Nationwide college graduation rates over a six year period are just over 50%. It is especially important for you as a student-athlete to research options, know the questions to ask, and take the time to find the right fit so that you are in the graduating 50% and invest in the right athletic program from the start. If successful, the right choice can save you money, frustration and put you on a fast-track to a successful and rewarding career path. Consider these four categories.
Location & Size of School: The school location and student population may heavily influence your college choice. Each location will offer a unique set of opportunities and experiences. Do you want the offerings of a large city or are you more comfortable in rural environment? What resources will you need to access (e.g. transportation, museums, prospective employers, industry and nature)? Take the time to consider what makes you happy now, what opportunities you want in the future, and how population density and surroundings may influence your well-being.
Some students want to live in the city where there are lots of things taking place. For instance, Boston has the largest college student populations of any city in the world, with close to 65-schools and colleges in the greater Boston area. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may feel more at home at a school in a rural setting.
Also, consider is the size of the student population and average class sizes within your proposed major. You may need to break these numbers down to better understand how the size of the student population may affect you personally. Consider the student population broken into the following categories: total school, undergraduate, by department and by major.
Academics: If you are seeking a particular major, your may severely limit your college choices. Keep in mind that nationwide, approximately 50% of college students change majors at least once before college graduation. Try to find a school that has several majors of potential interest.
If you do have a major in mind, make sure to compare the prospective program to other schools. Consider the program's reputation and record of job placement or acceptance into graduate programs. Take the time to meet with a representative from that program.
Realistically compare your transcript to the acceptance requirements of each school. If you are being recruited by a particular school, the athletic program may have some influence in assisting in your acceptance, but for the most part, schools have little leeway. The special athletic "slots" are usually used on the top players being recruited by that school. The reality is that better grades, rank, and board scores will provide you more college choices, so study hard!
Financial: You can quite easily find what it costs to attend schools online. If you are in contact with a prospective soccer program, they may be able to request a pre-read from admissions during your Junior year to estimate possible academic and need-based aid likely available based on your FASFA forms. Soccer scholarships are few and far between. Coaches have many ways of dividing money up for recruits and not all programs are the same.
The costs of a college degree are continually rising and vary greatly. Some programs are so prestigious or have such exceptional job placement rates that they are worth the extra cost. Others are not. If money is a concern, evaluate the pros and cons of paying more.
Athletic Standards: What level of play suits you? How much college soccer have you watched, either on Fox Soccer Channel, streamed off college websites or live on a college campus? The more college soccer you see, the better you will be informed of where you can play! You don’t want to waste your time pursuing college soccer programs that are totally out of your reach. Keep in mind that even within collegiate divisions, there is a lot of variation in athletic standards.
You have to pay attention to the style of play of the school and consider how you may fit in. Also, you have to pay attention to the recruiting class size and recruiting needs of the school. Are they looking to play you in your preferred position or do they intend on playing you somewhere else on the field? Don’t be afraid to ask the coach of your incoming year’s recruitment class size and the program’s average retention rate of athletes.