The college recruiting search is a challenging journey, full of challenges but also one that is extremely rewarding.
But starting it can seem like a daunting, herculean task. George Van Linder, the College coordinator for Girls Soccer and U17 Girls Coach at IMG Academy, shares some of the tips and best practices that they follow to set recruits on the right path.
Be ready to do you research
Picking a college is one of the most important investments you will make. Spend some time thinking of what you want and what is best for you and your family. There is no money back guarantee. Currently, college soccer athletes are one of the largest groups to transfer according to statistics from the NCAA. It may not be something you look forward to thinking about, and it may be stressful, but picking the wrong school could lead to even bigger challenges down the road. Talk to your coach, your family, and people who have attended the schools you are considering. If you can, talk to players on the team at each school. Be confident in your decision. This is one of the first big decisions you have to make in your life, so spend some time on it.
Pay careful attention to the dorms. You will be staying there for a few years, and they will be your new home. Make sure you are comfortable with that environment. Many students move off campus in a few years. Can you afford to do that? What is the cost of living in the city you are looking at?
For example, a school could have an amazing campus on the coast of an ocean. But, it may prove difficult or expensive to find off-campus housing near the beach, so be sure you could see yourself living in the dorms for four or more years before solidifying your decision.The same goes for schools in the middle of big cities because finding a place to live in larger locations can be challenging for locals as well as college students.
Another element to think about is long term. Many people end up settling back closer to home near family and relatives. College can be an opportunity to move further away from home, see a new part of the country, and enjoy different experiences. Strongly consider whether you feel comfortable moving farther from home or if you prefer being closer to a familiar area.
There are some very well-known schools in the middle of nowhere, and there are just as many popular schools in massive cities. What type of environment surrounding the campus are you most comfortable with? What type of environment are you currently in now?
Don’t forget to think about the weather as well! If you haven’t grown up in cold weather, it is a big change. You can certainly handle cold days or snow, but it does take some adjustment if you have never experienced it -- especially when it comes to early morning training sessions before class.
Think about the balance: are you planning on a highly challenging academic track? Consider that in the context of Division I versus other levels of college soccer. Division I athletes spend up to 20 hours per week training or in meetings, and that doesn’t include travel time or study hall. Add 15-18 hours of school per week, and then the homework and studying. That can be a lot to handle. Consider if you are ready for that challenge.
Going to a bigger school doesn’t mean you will have more friends. We all tend to hang around with about the same number of people (your teammates for example). Think about what size school you will feel most comfortable at when touring schools. Keep in mind, it isn’t the most important thing in the decision. One tip to pass on: International students prefer the smaller campus and city generally because they don’t always come from cities the size that we have in the United States. A big city can be overwhelming for them with all of the other challenges (language, food, culture) that they face as well. Maybe that is a factor for you?
How much do you play on your current team? Are you happy with that? How much playing time will you have to have at the college level to be happy? Some college teams will require a battle every year for every minute of playing time you get. Some college soccer rosters are big, close to 30 players, and obviously only 11 can play at once. That’s a lot of players on the bench. Is being part of a team but not getting a lot of playing time something you are comfortable with?
Enjoy the Journey
Remember to enjoy the process. As noted above, it is a big decision. But it’s an opportunity to carve out, create a new experience and forge a new path. This point is often repeated, though it’s something to keep in mind if things seem difficult.