What College Recruiting Letters Really Mean and How to Respond
While college athletic recruiting relies heavily on digital communication—like texting, email and social media messages—college recruiting letters still play a major role. However, it can be difficult to interpret what a specific piece of mail from a coach really means. If you receive a typed letter with your name inserted in a few places, are you actually getting recruited by that coach? Why did the coach send you general school information? We’ve broken down the different types of college recruiting letters that you might receive and how to respond to each one.
How to know if a college coach is interested in you
When coaches recruit in-person and show up to events, it’s not too difficult to spot them and pick up on their interest in you. However, things have gotten a bit more complicated since recruiting has mostly moved online. In this video, B.J. Dunne, head basketball coach at Gettysburg College, discusses what college coaches are doing to reach out and show interest in prospects through digital recruiting.
As more and more initial recruiting contacts go digital, many student-athletes struggle to understand if and when they’re getting recruited by a college coach. College coaches convey their interest in many ways, and some are more clear-cut than others. Recruits should keep in mind that not every coach is going to show their interest in the same way, and even their interest will mean something different depending on the type of program.
Wondering how to know if a college coach is interested in you? Eight common ways coaches show their interest include:
- Recruiting questionnaires. Coaches send questionnaires to hundreds, if not thousands of underclassmen and upperclassmen. Questionnaires are used to gauge your interest in a program, so filling them out—and sending a follow-up email—is essential if you’d like to remain on their list of prospects.
- Personalized camp invites. Camp invites can be tricky, as many programs will send out “mass” invites to try and get as many athletes to sign up and attend their events. However, if a coach specifically mentions that they know who you are or that they’ve watched your highlight or skills video, it’s a good indication that you’re on their list of recruits to watch and evaluate at the event.
- Emails from college coaches, recruiting coordinators or coaching staff. Most coaches and athletic staff communicate primarily via email, especially as the initial point of contact, and may ask you for more information regarding your athletics, academics and interest in their school or program.
- Social DMs. If a coach follows you on social media, sends or responds to a direct message, you can be confident that they’ve at least noticed your profile. Keep your social media profiles—or at least the one you use to reach out to coaches—sport-centric with a link to your recruiting profile or highlight video so they have easy access to your athletic and academic info.
- Phone calls or texts. If you’re fielding calls or texts from a coach, chances are you’re relatively high up on their list of recruits. While a coach’s contact info, like office phone, are usually available online, giving a recruit their personal cell or email can mean they’re treating you as a prospective recruit.
- In-person contact. If a coach introduces themselves at a recruiting event or at your high-school, you can be confident that they noticed or heard about your athletic abilities. Likewise, if a coach asks you for your upcoming high-school, club or event schedule, they probably want to see if they’ll have an opportunity to meet and evaluate you in person.
- Unofficial or official visit invites. Being personally invited for a visit indicates clear interest from a coach. When coaches ask you to go on an official visit, paid for by the school’s program, they’re using their budget to show off their school and create an impressive experience for you as a recruit. Keep in mind that not all programs have similar budgets, so being asked to go on an unofficial visit can also display their interest!
- Verbal offer. Receiving an offer is a huge accomplishment—congratulations! Remember that while a verbal offer may mean you’re a top recruit, it’s also not legally binding yet, and the coach can technically withdraw it for any reason. If you decide to accept a coach’s offer, stay in touch with them up until Signing Day to ensure you still have a roster spot on their team.
How do you know if a college coach is NOT interested in you?
Sometimes it’s more difficult to tell when a college coach is not interested in recruiting you, as opposed to when they are. Being direct and keeping a line of communication open will help prospects know where they stand, but college coaches aren’t always responsive. In this video, Gettysburg College basketball coach B.J. Dunne is back to break down how prospects can tell when coaches aren’t interested.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you haven’t heard anything from the coach or program, they likely don’t have you on their radar or aren’t interested in you as a recruit—yet. While there are a number of ways to tell if a coach is interested in you, how do you know if a coach isn’t interested?
- Admissions materials, like a college brochure or informational email. Also known as non-recruiting materials, colleges often send these types of materials to promote their school or program to high schoolers. While you’ll want to review a school to see if it’s a good fit based on your athletic, academic and personal interests, you shouldn’t take It as a sign that the coach has you on their list. Instead, use it as an excuse or reason to reach out to a coach letting them know you’ve done some research about their program on your own but are interested in learning more or have some additional questions.
- Generic or mass camp invites. If a coach sends you a generic invite, you may be in the larger pool of athletes who aren’t really on their radar yet. If you’re interested in attending or already registered for the event, make sure you reach out to the coach ahead of time letting them know you’ll be there along with your highlight or skills video, key stats and a short introduction.
- No response to emails, phone calls, voicemails or follow-ups. It’s easy to get discouraged if a college coach doesn’t respond to an initial email or phone call. Before giving up completely, make sure they’re allowed to respond to you per NCAA rules, then send a follow-up email or leave a voicemail. Still no answer? It may be time to move on—and cast a wider net in terms of target schools. The coach may not think you’re a good fit for that level, or it’s possible they’re not recruiting your graduate year.
Insider Tip: Coaches may not always have the time or budget to find and evaluate every prospect on their own. If you aren’t receiving the kind of communication you want from a program or coach, proactively reach out to them and show why you would be a great fit!
