The College Athletic Recruiting Process Explained
By Adriana De Santiago
There are almost eight million students participating in high school athletics, but only 480,000 will play at NCAA schools, according to the NCAA. Becoming a collegiate athlete is a dream for many students, but there is a lot of work required for playing at a collegiate level. In this article, the HoofBeat spoke to four Northside seniors that have committed to playing collegiate sports next year.
Jacob Watson, Adv. 905, has played tennis throughout his time at Northside and last year, Northside’s tennis team won the City Championship. Watson will be playing at Division 3 DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He began communicating with coaches towards the end of his junior year, but more frequently starting September of senior year. Watson began his search by creating a tennis recruiting profile which is how most coaches heard of him. He choose DePauw for its campus, their Kinesiology program, and the athletics facilities. For Watson, there were not any clear-cut academic requirements but he was encouraged to maintain good grades for the coach to be able to support his application. Watson recommended that students, “Start talking to coaches early. Also, go on as many recruiting trips as you can. They are so much fun and you get a really good look into college life and the way the teams function.”
Osazee Osaghae, Adv. 904, has run track at Northside since his freshman year. Next year, he will be running track at Division 1 Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Coaches began contacting Osaghae the summer of junior year and he explored a range of schools from Division 3 to Division 1 schools. He narrowed down schools based on academics and region. Among the vast majority of schools that contacted him, only some had any specific type of academic eligibility, in which he was required to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher. Although his scholarship was initially an athletic scholarship, he was able to change it to an academic scholarship. Osaghae said, “My advice for anybody trying to play collegiate sports is to make sure [sports is] what you want to do all four years in undergrad.” Osaghae also noted that the recruitment process is not solely about sports but your future goals as well. “I intend to do college sports to stay in shape but I do not intend to give up on what I want to pursue in life. You should be comfortable going to school for what you want to do regardless of whether or not it’s sports,” said Osaghae.
Natan Spear, Adv. 903, has left a big impact on Northside tennis. Like Watson, Spear was also a part of the winning City Championship team and made the IHSA State Finals multiple times. Next year, Spear will be playing at Division 1 Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He began contacting coaches the summer before junior year and continued up throughout the summer before senior year. Spear did make a highlight video, but he said coaches really became interested when they saw him play during the qualifier for Nationals. He committed to Northwestern because of its strong tennis program, the coach, and its strength in his chosen course of study. When asked for college recruiting advice, Spear said “Make sure to enjoy the whole process and work hard. It’s very exciting.”
Abigail Smith, Adv. 902, is a two-varsity sport athlete at Northside, playing soccer and volleyball all four years. Next year, Smith, as well as her twin sister, will be taking their volleyball talents to Division 3 Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Smith’s recruitment story was different because she never had to contact coaches. She got noticed at a volleyball tournament with her club team during her junior year. There were no academic requirements for her to attend Grinnell, but she did have to go through the regular application process and apply early decision in order to play. “One thing I would suggest is that you do your research ahead of time and try and get on top of things early,” said Smith. “Talk to counselors, talk to coaches, get help, download the NCSA app and make an account--just go out and try and there will definitely be colleges that are interested and want you!” The Next College Student Athlete is a free website that students can use for recruiting. They can input academic and athletic information, personal statements, and highlight videos.
As these four seniors have shown, the college recruiting process is very different for everyone, but there is one thing that all athletes must take into account: the NCAA Eligibility Center. Athletes looking into Division 1 and 2 schools must be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center to make sure that they stay on track to meet initial-eligibility standards. For both divisions, athletes need to complete 16 core courses. A 2.3 GPA must be maintained for Division 1 while a 2.2 is needed for Division 2. Athletes interested in Division 3 should create a Profile Page with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Cut-offs for grades and other requirements are more school dependent at the Division 3 level.
If you are interested in collegiate sports, begin researching schools early! Consider academics, location, the athletic program, and whether or not the school feels like the right fit for you.