How do I begin?
1. Start with simple: What do I want to study?
This has to be the driving force behind your entire search. It doesn’t matter what your dream school is, if they don’t have a degree that matches your professional and academic goals, then it isn't the school for you. Allow your goals for the forty years after you graduate to guide the decisions you make for the four to five years of your college journey.
(Pro Tip) Don’t know what you want to do…you’re in good company. Many students struggle with that. Try and attack it from the reverse angle and ask yourself, what do you NOT want to do or be when you grow up. It will help eliminate majors and options from the table that cloud decision-making. Don’t want to work with people…BOOM…kick marketing, social work, and nursing off the table…now we are getting somewhere!
2. Start Broad: Check out all the schools (Get some free T-shirts)
Take all the tours…like all of them…Running low on cool t-shirts…problem solved. Ok, besides collecting all the sweet swag, this is a crazy valuable experience. Take every opportunity from a young age to visit campuses. Plan to visit school near your favorite family vacation spot and while you travel to and from tournaments across the country. This will give you a window into the campus types, sizes, and locations that fit you as you start to narrow down your choices. It may also open your eyes, heart, and mind to a completely unknown “perfect” school you never knew existed. Plus…free stuff and pictures with mascot statues! Winning!
This will make your decision to respond to interested college coaches much easier as they reach out to you.
3. Attend camps/clinics: Get in front of coaches/schools that matter to you.
Depending on the number of recruiting services you have signed up for and tournaments your contact information has be entered into you will receive countless emails from college coaches encouraging you to attend their camps. These are great opportunities for you to visit campuses and get to know coaches…it is also a great way for college programs to supplement their budgets. Neither of which are a bad thing. However, wasting your time to attend a college camp of a school you have no interest in or being coached by a coach you don’t care to get to know is less than productive to your search and your bank account.
4. Be proactive: Don’t let yourself be ignored.
College coaches are not rock stars and usually don’t have a lot of good reasons to not answer emails. However, they are professionals that spend most of their day working in a functional office space with many responsibilities required of them each day. Coaches may receive 20 to 30 emails a day from recruiting services or potential student-athletes (PSA’s). That doesn’t include the institutional emails and whatever is happening within the athletic department, staff, and current student-athletes. Feel free to multiply that by whatever you feel is appropriate as you move to larger and more renown programs. Be persistent and professional. Don’t be offended if you don't get an immediate response.
5. Have a budget in mind: This isn’t the price is right
This is a tough one. The first question I ask international students-athletes during the recruiting process is, “What is your budget for college?”. This is almost always the first topic and concern for these athletes as they are coming from outside the country and usually travel with a very specific budget in mind. The converse has been true for most of my interactions with PSA’s from the States. When asked what their budget is for college, they freeze…look at their parents…and shrug. While the parental role in this process is vital and important from a financial and emotional aspect…this is your college choice and process. You should have a grasp for what is within your financial means and have that in mind when making your decisions. Have the tough talk with mom and dad before you set up those final visits. It will certainly keep you from wasting time and heartbreak on the back end.
6. Its all downhill from here: I love it when a plan comes together
If you have followed these simple steps, then it will all come together for you. As you complete each step you are paving the way to your college dreams. You may certainly have to choose between a tough last two or three, but they should be of similar size quality, cost, and opportunity. Now, you can follow your dreams and kick a ball without much stress.
7. When should I commit?
When you are ready…and not before. This is about you and your timeline. Do not make a choice in fear of losing an opportunity. Only make that commitment once you have done all your homework on the school, academics, coach, and cost. You were good enough to be offered, you will still be good enough when you commit. You are the product that coaches want on their team, it is not the other way around.