A Must Do Checklist for Student-Athletes in the Fall
Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) is committed to helping student-athletes manage the stress and to-do’s that come with the athletic recruiting process. Whether you’re starting your college search as an underclassman, gearing up to communicate with college coaches as a junior or heading into the final stretch as a senior, there are steps you can follow to ensure you find the best athletic, academic, social and financial college fit. Start by reviewing how the NCAA Recruiting Rules and Calendars affect freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors differently. Then, find your checklist below to ensure you stay on track athletically and academically this school year!
- Check in with your high school guidance counselor to figure out which classes you can take this year and make sure you have a plan to maintain your NCAA eligibility.
- Let your high school and/or club coach know you’re interested in competing at the college level. They can help support your recruiting efforts, from evaluations and recommendations to reaching out to college coaches in their network.
- Jot down 5 dream schools. What do you like—and not like—about them? Out of those qualities, what’s most and least important to you? Check out online campus tours to narrow down your preferences – school size, location and more!
- Begin researching college rosters. They provide insights on the type of athletes coaches want to recruit, where they recruit and if they’re recruiting your position.
- Brush up on your financial literacy. It’s a good idea to understand the types of academic, athletic and financial aid, what types of aid are offered at each division, and the differences between equivalency and head-count sports.
- Check in with your high school guidance counselor to find your high school’s list of NCAA core courses. Are you on track to meet D1 or D2 minimum eligibility requirements?
- Create a game plan for the PSAT. The PSAT is great practice for the ACT/SAT—not only does it establish a baseline for how you should prepare for those tests, but it also identifies National Merit Scholars and awards merit scholarships to top performers.
- Create a free profile page with the NCAA. This your best bet if you’re keeping your options open or if you’re interested in D3 schools. You can always upgrade to a Certification Account if you start receiving interest (or offers!) from D1 or D2 college coaches.
- Determine your family’s Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC) to estimate your federal student aid eligibility and then establish college funding strategies.
- Size up the competition. How do you compare to your dream schools’ team rosters? Are your academics on par with the average player GPA? How about your measurables and athletic stats? Where are the players from? Does it seem like the coach recruits in a certain area?
- Keep track of schools you’re interested in. By now, you should have 5-10 safety schools, 10-15 target schools and 5-10 dream schools on your list.
- Check in with your high school guidance counselor. Are you on track to graduate on time with the required number of NCAA core courses? 10 of your core courses will be locked in at the end of your junior year. If you failed or got a low grade in an important class early in high school, make sure you retake that class before the end of your junior year.
- Talk to your high school/club coach or an NCSA recruiting expert. By now, you should have a clear game plan for your athletic recruiting to-do’s. What areas can you improve in? What types of schools do you want to apply to and how do you compare to current team rosters?
- Narrow down your list of target schools—and reach out to coaches. Make sure you have at least 30-40 schools on your list including a mix of safety, target and dream schools.
- Create a game plan for the ACT and SAT. Stay current on testing dates and registration deadlines. Remember to consider all the costs associated with the ACT and SAT tests including fees, fee waivers, tutoring or test prep resources.
- Follow your top choices on Twitter and Instagram. Following a team or coach on social media is a unique way to set yourself apart from other recruits. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at a team’s dynamics, stay up-to-date on their accomplishments, and show coaches that you’re genuinely interested in their program.
- Take a campus tour. Unofficial or official visits provide a great opportunity to get some one-on-one time with a college coach, meet your potential team and tour the campus/athletic facilities. Many schools also offer virtual tours for a safe, cost-effective way to get a good feel for the school.
- Check in with your high school guidance counselor to confirm your NCAA eligibility. Once you start your senior year (seventh semester of high school), ten of your core courses are “locked in,” meaning you can’t retake or replace any of these courses to improve your GPA.
- Retake the ACT or SAT (if necessary) to maximize your scholarship opportunities or improve your admissions chances at highly selective schools.
- Complete your FAFSA starting October 1. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal grants, loans and work-study funds administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Try to complete it ASAP—aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- Refine and finalize your target schools. Be realistic with your safety, target and dream schools. If you haven’t received an offer or much attention from college coaches, expand your search to include schools at all division levels — some of these coaches recruit well into senior year.
- Start applying to schools. Make sure you know which schools have set application deadlines or offer rolling admissions. While some colleges allow students to apply for free, the average college application fee was $44 in 2020. If you’re applying to multiple schools, these costs can add up. The College Board allows you to search for college application fee waivers—whether you’re an in-state resident, first-year student or meet certain income criteria.
- Initial Signing Date starts November 10 for most sports, excluding football and basketball. This is the first (not the only!) day you can officially sign with D1 and D2 schools.
No matter what grade level you’re in, don’t forget to keep developing athletically! Stick to a regular workout and training schedule during your sport season and in the off-season. Practice, train, lift and work to level up your sport-specific skills and overall athleticism.
If you’re thinking about competing at the college level, take the next step in your recruiting and create your free NCSA recruiting profile so college coaches can easily find your information online. You’ll also unlock access to NCSA’s digital tools and recruiting education resources to help guide you throughout your recruiting journey!