Five College Factors to Consider & Compare
Choosing a college to attend is one of the most important decisions a student can make. Researching colleges is an integral part of this big decision, especially for student-athletes. There are a lot of factors to consider, so we have compiled a list to help guide you when considering colleges, or comparing your top choices.
All Colleges & Universities are different, so you must try to understand those differences before deciding where you will spend your next 4 to 5 years of academic and athletic life.
Location/Distance From Home
Knowing where the school is located is important to consider how far from home you will be living. How often do you intend to visit home? How easy will it be for your parents to visit you on campus or attend your games? These are the questions you have to answer and decide what colleges fit your preferences.
Do you want the small campus life, or do you want the big-time university experience? Finding out how many students attend a college will help you understand what kind of experience you will have.
Type of College
In addition to the student population, there are many different types of colleges. You can attend school in either urban or rural areas, which will have a major impact on the campus life. Some universities put an emphasis on sports and you can feel the school spirit as soon as you step on campus, while others make sure that students feel the importance of higher learning on campus and sports are celebrated at designated times & locations on campus. Also, you must consider how the college interacts with the city/town it is located in. Do you want to be in a “college town” where all the locals know who you are if you play sports, or would you prefer to be able to go off campus and enjoy the town/city as a local visitor? There are various types of colleges to consider, so you must take your time to decide what type of college fits you as a student-athlete.
All universities were not created equal, and that can work to your benefit. An institution of higher learning could have an alumni program that is known for helping students get exclusive internships & job interviews. Some colleges have excellent study abroad programs, and others offer unique financial help to their students. There are many more opportunities that universities provide that are unique to their schools, but it is up to you to do your research and find out what they can offer that interests you.
NCAA DIVISIONS EXPLAINED
COST & SCHOLARSHIP
Money is always a factor, your college decision should be no different. When considering the cost of attending a college, look into all costs, not just the tuition or scholarship amount you will receive.
Tuition & Room & Board
Tuition is an important indicator of what school costs will be, but it doesn’t paint the entire picture. Room & board, books & supplies, travel expenses, and leisure activity costs all have to be considered as well. Most of these costs can be found during the research of a school’s available information. Travel expenses & leisure activity costs will take some work from you individually. How expensive will it be for you to travel to and from school for home visits & Holiday? What are the costs to hang out with friends outside of school, or attend local concerts & events? These are the costs that will ultimately decide if the school fits your financial situation.
How much do you plan to receive in academic and/or athletic aid? Will your academic aid cover all your expenses, or how much difference will you have to cover yourself? The same question applies with athletic aid if you are not a full scholarship. The answers to these questions could be the difference between accruing large debt over your college career, or being financial stable upon graduation.
If you have a full ride scholarship, that DOES NOT pay for all your college expenses. But it does lower the total amount of expenses, and plays an important role when deciding which school to attend. The same applies to partial athletic scholarships, which can ease the financial burden of college but should not be confused with covering all costs.
Education is the #1 priority for colleges, and should be your top priority as well. For this reason, you want to attend a school that fits your educational needs and aptitude to learn.
Top 3 Major Options
Even if you don’t have a decided major, choose three areas that interest you the most. If your prospective schools offer any of your options, that is helpful in deciding where you want to study. If a school doesn't offer any of the majors on your list, it's unlikely that it will fit your educational goals.
Student-Faculty ratio will determine if students are given proper 1-on-1 time with their teachers. Depending on the type of school and student population, you could either be on a first name basis with your teachers or be “Student A, from class B”. Your individual preference for class sizes will make this ratio more or less important in your decision.
Can you get in? That’s a very good question you must answer quickly. Acceptance rates will allow you to see how particular a school is about the students it allows to attend. Compare your current grades & test scores to the entrance requirements. If you are right on the border of numbers, you might want to make sure the school has a high acceptance rate. If your numbers are much better than the entrance requirements, you can look at more selective schools without fear of not being admitted. Either way, be sure to know what the rates are for your overall comparisons.
Average Freshman Scores & GPA
Getting into a college is great, but you want to stay there as well. Look closely into freshman students' test scores (how they got into the school) and first year GPAs (how/if they stayed in the school). The correlation will allow you to see how difficult the transition into college is at the school. Universities with high freshman GPAs usually means the students admitted are right for the educational curriculum. If the freshman GPAs are low, it could be an indicator of a school that allows less than ideal students into an educational system that is not right for them. Insight into freshman GPAs could help you make the best choice when deciding where you want to begin your education.
Everything previously mentioned is useless if you are not being recruited by the colleges on your list. If you want to be a collegiate student-athlete, you must get in the recruitment process with schools you want to attend.
Research the Roster
Take a look at the current roster and see if your measurables & stats match up to the current players. Does the team have a lot of upperclassmen at your position? Also, what area/region are most of the players from? Are you from the same area/region? Answering these questions will let you know if you have a chance to be on the school’s recruiting radar.
Head coach, assistant coaches, position coaches, recruiting coaches, and anyone else on the coaching staff should be contacted. If anyone from the staff responds, then you have a contact that can help you communicate with the team throughout the recruiting process. Be sure to fill out any questionnaires the school provides, as well as sending as much information about you that you have available. If you really want to be recruited by a school, you want to stay on their radar as much as possible.
If a school is close enough for you to participate in their offseason camps, GO! You want to get as much face time with the staff as possible.
Official/Unofficial Visit Opportunities
Taking visits to a school can be an additional opportunity to decide if the school and program are right for you. If you have the opportunity, be sure to take advantage of this unique moment in the recruiting process.
All the things previously mentioned are extremely important in deciding where you want to attend college, but it is always a good idea to listen to your instincts. Your instincts will let you know how you feel about a school, despite all the information and research you have done. If you would like to attend a college, even without playing a sport, then you know that's a school that you can definitely consider. When you are comparing schools that meet most (if not all) your preferences and one just “feels right”, then you need not overthink it. Ultimately, choosing a college is your decision to make and that decision should make you happy.