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Managing Your Recruiting Process:

Understanding Key Recruiting Milestones

It’s been said that the college sports recruiting process is more like a marathon than a sprint. For many, it may seem like full-time job. There are dozens of people to communicate with, events to attend and deadlines to meet—all while juggling the everyday rigors of being a high school student.

If you’re doing it right, the recruiting process isn’t just a senior-year responsibility, and the amount of time you dedicate to your recruiting each week—or even each month—will fluctuate. Initially, you’ll need to spend extra time researching schools and writing individualized introductory emails to each coach. However, after your first round of emails and calls, you might hit a few slower periods, in which you send short follow up emails, refine your highlight videos and work on maintaining your recruiting. The key is to steadily keep moving your recruiting forward and hitting the major milestones.

If there is one mantra above all others for recruiting, it’s “be proactive.” This is especially true for communicating with college coaches. Coaches are extremely busy; they have countless recruits to consider, plus teams of their own to coach during the regular season. It’s up to you to take control of your recruitment and stay in touch with the coaches at the schools you’re interested in. Professionalism and persistence in your communication will put you ahead of other recruits—even those who might be more skilled athletes. Learn about when to communicate, what to communicate and ways to communicate with coaches.

Insider tip: An online recruiting profile will help you keep track of the many communications you’ll have with college coaches.

Manage your process with our college recruiting checklists

Managing your recruiting and staying on top of the college athletic recruiting process can be stressful. Not only do athletes have to stay mindful of their recruiting season, they also have to take steps to ensure they’re being proactive in the offseason. While regularly updating your NCSA profile—your athletic recruiting resume—is a great start, there are a few additional recruiting steps you should take throughout the year to maximize your recruiting opportunities.

NCSA created recruiting checklists for the college bound student athlete—complete with important dates and helpful tips—so you know exactly what to do every step of the way during each season.  Whether you’re gearing up for a new athletic recruiting season or taking time to make strides in the offseason, follow these steps to ensure you find the best athletic, academic, social and financial college fit.

Insider Tip: Check out NCSA’s fall recruiting checklists, winter recruiting checklists, spring recruiting checklists and summer recruiting checklists to keep track of your to-dos during each season. Then, if you’re interested in competing at the NCAA D1 or D2 level, review our NCAA eligibility center checklist to ensure you’re maintaining your academic eligibility and amateurism status.

Going on unofficial and official college visits

Visiting colleges is a very important part of the recruiting process. Do you like the feel of the campus? How’s the climate? Can you see yourself living here for four years? As a student-athlete, you may go on both official and unofficial college visits, although official visits are becoming less and less common. You can (and should) start taking unofficial visits as soon as possible. Official visits, however, cannot occur until your senior year. There are other strict rules for both types of visit, so make sure you’re following the proper steps for setting each up. Learn more about official and unofficial visits

Updating your target list of schools

As you move through the recruiting process, the list of 50-plus schools you started with will naturally start to dwindle. It will be fairly obvious when a coach isn’t interested in recruiting you, and you can remove that school from your list within your online recruiting profile. Coaches who are interested will be sending personalized letters, emails, calling you at home, coming to see you play specifically and inviting you on an official visit. Just receiving a letter from the admissions office, a questionnaire from the coach if or a coach watches you play in a game doesn’t mean you’re being recruited. Realizing what schools are truly considering you will allow you to focus your time and effort on building relationships with those coaches. 

Stay on top of application deadlines and processes

The last thing you want to think about when you’re trying to get recruited is probably deadlines and paperwork, but if you don’t pay attention to the important dates, you’ll most likely lose your chance to compete in college. There are seven main parts to the application process to pay attention to:

  1. Registering for and taking the ACT and SAT
  2. Registering with the NCAA Eligibility Center (for DI and DII) and/or the NAIA Eligibility Center
  3. Filling out and sending in college applications
  4. Submitting your FAFSA paperwork
  5. Requesting your final amateurism certification 
  6. Sending your final transcripts and proof of graduation to the Eligibility Center(s)
  7. Signing the acceptance letter

Learn how to manage each part of the process.

Compare and negotiation your athletic scholarship offers

Athletic scholarship amounts differ greatly—from division to division, sport to sport and school to school. While most student-athletes strive for a full-ride scholarship, the reality is that only 1 percent actually receive one, and they’re usually only offered to those who play head count sports (DI basketball and DI-A football for men; DI basketball, tennis, volleyball and gymnastics for women). The majority of student-athletes who are offered scholarships will be offered a percentage of the total cost, so it’s important to compare each package and—when possible—use them to find your best financial aid package at your top school.

Learn more about the different types of offers and how to negotiate effectively.

Read more: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Student Athletes Succeed in Recruiting