When should students begin their college search? The earlier the better—it is important to start thinking about college by sophomore year of high school. For most families, a good time to begin would be toward the end of the student’s sophomore year or early in the student’s junior year. Ideally, college visits should begin by winter/spring of junior year. It is important to ask as many questions as possible while visiting, talk to students on campus, visit classes in your major, check out the multi-media facilities, etc. Working with me prior to this time, would ensure that the student(s) will have developed a preliminary list of colleges to consider for those visits.
What are the stages in the college search? It is a lengthy process but here are the basics: Prepare yourself–take the right courses in high school, necessary standardized tests—PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT, community and extra-curricular activities—develop a resume, attend college fairs, and visit colleges. Plan-check out various applications of schools you may be interested in-determine admissions requirements—essays, letters of recommendation, additional testing requirements, financial aid and available scholarships, Applications—watch deadlines for regular action, early action, and early decision, make rough draft copies of applications, even if you are applying on line. Work diligently on any required essays—choose topic carefully, be sure to proof read applications and essays and if possible, have someone check it for you. Decision Making—Once you receive your acceptance letter(s), review the financial aid package you have received from each school, weigh the pros and cons of each school, perhaps, visit the campus again and sit in on class in your major, talk to more students on campus. Check out the social scene on the campus. Determine if you can see yourself as part of the student body.
When should the student begin formally applying? Fall of their senior year of high school.
When should the student take the SAT? I would recommend at least once in the junior year (preferably March/April, May, or June). Perhaps, some students may consider taking it twice in junior year—January and then one of the other dates. Depending on the scores received, they may wish to take it again in the fall of senior year (October would be best). Some schools require students to take Subject tests (SAT II)—they should be taken when the student completes the course in high school. For example, if a student takes Biology as a sophomore, they should take the Subject test in Biology, if required by the college, at the end of the sophomore year.
When does the student need to make their decision for what school they will attend? Again, this can be complicated, because not all schools send their acceptances at the same time—some are rolling admissions which means the decisions arrive quickly, usually within a month or two of applying, whereas, some schools have much later notification dates—like March or April. For the most part, a late March-mid-April deadline should be the latest targeted time for all seniors make their final decisions. Also, for some majors which have limited space, it may be necessary to make a decision within days or weeks of an acceptance to receive the open seat in the major.
How should the student and parent promote their son or daughters athletic ability if hoping to get an athletic scholarship? Student athletes need to identify their academic and athletic abilities and what division level student athlete they are, in order to target the right schools where they have the best chance of competing for an opportunity and/or receiving a scholarship. Students should ask all of their coaches and others what they think of the student’s athletic abilities and at what division level they believe the student could compete in.
Coaches hope to hear from good athletes themselves who are interested in their programs. Some athletes may come to coaches’ attention naturally, but there aren’t enough of them for a coach to fill his or her roster. In many cases, there are many more opportunities available than there are available student athletes. Coaches most likely do not have the resources to tour the entire country to find every qualified student athlete. The recruiting process will take time, student athletes will need to start as early as possible. The best plan is to begin contacting coaches when JV or Varsity stats and film are available to show, usually by junior year. Cover letters, profile-resumes, stats, video and references become key for the coach in the recruiting and evaluating process. It is crucial that student athletes make the initial contact with a coach and “market” themselves. If student athletes don’t do this, other student athletes will get the opportunity, get noticed and get recruited because they and their parents will have made the effort and received the coach’s attention.
What if the student is offered an athletic scholarship but that school does not offer their major of choice? First and foremost, students need to be sure that the school they choose is helping to build a strong foundation in the career they wish to pursue, and that it has the resources available to assist the student in finding a job after college. Consider how competitive the school is in the career field you are choosing and if you haven’t decided what major you are going to pursue, consider how many options the school offers for you related to your interests. Most importantly, consider whether the student would be happy attending the school if he/she were unable to play their sport of choice. If there comes a day the student is unable to continue playing for any number of reasons, he/she must consider how happy he/she would be in the school and social environment. Remember not to limit yourself or your potential for future success!
How do you suggest the student balance school and athletics? Choose your sport (s) carefully—be well-informed about demands of participation—practice schedules, games, other requirements. Your main purpose in college is to get a degree in your chosen field. Use time management to make a schedule for yourself so that you allow enough time for studying and for your sport, and for your social life.