The recruiting process is a two-way street: even though coaches are evaluating student-athletes, it’s also up to the whole family to evaluate a potential school or program. But how can parents be sure that they’ve made the right choice – that a school is the best fit for their child? It’s important for athletes to do their research, create a target list of their favorite schools and start contacting coaches. Student-athletes should always have a list of questions ready to ask coaches, from what type of majors are offered (or popular with athletes on the team) to how often and how far away the team travels to games and events.
It should come as no surprise that parents also need to be prepared to ask questions. While college coaches want to get to know their potential recruits, they also understand that the recruiting process is a team effort. Parents should let their child take the lead when it comes to asking questions but know that it’s perfectly OK for them to talk to coaches and ask their own questions too. Here are 10 questions parents should ask college coaches:
What does a day, week or year in the life of one of your student-athletes look like?
While families should have an idea of how rigorous a program’s academic and athletic standards are, every team is different. Many programs practice year-round, and some travel may be required during holidays or summer breaks. Coaches understand that parents are also interested in knowing what their child will be doing on a regular basis, whether it’s going to classes and studying, spending time at the gym or traveling to games or meets.
What types of on/off campus activities are available to athletes?
Every division level is different – while a top program may not leave student-athletes with a lot of free-time, plenty of programs, especially those at the D3 and NAIA level, offer athletes a chance to explore other extracurricular interests, obtain a part-time job or internship and even study abroad.
What type of academic support do athletes receive?
Athletes should make sure they’re academically eligible to not only get admitted to the college but also remain eligible to compete. Some schools also offer additional services for student-athletes, including mandatory or recommended study hours, academic advisors and tutors and even support from professors to make up work they missed while traveling or competing with their team.
What are the housing accommodations like?
Some schools require that student-athletes (or all students) live on campus for at least one, if not four years. Others allow students to live off campus or have apartment-style housing available. What are the dorms likes? How many students live on and off campus? Is there housing available exclusively for student-athletes? If not, do most athletes tend to live together or do they comingle with the regular student body?
Do athletes have the same meal plan as regular students?
In 2014, the NCAA made it mandatory for D1 programs to provide student-athletes with unlimited meals and snacks, but those same rules don’t always apply to D2, D3 or NAIA programs. Make sure to ask whether student-athletes are on the same meal plan as their non-athlete peers, as well as what types of dining options are available. Some schools have even started to offer specialty athletic nutrition facilities – complete with chefs and dieticians – to help their athletes reach peak performance.
What is the college doing to create a safe campus?
Ensuring that their child is safe is a top priority for parents, especially when most will be away from home for the first time. It’s understandable to ask questions about campus safety and security – does the school have security or police officers stationed on campus? How does the school communicate with students during emergencies? Are there transportation services offered for late nights or off-campus activities?
What happens if the athlete gets injured?
It’s every parent’s worst case scenario – their child gets injured, and they’re out for the season. Though the NCAA requires college athletes to have healthcare insurance, schools are not obligated to pay for an athlete’s medical expenses, and it’s not uncommon for parents to have to cover part or all the out-of-pocket costs. If the coach has brought up the possibility of an athletic scholarship, it’s ok to discuss whether that scholarship will still apply if they’re out for part or the entire season.
What is the application process like?
It’s easy for parents to forget that even after their child receives a verbal or written offer from a coach, they still have to apply to college. The coach should be able to answer typical admissions questions, such as the minimum GPAs and test scores required to be accepted into the school, application deadlines and whether they’ll be able (or allowed) to provide feedback or review the athlete’s application before they officially submit it.
What about scholarships and financial aid packages?
Parents should wait until a coach has expressed an offer before discussing how much athletic aid, if any, is being offered. Questions about a school’s overall tuition and room-and-board costs, need-based aid, and academic or merit-based scholarships are preferable, but parents should also use the school’s admissions and financial aid offices as a more thorough resource. A parent’s best bet? Ask what type of expenses players must cover, such as uniforms, equipment or the cost of team trips.
What are the next steps?
No matter where an athlete is in the recruiting process, it’s important for parents to know what to expect and what to do next. Will there be any follow-up visits or appointments? What paperwork or admissions-related materials do families have to prepare or fill out? Are there any important or upcoming deadlines to be aware of?