College cheerleading recruiting is unlike any sport. While there are cheer programs at the NCAA Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3 levels, as well as NAIA and junior colleges, it isn’t recognized as a sanctioned sport. Therefore, college coaches and student-athletes can initiate the recruiting process at any point during high school. That’s why student-athletes who are successful in their recruiting journey do the work needed to get on a coach’s radar: they thoroughly research colleges, create a recruiting video, attend camps and clinics and attend cheerleading tryouts.
But to truly find their college fit, student-athletes need to find the right program. Cheer colleges can greatly vary—some are competitive, while others are non-competitive. Some have levels broken into JV and Varsity, similar to high school. And of course, there are all-girls and co-ed squads. Plus, each college comes with its own set of qualifications. To have shot at making the team, recruits need to focus on the programs where their tumbling, stunts and jumps align with the team’s skill set.
Beyond athletics, college cheerleading coaches consider academics and seek out recruits with a strong academic background. In fact, some cheerleading scholarships are awarded to the cheerleader on the team with the highest GPA.
This college cheerleading recruiting guide is designed to help student-athletes identify their best college fit and give them the resources they need to connect with a coach and ultimately, become a college cheerleader.
Cheerleading recruiting guidelines: What coaches look for in athletes
The skills needed to compete on a college cheerleading squad completely depend on the program. Because some colleges are highly competitive and others aren’t, you can have two schools in the same division level requiring very different skill sets. Top programs who place at national competitions look for student-athletes with elite tumbling, stunt, jump, dance and cheer skills. Less competitive college cheer teams are more flexible and bring on recruits with strong fundamentals who can develop further in college.
Everything you need to know about cheerleading scholarships
College scholarship opportunities are different at every program. Because cheerleading isn’t a sanctioned NCAA sport, coaches don’t have as much funding to award scholarships. Generally, the more competitive and established the cheerleading program is, the more funding they have for student-athletes. Coaches prioritize scholarships to the cheerleaders with the most advanced skills and the best grades on the team.
Here’s everything you need to know about cheerleading scholarships.
How to get recruited for college cheer
Because cheerleading isn’t recognized as an NCAA sanctioned sport, the college cheerleading recruiting process looks a little different. Coaches and athletes can interact during any point of the recruiting journey. For example, underclassmen can reach out to college coaches with recruiting video and the coach can provide feedback. Most college coaches discover recruits through recruiting videos like these, as well as through college clinics, cheerleading clubs and tryouts. But to get on a coach’s radar, it’s crucial for student-athletes to be proactive and contact college coaches.
Create a cheerleading recruiting video that will capture a coach’s attention
Cheerleading coaches don’t have time to evaluate every potential recruit in person, so they rely on cheer recruiting videos. Not only do recruiting videos allow student-athletes to secure an initial evaluation, but they also help them establish a relationship with a coach. This is essential to getting on that coach’s radar and then securing a second, in-person evaluation. Many top college programs across the country actually require that cheerleading recruits submit a video showcasing certain skills before they can try out for the team, outlining exactly what the video needs to include, down to what the cheerleading recruit should wear.
College cheerleading camps and clinics
College cheerleading camps are a great way for squads to learn new skills, receive personalized training from experienced coaches and take their routine up a notch. There are a variety of college camps available through the Universal Cheerleaders Association and the National Cheerleaders Association , with the most popular taking place at top college programs across the country. Additionally, cheer clinics are crucial to the cheerleading recruiting and tryout process. Cheer clinics at competitive colleges are designed to teach recruits what skills and routines will be performed at that school’s tryouts. Coaches cover the desired qualifications needed in each position and the cheers and stunts unique to that school.
Complete list of colleges with cheerleading
There are more than 250 colleges that offer cheerleading, including NCAA Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and junior colleges. However, the type of experience greatly varies from program to program, even within the same division. The biggest difference is that some college programs are competitive, while others aren’t. To narrow down the list of target schools, student-athletes need to ask several questions about what they’re looking for in a college cheerleading program, including whether they want to compete, if they want to compete within the UCA or NCA and if they want to be on an all-girls or co-ed squad.