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.
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.