Career Advice Blog

Selecting a College for Sports: Part 3


Whatever college you select, if you plan on participating in intercollegiate athletics, don’t let your sports ability define your opportunity and potential in college. Recognize that the physical, psychological, academic, and social adjustments that you will experience are interrelated.


When you get to college, you will know a lot about the athletic program, but not about much else. You will need to engage in exploratory behavior so that you can explore the many opportunities that college life can provide. Sports are not the entire world, although it may be to you right now. You’ll find that if you take the time to see what other options, activities, and organizations are available, you’ll probably make better decisions about the courses you take, find out what really interests you, meet new friends with similar interests, and, most importantly, what really makes you tick as an individual.


Your experiences in college can also give you many opportunities to learn about different career options, interests, values, cultures, religions, types of people, political views, and a host of other important issues. It’s up to you, however, to seek out these opportunities.





Selecting a College for Sports: Part 2


Many colleges recruit and admit athletes who don’t have the same high school grades and SAT or ACT scores as regular non-sports students. You may have had great success in course work adequate for admission, but you will be put into classes in college with students who got higher grades in high school and scored higher on their SAT and ACT tests. As a result, competition in the classroom will be a lot tougher than you may realize.


As a college athlete, even at some of the smaller programs, participating in sports IS a job, and you may find that between practices, games, travel, game film review sessions, conditioning, and informal activities related to sport, you’re putting in well beyond twenty hours per week– the normal limit on sports participation before college officials think it will seriously affect your academic performance. Clearly, you’ll have many time challenges to overcome, but your academic and sport commitments will also have a negative effect on your ability to work an outside job, join outside clubs and organization, or participate in many of the activities that college offers its students.


Some faculty and students may appreciate you and your athletic abilities, while others may resent you for receiving a scholarship because you’re an athlete. College athletes are heroes to many people in the college community; others believe that athletes are spoiled, over-privileged, and academically inferior.


Learning how to manage your time effectively will be the most important skill you can master in adjusting to college and your future career. It’s not just a matter of getting your work done. It’s also a matter of enjoying your life at college and developing friendships and relationships that will last for the rest of your life.


The sole emphasis on athletic factors when choosing a university and ambivalence towards the academic demands of university may be markers of future academic difficulties, particularly during the transition to higher education. The decision to select a college MUST be predicated on both your athletic AND academic qualifications.




Selecting a College for Sports: Part 1


If participating in college athletics is a primary reason for selecting a particular college, you will need to consider several points in choosing a college:


First, you must actually assess your athletic ability to determine your potential to play at the various collegiate levels. Even if you are being recruited, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll have the same opportunities to play that you had high school.


Second, you’ll need to match your academic ability to the difficulty level of the academic program you want to pursue. Some college programs are so demanding that you might not have enough time to play a sport and keep up with your studies.


Third, you’ll want to decide if you like the coaches, the players, the style of play, and the facilities for your sport at that particular school.


For many high school athletes, selecting the right college will depend on more than just on athletic consideration. Here are a few of the more important consideration you should be aware of when considering playing sports past high school and into college:


The differences between a large university or a smaller college school sometimes is a very important consideration. Also, the importance of a college location should not be underestimated. For some students, other qualities of the college may be just as important as athletics in selecting the right school, such as college size, location, academic programs, distance from home, quality of education, class size, and general environment. These may be important considerations for you. Even students who are considering athletics first in making their college choice should weigh these items as well.






What Role Does Sports Play in Selecting My College?


Another important decision you will have to make may be to decide what role intercollegiate sports will play in making your college choice. You may want to ask yourself these questions at this point:


  • How would I feel if I couldn’t play my sport in college?
  • Am I ready to let go of my sport right now?
  • Do I really have the ability to play college sports and at what level?
  • What would happen if I chose a college and then couldn’t participate in my sport, because I was injured or disqualified?
  • Am I willing to make sacrifices of friendships and social life to meet the demands of college sports?
  • Would intramural or club sports be enough to satisfy my need for college sport participation?


You may be feeling very committed to becoming a college athlete, but you should try to answer these questions very truthfully because you are about to make many of your college decisions based on your ability to play sports at a particular college. What if you have a change of heart, get injured, or the coach is a jerk? Selecting your college solely because of a sports program or your interest in athletics might be ill-advised. If you feel uncertain about some of your responses to these questions, your college decision will probably be more of a compromise, and you should give greater thought to where and why your college selection is made.




Are You Sure College Sports are Right for You?


If you decide that you would like to go on to college after high school, you’ll be making a number of decisions during your high school experience. Perhaps the biggest decision to make, however, is which college to attend and which is the best fit. This is a difficult decision for most high school seniors, but especially for athletes, who have a number of extra things to consider.


Throughout the selection process, you should keep in mind that somewhere between 3% and 11% of high school athletes compete at the college level, so the transition process is already ‘thinning the herd’ regardless of whether one is talking about Junior College, NAIA or NCAA I, II, or III participation. The important factor for most elite athletes should not be the elusive scholarship, which may crop up or disappear regardless of division level. Rather, students and parents should assess optimal size and type of institution, the student’s academic interests and preparedness, the student’s commitment to his or her sport, and the student’s other extracurricular interests. As the recruiting season heats up for high school juniors and seniors, keeping such priorities in mind can be a huge challenge.


Right off the bat, you’ll have to decide what level of competition you feel most comfortable competing at: two-year Junior Colleges represented in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), or four-year schools that are represented in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).


NAIA member institutions award millions of dollars through athletic aid to eligible student-athletes and create an environment where competitive athletics, academic excellence, and the Champions of Character program (applying the five core values of respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership, and sportsmanship) walk hand in hand.


NCAA and NJCAA member colleges and universities are classified into three divisions (I, II, and III), based primarily on whether and how the school awards scholarships to incoming student-athletes.