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Scoring an Athletic Scholarship

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Updated on May 21, 2014

Your teen has been balancing academics, athletics, and high school social life for years now. But all her hard work is about to pay off: as most kids and parents know, the more accomplished teens are in a variety of fields, the better their chances of getting into the college or university of their dreams.

But for some, high school sports aren't just an extra on the college application. In fact, for many accomplished all-stars, sports can mean a free ticket to the college of their choice, and a chance to play with the big boys. But hard work on the field isn't all it takes, according to Nancy Nitardy, former ivy league head coach and author of a scholarship guide for student-athletes called Get Paid to Play. Here is Nitardy's list of do's and don'ts for scoring that athletic scholarship:

  • Do take research to the next level. Sure, you know you want to study psychology and play volleyball, but how do you know if you have what it takes on the court? “The best way to determine what it might take is to go on the school website and look at the roster,” advises Nitardy. Most team rosters will list the height and weight of their players. So, if all the girls on the volleyball team are over six feet tall, and you're 5'9'' on a good day, chances are you won't get on the team, let alone off the bench.
  • Do make a tape that shows your best. Coaches use stats and scores to scope out athletes, but seeing really is believing. High school athletes should plan to make a videotape of themselves playing, but make sure to keep the focus on the game, not your computer's graphic design program or your favorite pump-up music. “They don't have to be fancy,” says Nitardy. “Most coaches just want to see you compete.” She advises athletes to make sure it's clear which team, position, and jersey number to look out for, and try to keep at least a few other players in view.
  • Don't just sit there waiting to be found. “Kids are used to being stars in high school,” says Nitardy. “Especially with the boys, they sit there waiting for coaches to find them.” But no matter how many home runs you hit last year, coaches want to see real interest in the school and the team their recruiting for. This can indicate how dedicated a player will be in the long run.
  • Don't let your grades slide. Being a superstar on the field and keeping your eye on the ball academically is tough, and colleges know it. So why not impress them with a great record all around? Even if school isn't your strong suit, studying hard to turn a “C” into a “B” can put you ahead. “I'm probably recruiting more than one athlete for one spot, and I'm going to take the ones with better grades,” says Nitardy.
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