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September 30, 2021

What to Do and When: Recruiting and College Applications for Athletes

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When should you start your recruiting process? When should you start your college applications? and, most importantly, how can you align these timelines to maximize your chances of getting into your dream school and committing to a team you love?

College applications don’t open until your senior year of high school, by which point you will likely have already done a lot of recruiting.

Here’s a simple calendar to help you get started:

Freshman Year
Start thinking about what kind of academic programs you’re interested in: you’ll want to find a school that fits you academically and athletically

  • Check the NCAA eligibility requirements to get on the right track

Start recruiting: coaches can’t reach out to you, but you can reach out to them

  • Send emails to coaches
  • Create highlight videos
  • Start building your social media accounts to represent yourself as an athlete
    • Follow coaches and teams you’re interested in
  • Sign up for club and travel teams

Related: Reaching out to Coaches

Sophomore Year
Start researching schools that fit the athletic association you want to compete in and the academic programs you’re interested in

  • Focus on your grades: you don’t want to lose eligibility or a coach’s interest because you couldn’t keep up with your schoolwork

Strengthen your athletic profile

  • Keep reaching out to coaches
    • Send your highlight video out
  • Sign up for camps and showcases
    • Improve your skills

Junior Year
Start matching your list of schools you’re interested in with schools where the coach is recruiting you. By the end of junior year, you should have a pretty good idea of where you’re going to commit, plus a few backups.

  • Make a list of schools, programs offered, and whether the coach is recruiting you
  • Go on campus visits to get a better idea of student life

Coaches can recruit you this year! Make sure you reach out to them again, now that they can get back to you. They should already know who you are by this point, but reaching out again increases the chance they’ll respond.

  • Invite coaches to your competitions
  • Keep attending showcases
  • Send coaches your highlight video
  • Coaches might start expecting verbal commitments around this time; an early verbal committing is not binding, but it has its pros and cons

Related: Why Committing Early in Distance Running is Not Best

Senior Year
Start applying for colleges. There are four options when applying for college: Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision, and sometimes Rolling Admission. Applying Early Action is better, so you can let the coach know sooner whether you got accepted. Only apply Early Decision if you are sure this is the school you want to attend – if you get accepted, you have to go there.

Early Decision and Early Action are usually due in November, Regular Decision in January, and Rolling Admissions don’t have a due date.

Choose a school to commit to, and sign your letter of intent! If you chose an NCAA team, you will be signing the NLI on either the early signing date (usually in the fall) or the late signing date (usually in the spring). Signing in the spring allows you time to hear back on your school application, but signing in the fall guarantees your spot on the team so the coach doesn’t offer it to someone else.