10 Things to Know About College Recruiting–for Students and Parents

I wrote this post after going through the recruiting experience with my daughter. I’ve received a few questions about recruiting lately and realized now is a good time to repost this with some updated info. If you have any questions for me, please ask them! I’d be happy to help if I can.

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My daughter in a race as a Piranha.

My daughter started college a little over a month ago as a student-athlete for a PAC 12, D1 university. She signed her letter of last Fall and now she’s hosting recruits at her college. As exciting as it was to go through the recruiting process, it’s even better to look back on it!

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Three teammates from my kids’ club team on the blocks in yellow caps.

Looking back, there was so much to know. I’m sharing 10 tips on HOW to be recruited to help you and your swimmer wade through pools of confusion and make it less overwhelming. A lot of these tips can be used for your student-athlete’s sport — even if it’s not swimming. Have fun! Enjoy the recruiting experience — because it’s an exciting time in your swimmer’s life — and in yours, too.1554486_780165738665332_1948124021_n

  1. Join a USA Swim Club. If you want to swim in college and you’re swimming in high school — join a club team right away! Most swimmers at the collegiate level have been USA Swimmers for years. It’s rare for college coaches to recruit high school only swimmers. Click here to find a local club! usas_logo
  2. Go to practice! Every single day. College coaches will call your club coach and ask about your character and work ethic. If you’re trying to be the best you can be, your club coach will recommend you wholeheartedly.
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    Teammates racing.

     

  3. Register with NCAA Clearing House. If you have questions, ask your high school counselor. It’s something all athletes have to do who want to participate in college sports.
  4. Take the right classes, SAT or ACT, and get good grades. Again, meet with your counselor. He or she can make sure you’re on track and doing everything you need to do to be eligible.
  5. Make a list of the schools you’re interested in:
    Dream schools — where have you always wanted to go.Geographic location — do you want to be close to home? Or in an entirely different part of the country?DI, DII or DIII? There is a division, conference and school for every swimmer. Determine where you fit by looking at the NCAA Division results.
    Do you score points in the conference championship meet? When you have a list of schools, check out the results from their conference meet. Chances are if you’d finish in the top 8, you’re a good candidate for a scholarship.

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    A meet in LA during my daughter’s age-group years.

  6. Contact coaches and schedule unofficial visits via email. Start early, sophomore or junior year. Unofficial visits offer a chance to look at campuses and visit teams. It also provides an opportunity to practice meeting and talking with coaches. We made a few unofficial visits at nearby schools our daughter was interested in before she was being recruited. The coaches were very good about taking time to speak to her and one gave my daughter, husband and me a campus tour.
  7. Most schools have online questionnaires for athletes. Be sure to fill out the ones you’re interested in. You can follow up with an email to the coach that you’ve completed their questionnaire. Plus, when you email, tell coaches something specific about why you’re interested in their school. Ask them questions about what they look for in a swimmer, or what their time requirements are.
  8. Ask your club coach about the rules of talking to college coaches at swim meets. Rules change, but generally, a college coach cannot approach you  — until after you’ve swum all your events at a meet. Again, your club coach can help with this.
  9. Be polite. Return phone calls and emails. Once the official recruiting season begins, be sure to be respectful of all coaches and colleges — even if they weren’t on your list. You never know where or when you’ll run into these people again. Coaches move around — and they tend to have friends they talk to that are coaches!
  10. You’re allowed to take up to five official recruit trips. If you’ve talked to coaches on the phone or in person and they want you on their team, they’ll invite you for an official visit. You’ll stay with freshman or sophomore teammates and have a full schedule of events so you can get a feel for the school and team. Let coaches know right away if you’re interested or not in taking the recruit trip.

If you want more information, or have specific questions, I’ve linked several stories. Or, leave a comment and I’ll answer your question.

Here’s a great article about preparing for recruit trips from SwimSwam.

