Applying College Well: The Student Athlete
Athletic talent can be the biggest hook of all when it comes to admission at a selective college. If you are an exceptionally strong athlete and want to play in college, you should read this article.
The more than eight hundred colleges that are part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are divided into three divisions. Division I houses the most athletically competitive programs and, with eighteen exceptions, all offer athletic scholarships. The Big Ten schools (actually eleven since Pennsylvania State University joined the conference) are all Division I, as are Stanford, the Ivy League, and many others. Division II schools, which offer some scholarships, are less competitive both athletically and academically than most Division I schools. They tend to be regional universities like the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, and California State University, Chico, as well as private colleges that draw students primarily from their local area.
Division III schools are more selective academically than Division II schools but less competitive athletically. Liberal arts colleges like Bowdoin College, Amherst College, and Lafayette College are in Division III. So are some selective universities like Emory University, New York University, and Carnegie Mellon University. Division III coaches want to win just as much as the well-publicized Division I schools. Almost every college takes athletic recruitment seriously, with a few exceptions like the University of Chicago and Cal Tech. A complete list of NCAA membership by division can be found at www.ncaa.org.
Coaches are always looking for athletic talent. Sometimes that talent comes to their attention when high school students are nationally ranked in their sport or when they receive other sports-related honors. Coaches keep track of such students with an eye toward actively recruiting them when it comes time for college admission. These students are fairly rare. Far more often, talented student-athletes bring themselves to a coach’s attention by expressing interest through correspondence that provides relevant athletic and academic statistics.
The NCAA sets rigid guidelines that govern student eligibility as well as the recruitment process. Strict rules govern when and how often a coach can contact a prospective athlete, as well as what can and cannot be reimbursed if an athlete comes to campus for an interview. The rules ensure that eager coaches do not overwhelm young athletes. You can find the guidelines that govern the division you are interested in at the NCAA Web site noted above. By and large, the rules bind the coaches more than the students, but you should know what they are just to be safe.
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