As college basketball marches on to the national tournament, many high school students are forced to the books by spring midterms. For the young basketball player, or any student-athlete for that matter, the sights of the high school junior and senior begin to turn towards college. The junior is beginning to consider his or her options, and the senior is getting excited for the next August. For the college bound athlete, there are a few things to consider when choosing a school. These tips are both from research and personal experience. These are geared for the athlete who has been considering a few scholarship offers, but they can be applied to anyone hoping to play in college.
- Do not get too far ahead of yourself. Take time and enjoy your high school years and your teammates. Even if you are a freshman and your heart is set on playing soccer at Stanford, your teammates at City High School will help you get there.
- Make sure the college fits you. If you have a scholarship offer to a college with 35,000 undergraduates, but you enjoy the campus that only has 4,000 undergraduates, sometimes the best decision isn’t for the prestige of the program, but what is best for you academically and socially.
- Don’t be afraid of the “break-up” call. When you make your decision, call the other coaches. Thank them for their time. Be honest and say that the school you did choose was a better fit.
- Stay in shape in the off-season. Physically and mentally. That’s not saying you should stay well-informed on your history or your math, but rather to keep your mind in competitive form. To stay in physical peak, keep in mind that when one turns 18, one often ages out of local club teams. Look in to a gym membership. EXACT has the tools to keep you in your mental competitive form and even give you an advantage before you go to college training.
- Take a look at this very useful list from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/08/7506102/how-to-choose-a-college-that-s-right-for-you. Evaluate your choice based on this general advice.
- Don’t be afraid to look at Division II, Division III, and NAIA schools. Some of them can be very competitive in their conferences. For example, Illinois Wesleyan (Div. III) had an undefeated women’s basketball team in 2008-09, and St Xavier (IL) football has made the NAIA title game the last two years in a row.
- Remember that it is student-athlete. If you’re a graduating senior and the sport you’re going to college for is over, be sure to stay focused on keeping your GPA to your university’s standards. It only takes one C- to go from a 3.5 GPA to a 3.3 on a 4.0 scale. The Letter of Intent is a contract between you and the school. And, recent public relations campaigns from the NCAA say, “most of us go professional in something other than sports.” When you get to college, classes are important.
Choosing a college can be an intensely stressful and difficult process, but it is also a very exciting time. These tips are a guideline for you the student-athlete (and you the parent) to helping you make your college choice.
Ultimately, it is about what you want out of the college experience. I know that when I set foot on my alma mater for the first time, I knew it was the place for me. If you get that feeling in your gut, go with it. You won’t be wrong. Remember, it is a huge accomplishment to graduate from a great school with a degree and to have played a sport while doing it will only pad your resume when you enter the professional field in something other than sports.