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The Steps of the College Recruiting Process
This isn t a literal process where each step needs to be completed before the next. Sometimes coaches combined steps, for example, they might learn of an athlete at a showcase and making an evaluation all in the same day. They might also be prepared to offer a scholarship within a week or two if they feel you are exactly what they are looking for and it is late in the recruiting process. These cases are rare and it is more common that the process is drawn out over several months of even years and follows the steps laid out below.
Step #1: Generating Initial Interest though Letters, Questionnaires and Camp Invites
For any program, the first step in the recruiting process is to fill their recruiting class with potential recruits. At this step, coaches are looking for some generic numbers, things like height/weight, sport specific rankings, certain times/personal bests or athletes who have contacted them (via email or filled out recruiting questionnaires). These initial letters, camp invites or recruiting questionnaires are used to build a database of athletes and their contact information.
For really big programs, this initial list of recruits could be up to 5,000 athletes.
Your Responsibility: You should take the time to respond to every letter or invite you get from a college. Make sure you have emailed the coach, called them and filled out the recruiting questionnaire (where available).
*Insider Tip: Don’t over think this type of recruiting interest. While it is good you are hearing something from a college, the first contact is just that, the first contact. This is especially true if the initial interest is happening in the 8 th or 9 th grade. There are several steps in the process between getting letter and getting scholarship offers.
Step #2: Making Initial Evaluations
After a program has identified potential recruits, they begin making initial evaluations. This is not the same for each coach or even each athlete. For sports like football, basketball or soccer this could mean watching a highlight film. Sports like track or swimming, it could mean looking at your times and talking to your coach to get a sense for how much training you do. At this point in the recruiting process coaches, are trying to determine “what your potential is.”
Large programs are going to be making initial evaluations of 1,000 or more athletes; making sure of things like academic eligibility, athletic ability and potential.
Your Responsibility: This is where having all of your athletic and academic information organized can really help coaches. Because coaches are looking at so many recruits, they don’t have patience for poorly formatted highlight videos or athletes who can’t gather the basic info they need. Be prepared to get coaches your video, verifiable results and academic information in an organized packet or online profile.
Step #3: Secondary Evaluations: Contacting the Family and Hosting Visits
This is the point in the recruiting process where many families assume recruiting starts. When coaches are watching you in person, actively calling and inviting you on visits (official or unofficial), this is advanced recruiting interest. These types of evaluations are character evaluations as much as they are athletic or academic evaluations. It doesn’t mean a scholarship is likely or even a possibility (sometimes they recruit walk-ons just as hard as scholarship athletes), but it is a good sign they have genuine interest in you.
Large schools are going to be looking at 100-500 recruits depending on their recruiting needs.
Your Responsibility: As a recruit, this is your opportunity to get to know the program as much as they are getting to know you. Make sure you are engaged, asking the coach questions about how they run they program and what type of role they see for you. Coach’s move quickly after evaluations in locking up the athletes they want. Not preparing at this stage will lead to more anxiety at the next step when scholarship offers are being made.
Step #4: Extending Verbal Offers and Getting Commitments
After making their evaluations, coaches meet, rank the recruits and begin sending out offers (these could be scholarships or walk-on offers). This is the point in the process where families can get uncomfortable when coaches putting time limits on offers and are asking for commitments weeks or even days after making an offer. Unless you are an undisputed number one recruit, for whom a program is willing to hold a scholarship, you will be asked to make a decision on a scholarship offer in a couple of days or weeks.
Depending on if the scholarships are head-count (full-rides only) or equivalency (partial scholarships) it is hard to say how many scholarship offers a program will extend. As a general rule, coaches have a couple of athletes in mind for each scholarship (full or partial) and put qualifiers (time limits) on their offers depending on how soon they need a commitment.
Your Responsibility : There isn’t much you can do outside of being prepared to make a decision. This is where the research and conversations you’ve had with the coach earlier will pay off.
*Insider Tip: Many recruits and families feel rushed and unsure when an offer is made, that is a natural thing. Thinking things like “what if I make the wrong decision” or “I’ll never know what the other program was going to offer” is expected.
Step #5: Signing New Athletes
From the time you commit until you sign, coaches are going to continue to evaluate you and make sure you are who they expect you to be. Every year, athletes who’ve made verbal commitments lose their scholarships because they get into trouble on social media, their grades drop, they get injured or there is a coaching change. Coaches are prepared to offer you a scholarship when you verbally commitment, but that doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want from the time you commit until you sign.
Most of the time athletes sign the scholarship offers promised to them without a hitch. Coaches don t like to pull scholarship offers because it is a messy process for the school and the recruit, but it can happen and you should be aware.
Your Responsibility: You can t do anything about losing your scholarship due to injury or coaching change, but you can stay out of trouble and keep your grades up. Don t relax and think your are done with recruiting when you make a verbal commitment.
*Insider Tip: As a recruit, you need to be aware of what is expected of you from the time you commit to the time you sign for your scholarship. Make sure you have a clear set of expectations between you and the coach and that you are staying in regular contact. You are still in a competition for playing time and your future role on the team.