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The Role of Parents in College Recruiting

parents with their student-athlete

Selecting a college is the biggest life decision your student-athlete will make up to this point. They’re going to have questions and you will often be who they turn to for answers and guidance. While the college recruiting process may feel like it’s only centered on athletics, a lot can happen over four years, and you’ll need to consider what happens if your student-athlete gets injured or decides they don’t want to compete anymore. It’s key to make sure your athlete absolutely loves the school, including their classes, living situation and campus life, regardless if they’re competing in college sports. 

This is why we encourage families to think of the college search process in four different parts: athletic, academic, financial and social. Below is a guide to providing ongoing support and advice to your student-athlete as they navigate the college search and recruiting process. 

Finding the right division level for your athlete’s athletic talent  

Finding the right division level that matches your student-athlete’s talent can be challenging. It requires you to know what it takes to compete at each division level and understand your athlete’s talent level and potential. 

survey of parents on which division levels their athletes considered

To help you discover which division levels best match your athlete’s skillset, we’ve created a list of four steps to take before making this decision: 

  1. Understand the different division levels. Each NCAA division level is unique, with its own recruiting rules, calendar and caliber of competition. Before you can decide what college programs your athlete should consider, you first need to understand your options. Sit down with your student-athlete to research the three NCAA division levels, as well as NAIA and JUCO programs. You might be surprised to learn that you can find Division 1 quality competition at the Division 2, 3 and NAIA levels. 
  1. Get evaluated. One of the best ways to determine what college level is best for your athlete is to get them evaluated. Your child’s high school/club coaches are a great resource, as they already know your athlete and have a good understanding of their athletic capabilities. Schedule a time to sit down with your child’s high school/club coach to discuss what skill level college coaches are looking for at NCAA, NAIA or JUCO programs and decide what might be a good fit. 
  1. Review college rosters. Reviewing a college’s current roster is another great way to understand what skill level your athlete needs to compete at a program. Starting with your athlete’s list of top 25 schools, look up athletes who currently compete in your child’s position to see how their skillset compares. If your athlete is similar in athletic ability, that program might be a great fit.  
  1. Attend college competitions. Watching current college athletes compete not only helps recruits identify areas in which they can improve before reaching the college level, but it also gives them a sense of whether they have what college coaches look for at that level.  
  1. Review sport-specific recruiting guidelines. Recruiting guidelines vary by division level, sport and position. Check out our sport-specific recruiting guidelines to see what colleges at each division level look for in each sports position.

Men’s Sports Recruiting Guidelines

BasketballLacrosseTrack and Field
FootballSoccerWater Polo

Women’s Sports Recruiting Guidelines 

Beach VolleyballLacrosseTrack and Field
Field HockeySoccerWater Polo

Co-Ed Sports Recruiting Guidelines 


Understanding the importance of academics  

One common misconception parents of student-athletes make is thinking that an offer from a college coach means their student-athlete can attend the college. The reality is, getting an offer is just part of the process. The student-athlete also needs to gain acceptance to the school through the admissions department. This is why high school academics are equally as important as athletic performance.  

While it’s the athlete’s responsibility to make sure they meet the NCAA Eligibility Requirements, there are a few ways that parents can help tackle this part of the recruiting process. Below is a short eligibility check list for parents.  

  1. Register. Visit the Eligibility Center’s website to register. The registration process includes initial questions about your athlete’s personal information, and education and sports history. If you’re not sure whether your child will play Division 1 or 2 sports, you can always create a free profile first before moving to a certification account, which requires a payment. Once you’ve completed the registration, you’ll be provided with your NCAA ID number.  
  1. Meet with your athlete’s high school guidance counselor. Starting freshman year, research the academic requirements at your athlete’s top 25 schools and meet with your athlete’s high school guidance counselor to ensure they are on track to meet the NCAA Core Course requirements (16 courses) before graduation. And, if they’re headed to a Division 1 program, they need to take 10 of the 16 core courses before their senior year, with seven of those 10 being an English, math or science class.  
ncaa eligibility center core courses
Eligibility Core Course Requirements
  1. Send official transcripts. Prior to the start of junior year, have your athlete ask the high school administration office to send official transcripts to the Eligibility Center by uploading them on the High School Portal. Your athlete’s file is ready for preliminary certification once the NCAA receives your child’s transcripts through the 10th grade and you have submitted an SAT or ACT score.   

    Read more: A Parent’s Guide to Navigating Junior Year Recruiting
  1. Send SAT/ACT test scores to NCAA. Make sure your athlete stays on track academically and is fully prepared to take the ACT/SAT come junior year. If your athlete wants to compete at the NCAA Division 1 level, they will need to be in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, earn a cumulative GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0 and achieve an SAT score of 1200 or an ACT sum score of 105.  
    When your child registers for the SAT or ACT, use the code 9999 to send results directly to the NCAA Eligibility Center. All test scores should be sent to the NCAA, as they will only use the best scores when calculating their eligibility. There is no penalty for submitting multiple tests. 
  1. Send final transcript. At the end of your athlete’s senior year, you need to make sure their guidance counselor sends an official version of their final transcripts. Once that is done, log into your account and request final amateurism certification. For student-athletes, this is the final step that tells the NCAA “please determine my eligibility status.” 

Keep in mind that the NCAA Eligibility Center determines the academic eligibility and amateur status for all NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 athletes. The NAIA has its own eligibility center. Learn more about the NAIA Eligibility Center.

Talking financial aid and scholarships with your athlete  

Establishing a college budget with your athlete and determining how much aid they would need to attend each of the schools on their top 25 list will give your athlete a realistic idea of what they can and can’t afford. Help your athlete research college costs and then help them take the necessary steps to secure financial funding: 

Learn more about the different types of scholarships that are available to student-athletes in our guide to different scholarship offers

Identifying the right social and cultural environment  

The college recruiting process is about finding more than just a program for your athlete to continue competing in their sport, this is where they will spend the next four years studying and making personal growth. As you and your child start thinking about college, make a list of what your child wants in a school. Do they want to go to a big state school or a smaller liberal arts college? Do they want to spend time doing things outside of their sport? What majors are they interested in pursuing? What are you willing/able to spend on tuition? Understanding what your athlete is looking for socially will be useful as you construct a target list of five safety schools, 10 target schools and five dream schools.

Common mistakes parents make and how to avoid them    

As a parent, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your child’s quest for success and forget that the most important thing is that they are having fun playing, while advancing their skills. While you want to keep your athlete on track to reach their goals, we’ve listed three common mistakes parents that can negatively impact their student-athlete’s confidence and motivation. 

Setting unrealistic expectations. To avoid placing unrealistic expectations on your athlete, create goals based on what your athlete can control. Focus on the process and incremental improvements that can help your athlete in their long-term athletic development. You also need to ensure that your goals as a parent align with what your athlete wants to accomplish. 

Comparing your athlete to their teammates. Development occurs on a different timeline for every athlete. Don’t place undue pressure on your athlete by forcing them to measure up to other kids who may be maturing at a faster rate. Celebrating your athlete’s individual wins will help keep them confident and motivated about the process by recognizing their successes.  

Punishing failure. Your athlete isn’t always going to be successful and they need to learn how to deal with failure in a productive way. If they don’t achieve a goal, avoid getting upset and showing your frustration. Instead, help your athlete determine why they didn’t meet the goal and create a new, achievable plan. Remember, your athlete’s sport is about them and it’s most important that they have fun and stay motivated.  

For more on what parents should avoid doing in the college recruiting process, check out our video.