Two more articles: Swimming Recruiting – 5 Tips to Swimming in College and Quick Tips For College Swimming Recruits

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How parents can help their kids get into college

Parents can offer a lot of help and support on the road to finding the right college. But, don’t take over and do it all for your kids. I can’t tell you how tempting it can be to lead the college hunt—if you’re a parent who helps out on a daily basis—like driving forgotten lunches and papers to school when they’re in high school. Yes, guilty! I know one parent, whose son failed miserably out of college after college. This parent admitted that he had written all the college essays and filled out the applications. He begged me not to do the same for my children.

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My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

On the other hand, someone needs to keep track of what’s going on and that your child is meeting deadlines. The junior and senior years can be really tough with crazy, hectic schedules, proms, AP tests, etc.. We can’t back off at this critical moment and expect our 16 or 17-year-old to know instinctively what to do. Also, you can’t count on your high school to get your child into college. Not all high counselors are created equal. Some are really good at talking to kids and helping them through the process, while other counselors might not see it as their responsibility. They may have so many kids on many different tracks that they can’t offer one-one-one college counseling.

Here’s a check list of what can parents do:

1. Set up a master calendar. It’s a good idea to get a big, giant calendar or white board for your student and mark down all the important dates like SAT, ACT tests, college visit, deadlines for applications, FAFSA, etc.

2. Here’s what your child needs when it’s time to submit applications (don’t wait until the last minute to get these! You’ll only add to the stress if you wait):
—Official transcripts from all secondary schools attended.
—One letter of recommendation from an adult guidance/college counselor, coach, employer etc.
—One letter of recommendation from a teacher who can speak about academic ability.
—SAT or ACT scores

3. Review the essays. Don’t write them, but read them with a critical eye and get some feedback from other adults who you admire in terms of their writing or smarts.

4. Research schools. You can do initial research into schools’ majors, costs, and find out what their admission standards are. Every college has a website and if you dig deep into the admissions sections, you can find out the ranges of grades and SAT scores.

5. Make sure your child is taking the necessary classes and keeping the grades above a C. Don’t nag, but don’t let them slack, either.

6. If your child needs help with testing, enroll them in a SAT prep class. I did this for my daughter, who is not a good test taker and although she hated going, she thanked me afterward. She said the class, taught at a local high school over the summer, really, really helped.

7. Stay calm. This can be a bumpy road with pot holes and rocks along the way. Your teenager may procrastinate or suffer from anxiety over getting the college applications done. Parents can set the tone and keep the stress at bay, or they can add to it.

How do you think parents can help their kids through the college application process?

 

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My son’s high school graduation.

 

What are the odds of an athletic college scholarship?

 

 

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Pac-12 Champs.

 

I didn’t realize how lucky our family was. That is until one of my daughter’s former swim coaches sent me the “Odds of a High School Athlete Playing College Sports.” There is so much interesting data in this link, I recommend you explore it thoroughly. Although I keep telling other swim parents that there truly is a college for everyone—the odds are against getting a scholarship. The stats in the chart are about who plays in college–not who gets a scholarship. When you look at the depressing percentages of the number of college athletes versus those who participated in high school, keep in mind that the scholarship numbers are significantly lower than the numbers on the chart.

Our daughter is lucky she got one. However, never once during kindergarten through high school senior year did we put pressure on her to get a scholarship. It was a reward for her consistent hard work and love of swimming—kind of like an extra cherry in your Shirley Temple.

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Here’s a chart from the “Odds of a High School Athlete Playing College Sports” link above.

 

I know a couple kids who wanted to get into a particular school, for example, one applied to New York University—and when she talked to the swim coach—she was “flagged” for admission. It made a statistically tough numbers game to get into a top university more of a sure thing. Lately, NYU has had record-breaking 60,000 applicants annually and offers acceptance to around 18,000. Out of those, less than 6,000 attend. Having a coach on your child’s side can make a difference in getting in.

