tell a compelling story of your child’s involvement in the chosen sport, including the competitions they've competed in, the results they and/or their team achieved, up-to-date personal best times/distances and any other significant achievements.
Fourthly, your child needs to be deemed eligible by the NCAA in accordance to their strict eligibility criteria. Your child must prove that they are an amateur athlete, which means they can't have signed a professional sporting contract or have received money for competing. They also must have maintained a minimum GPA of 2.3 (pretty close to a C+) over four years of high school, and earned the ACT/SAT score matching your GPA on the DI sliding scale. More on this here.
Fifthly, student athletes must have references from their sports coaches. Like the letters of recommendation aspect of the common application, this is where your recruitment application can come to life, and can be key to boosting your candidacy. It’s important to get references close to the time of application so the information is up to date, but also make sure you are organised so you do not miss any deadlines.
Sixthly, you should prepare a highly professional recruitment video. This video should grab the attention of any college that watches it, and entice them to continue to scout you. More on this later.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the student athlete recruitment process is all about communication with college sports coaches. There is no single portal where student athletes can apply for many different colleges; student athletes must individually contact college coaches to be considered. This often starts with an email, and as the coach becomes increasingly more interested, may progress to phone calls or zoom calls. Eventually (and of course, not during COVID-19) this may progress to meeting the college coach in the flesh and being invited to visit the interested school and their facilities. The point is that the coaches want to get to know you personally before selecting you, in order to see if you are the kind of athlete and person they want to have on the team.
This is the part you’ve been waiting for. How can you, as a parent of a prospective college sports recruit help your child on their journey. Here are what we think are the key ways you can contribute to your child’s success:
The final years of school can be incredibly busy, especially for a student athlete. In addition to sports training and competitions that can occupy a significant amount of their time, your child has subjects to select, assessments to negotiate, and exams to be studied for and taken.
If you are not from the US, the prospect of applying as a student athlete in the US might be even more daunting, and adding the administrative effort for an overseas university college sport recruitment to your ‘to do’ list only adds to an already crowded schedule.
Parents can help by keeping track of their child’s sport/school/exam/activities calendar – the aim being to plan ahead with forethought to prevent any overloaded weeks or unnecessary anxieties.
Parents and students can also enlist help from us at Crimson. We help prepare and guide their athletes through the coach communication and scholarship negotiation processes. We also assess and monitor student-athletes’ eligibility, including calculating GPA, meeting core course requirements, amateurism and eligibility centre registration.
We at Crimson like to summarise the key to college sports recruitment process through the “three A’s” - athletics, academics and admin work. As a parent, you should pay attention to your child’s progress on all three equally.
Do not let your child neglect certain parts of the application, in particular their academics. Remind them constantly that getting scouted is not all about their ability to run fast, kick a ball or slam dunk. Regardless of how incredible they are at their sport, make sure they are putting in the effort in their academics and personal life. This is what may help them stand out from the other student athletes, and help them achieve their college dream.
We at Crimson can help out here as well. All of our Crimson student athletes have access to one-on-one standardised test tutoring from our network of world-class tutors who are carefully matched to meet your individual learning style and academic goals. We also have at our disposal Crimson's expert essay mentors and extracurricular advisors for other areas of the application.
Especially if you are not from the US, your child’s current sports coach may not be familiar with the US college sports recruitment process. As a parent, meeting with them, explaining your child’s goals and letting them know as early as possible that this is the route your child wants to take always results in a more inclusive, supportive process.
Letting a sports coach know that eventually will be tapped on the shoulder to write recommendations about your child might also be helpful, so that they are prepared and willing to do it in advance.
As mentioned, one of the most important parts of a recruitment process is making and distributing an awesome college sports recruitment video. As a parent, it may fall upon you to take part in its creation in some way.
You may be involved in obtaining certain footage, organising shooting days or getting permission to film certain locations. You may even be called upon to film some of the footage. Alternatively, you might need to provide financial support to have the video made to a professional standard. In any case, you will be pivotal to the film’s success, and should be prepared to do what needs to be done.
We at Crimson can help out here too. We help students in our college sports recruitment support program produce and distribute a professional recruitment video that demonstrates the athlete’s full range of ability.
As you may have picked up on, the college sports recruitment process is a very prolonged, involved and exhausting process. More than anything, as a parent it is your role to provide moral support. Celebrate with them in the good times, help them bounce back in the bad times, and give them all the encouragement they need to succeed.
Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company helping students navigate the US and UK university application process. We assist you to find your best-fit university, create a personalised roadmap, ace your standardised tests, craft the perfect essay, build candidacy through extracurriculars, and more.
Further, at Crimson, student-athletes are assisted academically and athletically throughout the recruitment process with the implementation and oversight of a personalised admissions program, ensuring that every Crimson athlete is a well-rounded candidate, to maximise scholarship offers and coach interest.
Check out our student success page to find more Q&As and case studies about our successful Crimson students and their parents.