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Helping your student-athlete navigate the recruitment and admissions process

Last updated on November 20, 2020

As a parent of two student-athletes who experienced the college recruitment process, I would like to share some thoughts from a parent’s perspective. In one sense, things are not different from the college selection process in general. Factors such as academic pathways, majors and coursework, the size of the institution, distance from home, even weather are all factors that your student needs to consider. The vast majority of student-athletes will not become professional athletes so the overall college experience is the goal.

What it means to be a student-athlete (student first, athlete second). The one thing that every student-athlete needs to keep in mind is that “your talent gets you the look but, it is your grades that get you the offer.” Academics are the first priority. At some point, in the recruiting process, a college coach will ask for a copy of your child’s high school transcript. They need to have taken advantage of some of the more rigorous courses that their school offers, however they are designated: Honors, Advanced Placement, etc. By doing so, more schools may become interested in recruiting your student. If your child wishes to compete at Division I or Division II level, they will need to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse. This registration will ensure that they have taken the core academic classes required for academic eligibility.

The importance of finding a college fit regardless of the sport. As I mentioned earlier, there are a variety of factors in finding one’s fit. Be realistic as to your child’s abilities. While there are differences in schools, there are also differences in the level of play: Division I, Division II, or Division III. There are also differences in the level of competitiveness within each division. Your child should consult with their coach as to which division and level is the best fit for them.

While your child may be involved with a sports team, there are NCAA limitations on the total number of hours spent on practice and games per week. They will be a member of a college community: going to class, having a roommate, meeting and interacting with other students, and attending various campus cultural or social events. This college admissions process is about finding a place that they will call “home” for four years. You want them to be happy wherever they go.

Is the process is different for recruited athletes (timelines, commitments, visits). Recruiting is defined by the NCAA as “any solicitation of prospective student-athletes or their parents by an institutional staff member or by a representative of the institution’s athletics interests for the purpose of securing a prospective student-athlete’s enrollment and ultimate participation in the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program.” Traditionally, coaches cannot contact a prospective student-athlete until September 1 of their junior year. In the meantime, your child may attend any prospect camps held on a college campus. These camps are also a great way to get a feel of the campus, so consider taking a tour or attending an admissions session while you are there. The NCAA does have various periods that will limit the amount of time that coaches can travel off-campus to evaluate your child’s play, whether it be at organized events such as tournaments or club team or regional tryouts, or even contact them. As your recruiting process evolves coaches may ultimately formally invite them to visit campus and perhaps at that time provide them a timeline in terms of the expectations moving forward whether it be additional academic information to share with their admissions office or an official offer.

Sam Carpenter is a Duke Senior Admissions Officer responsible for Northern California. In addition to being a parent of two student-athletes, he is a former college lacrosse coach and his wife is the coach for Duke Volleyball. You can hear more of Sam’s advice for parents helping their children navigate the college admissions process here.

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