Brochures, pamphlets and questionnaires
The first piece of mail that you receive from a college coach will likely be general information about the school or a request to complete a recruiting questionnaire. These are known as non-recruiting materials. Depending on your age and division level, this could mean a few different things.
NCAA Division I and Division II:DI and DII coaches can’t send recruiting materials to athletes before June 15 after sophomore year or September 1 of junior year, depending on your sport. To spark an underclassman’s interest in the program, they’ll often send general information about the school and a recruiting questionnaire. This can signal to an 8th grader, high school freshman or sophomore that the coach has noticed them and may be interested in recruiting them. If you’re a junior or senior receiving general school information, you’re probably not being heavily recruited yet, and you need to put in the work to really get their attention. For example:
Our recruiting is on a national level and we are looking for talented students who can meet the high-level athletic and academic demands of a challenging program. Please complete the enclosed questionnaire and return it as soon as possible. Include a schedule of events where you will be competing. If you have video available you may send it to us at your convenience.
Your next move: Complete that questionnaire! As an underclassman, ask your current coach to reach out to the college coach and set up a call. Remember: Even if coaches aren’t allowed to communicate with you, you can always reach out to them. As an upperclassman, if you are extremely interested in the school, definitely contact the coach. Let them know that you received the school information and filled out their questionnaire, and you are very interested in their program.
NCAA Division III and NAIA: DIII and NAIA coaches are not restricted in when they can send athletes recruiting material. However, these coaches often send out general information about the school to athletes they are recruiting. Coaches at these division levels want to ensure that their school is a great fit for an athlete from an academic and cultural fit before they start recruiting them.
Your next move: If you receive general information from a DIII or NAIA school, take it as an invitation to contact that coach. Send an introductory email to set up a call. Even if you aren’t sure about the school, it’s always better to explore all options to find your best fit!
An invitation to a camp
Camps can be a great way for college coaches to both identify new talent and evaluate top recruits. There is a common misconception that coaches only host these camps to make money for their school, but most coaches in fact, do use them as a recruiting tool. The majority of athletes will receive a generic invite, but it still might be worth your time to attend, as coaches do find athletes at camps.
If you received a personalized camp invitation, that’s a clear sign that you are getting recruited by that coach. Personalized camp invitations may be a little tricky to spot, however. Football Head Recruiting Coach Joe Leccesi explains that if the coach has mentioned your highlight video or viewed your profile, these are good indicators that they are personally inviting you to the camp. Overall, see if the coach has gone beyond just saying “come to my camp,” Coach Leccesi advises. Here are a few examples to give you a better idea:
I’d like to personally invite you to our upcoming camp, Tuesday, July 17 from 10am to 2pm. We enjoyed watching your skills video, and would like to watch you compete in person at our camp to discovered if you’d be a good fit for our program. Feel free to call our office with any questions or to request more information: 567-555-6767(O).
Your next move: In this example, it’s clear that the coach is interested in the recruit, and would like the opportunity to watch Kelli compete in person. She should respond to the email to thank the coach for the invite and let them know if she will be able to make it to the event. If she can’t go, she needs to include a schedule of her upcoming games and tournaments so the coach can find another time to watch her in person.
I’d like to personally invite you to our upcoming camp, Tuesday, July 17 from 10am to 2pm. This is a great opportunity for our coaching staff to evaluate recruits and find future Bulldogs to join our team. Please see below for more information.
Your next move: This letter is primarily an invite to the camp. The coach hasn’t given out a phone number or mentioned any specifics. That said, effort is being made to evaluate Allison, so if she’s interested in that school, she should be sure to fill out the recruiting questionnaire (if she hasn’t already). She also needs to respond to the email letting the coach know if she’ll make it to the camp and include her highlight/skills video and link to her NCSA recruiting profile.
Personalized college recruiting letters
Personalized college recruiting letters come in varying degrees of customization. While they may sometimes seem a little impersonal, they are a solid indicator that you are being recruited by that coach. Coaches send this letter to athletes who have passed their initial evaluation. These letters are intended to gauge if an athlete is interested in that program.
You have been identified as an athlete who may have the potential to contribute to our college program. We are interested in the possibility of you becoming a student-athlete at our school. Please send us your competition schedule so that we can arrange to evaluate you in person. Feel free to call me with any questions at 345-777-7777(H), or 544-666-7777(O).
Your next move: John should reply to the message as soon as possible, making sure he includes his upcoming schedule. He should also follow up with a phone call, and try to arrange a campus visit.
Handwritten college recruiting letters, customized graphics and personal contact information
If you’re receiving handwritten college recruiting letters and custom graphics, that’s a clear sign you are a high-value recruit. Congratulations! By sending you personalized mail, the coach is trying to impress you and show that you are high on their list of recruits. However, this is not the time to coast! You still have to show the coach why you would be a great addition to their team.
Our staff has identified you as one of the top junior recruits this year. We enjoyed watching you compete in San Diego. With the graduation of 11 seniors from this year’s team, we are interested in and are in need of bright young athletes to carry on our tradition of excellence.
Please fill out the attached player profile as fully as possible. We look forward to seeing you compete again soon. If you have any questions, please contact me directly at 345-009-4545(H), 345-777-7777(H), or 544-666-7777(O).
Your next move: Thank the coach for their letter and/or the graphics. Ideally, respond with a handwritten letter. If the coach gave you their phone number, give them a call or text to let them know you received their message and appreciate the letter and you are very interested in their program.