Almost every high school athlete thinks about what schools will want them to attend their collegiate institutions. But there’s another question that’s just as important: what schools do you wish to attend? The “Best” schools, with the biggest names and the most storied athletic programs aren’t for everyone. Here’s a checklist of the most important things to consider when targeting collegiate institutions:
What part of the country are you interested in and how much does temperature matter? Where would you feel safe? Do you want to stay close to home, get as far away as you can, or are you flexible? Environment: do you want to be in the heart of the city, at a school like Michigan or USC? Out in the country, at a place like Washington? In the suburbs, classic college towns like Gainesville, Huntsville or Lafayette? Be aware that you may feel differently after a year or two than you do today, you might adjust quickly to a new place, or decide you wish you’d made the jump and left your hometown. Try to keep an open mind.
Sports are a big part of an athlete’s college experience, but that’s not the only part. Ultimately, college is a place to get an education and academics are a crucial consideration. Look into whether a college has a strong program in your 1st choice are of study. It may even be worth your time to take a look at other programs you’re interested in, in case you change your mind. Most importantly, ask yourself about any potential school: do you feel like you could succeed there?
There are a few schools that are athletic and academic powerhouses – Stanford, for example – but there are also a lot of academically elite schools where athletics are a ticket in the door. On the other hand, there are some big athletic schools where the academics are weak. Remember: your degree will be with you for the rest of your life.
How do you want your college athletic experience to be? Is it a way to pay for college, make friends and build character, or do you hope to go pro? Does the division level matter to you (DI, II, or III; NAIA; NJCAA), and is the division you are targeting realistic for your athletic and academic qualifications? Would you stay if the coach left (this can happen – don’t choose a school for the coach.
The more competitive your school, the less playing time you are likely to get early on. Unless you’re one of the top 0.1% of recruits, you probably won’t start your first year as a football player at Alabama, a basketball player at Duke, or a softball player at Arizona State. You may never get a chance to start at all. Which is more important to you – playing time or being part of a top-tier program?
Are you looking for a small, tight-knit group at a small college, or a massive student body like you’d find at a Big Ten or SEC school? Big schools can be intimidating at first but provide a chance to do a lot of exploring; small schools tend to foster a strong sense of community. Consider whether you would prefer big lecture halls or small seminars. Size has nothing to do with how good the school is – great schools come in all sizes.
So now that you know all the above – what are the schools that fit what you’re looking for? Good Luck!!!