My son wouldn’t go near a pool when we were doing college tours. He refused to talk to a single coach. Looking back, he said that it was a mistake on his part. Maybe he should have explored swimming and not turned his back on a sport he’d spent 10 plus years pursuing. After getting rejected by eight out of nine schools he applied to, he thinks maybe talking to coaches could have given him more choices. It might have, but we’ll never know.

When my kids were younger, we looked up to this super fast sprinter on our club team. He won CIF and was so much faster than any kid around. Our mouths dropped open when we heard about his college scholarship at Arizona State University. Books. Yes, that was it—books only.

So, what are the odds of getting a scholarship if you’re a swimmer? Let’s look at the numbers for women, which have slightly better odds than men. There are approximately 166,838 high school female swimmers according to statistics from 2015. Of that pool of athletes,13,759 get spots on a college team. The chart below shows that 7.8% of high school swimmers swim at the college level and only 3.1% swim at the NCAA D1 level. That’s the participation rate–and not all athletes get scholarships. So, it’s a fraction of 3.1 percent–in the case of women’s D1 swimming, and even less for men.

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Here’s some more fine print from the data: Men’s swim teams are limited to 9.9 scholarships and Women’s swim teams are limited to 14.

“*Do the Math!   NCAA Division I men’s teams have an average roster of 29 swimmers but a limit of 9.9 scholarships to award per team. This means the average award covers only about 1/3 of annual college costs, and this assumes swimming is a fully funded sport at the specific school. Swimming is an equivalency sport for NCAA limits, so partial scholarships can be awarded as long as the combined equivalent awards do not exceed the limit. For example, an NCAA I school can award 21 women swimmers each a 2/3 equivalent scholarship and still meet the limit of 14 per team.”

We need to remember as parents, that putting our child in a certain sport for the hopes of a college scholarship isn’t that smart. They need to be passionate about their activities and spend all those hours and sacrifices because they want it. Not because of a dream we have for them to earn a scholarship. I do know that a lot of my children’s friends and teammates got college scholarships. So, it’s not impossible, but it’s important to put it into a realistic perspective.

What are your thoughts about college athletics and scholarship opportunities?

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Senior recognition day. The last home meet for women swimmers.

 

 

3 Things My Son Did Wrong Applying to College

My son and friend at high school graduation.

My son and friend at high school graduation.

My son applied for college four years ago. Yes, he got in. But, it wasn’t to his first choice school. Nor, to his second. It was more like his 9th. Yes he got into one out of nine schools — his fall back school.

So what did this smart, kind, valedictorian, athlete, musician student do wrong?

First, the list of schools he applied to were all big-name top tier schools, ie. Harvard, Columbia, Yale, CalTech and Stanford, to name a few.

Please, do your research and apply to a wider variety of schools. Each application costs you money. Pick each school you apply to with care. There are many great state schools, small private schools and everything in between.

imgres-4Second, he freaked out about the essay. 

He sat for countless hours worrying about what to write staring at the blank computer screen. Looking back on it, he said it terrified him because he thought the essay was going to be the definitive work of his life.

Trust me. It’s not. Keep it simple, write in your own voice and give yourself time to rewrite, revise and rewrite again.  Let someone — a parent or teacher — read it before you send it in.

Robert with bandmates at the scholarship banquet

Robert with bandmates at the scholarship banquet

Third. He refused to show need of any kind. One of the 14 factors colleges look for in admissions is:  “Academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences and special circumstances, including but not limited to: disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations or circumstances, refugee status or veteran status.” I wrote about that here.

He truly had struggles with asthma. He had so many setbacks with swimming and missing school because of his health that most kids won’t experience. But, he said he wasn’t “playing that card.” My advice? Play whatever cards you’re given!

With upwards of 75,000 applying to a school that accepts less than 5,000 incoming freshman — it’s a numbers game. I wrote more about the numbers here in “My Son Wrote About His Crazy Mom for His Senior Project.”

Just for fun, you can listen to his highschool band, The Saucy Stenographers here. The song is called Desert Nights, written by Robert and sung by Marilynn Wexler.

With my son at the beach

With my son at the beach