How Early Should I Start Thinking About College?

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When should a student start the process of trying to find a college sports scholarship?

That's a common question we get from parents that are thinking about their childs future and it's a question that is actually very easy to early as possible!!

In New Zealand and Australia students typically graduate from high school at the end of the year in December and quite often we have parents enquiring on the US college sport route after their exam results have come back in in January.  They've made the decision to pursue the sports scholarship pathway and would like some advice on what the next step is..."how do we get a sports scholarship to the USA now that Tim has finished school?'.

Now common sense does indicate that you've done everything right, you're child has focused on their exams and has now finished school, you've got his/her results so know that they've done well/not so well :s, and if you decide to go to a university in your home country then this is the time that you'd make the decision on where to go...

Unfortunately though finding a college sports scholarship to the USA doesn't follow these same timeframes. It's actually very different in America and high school students in the US have a very different process that they follow.

American high school students start the process when they start high school! They'll begin to write a list of colleges with their parents that they'd like to go to, they'll know what academic grades they need to get for those colleges and they'll know what sporting level they need to be in order to receive a sports scholarship.  And because they start so early, they are the best prepared and therefore have the most options when in comes to where they can choose to go to.

sports preparing early

Part of this difference in preparation is driven by NCAA regulations on how long after high school graduation you have before you must enroll in a college (6 or 12 months depending on the sport you play), but a massive part is the American students understanding on the importance of speaking to college coaches early and receiving the best college education that they can. After all it's a huge decision, possibly the most important in a students life up to that point!?

I remember when I finished school back in the day I took a year off. Not sure why now, thought I'd worked hard at the time and deserved time off!? :s (As it turned out full-time work wasn't too appealing and I quickly realized being a student was pretty good!). Anyway in that year I decided the US route was for me and then I found a college tennis scholarship to an NCAA division one college and received a full-ride. I did everything myself and I got a few offers from college coaches.  Unfortunately because I did it myself and didn't get any advice, or good advice, I only had a few offers to choose from and accepted the best financial package that was offered to me, which as it turned out in hindsight wasn't a good choice because although the tennis schedule and training was great (Hawaii, California, Vegas, etc) the location, college and coach wasn't right for me, so I was looking to transfer after my first year (couldn't due to transfer rules and lack of appropriate credits).

But anyway the reason why I brought that story up was because if I did the same thing again now timeframe wise with that year off, I wouldn't of been eligible to play NCAA division one and possibly division two as well, in my first year at least (no scholarship money!). I was playing tournaments during that time as well (not allowed after a certain date now) and generally was clueless until it was too late to do anything about it.   It was sheer luck in my case that I had all the core credits and was academically eligible in the first place.

The mistakes I made many years ago are still very common today by parents and students, along with a host of others that dramatically effect their future college choices and the students eligibility to play at all.  Things such as doing correspondence credits and not keeping up with your original high school classmates (big no-no), or trying to do the process yourself, like I did and only receiving a few offers, but they all fall through due to various reasons at the last minute, leaving you in the lurch in terms of scholarships.  

We had a few people recently who did this where they started the process too late and then relied on one or two coaches that they were speaking with, whom they had 'offered' them scholarships (if it's not on paper it's not a scholarship offer) and the coach pulled out with a few months to go. Which could happen for for a variety of reasons but a very common one, is that when they are speaking to you they are also more than likely speaking to twenty or thirty other students that they're also keen on and then when the time comes to decide on who to choose, they work their way down their list. 

So how do you stop this from happening?

I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" and this couldn't be more true than in the world of college sports scholarships.

We're very passionate on making sure everyone that is thinking about college for their future is clued up on exactly what they need to do early, to avoid the mistakes that I and so many other students make. 

student stressing

So when should you ideally start thinking about studying in the US?

We recommend starting the process when you still have three years left at high school.  This way when you are in the position to decide what subjects that you'd like to carry on studying at school, you know what counts towards your core credits for your college sport eligibility. 

At some colleges the coaches also recruit two/three in advance, especially the top ranked colleges, so if you're not starting until your final year at school you've already taken out a lot of potential college scholarships because they've already be given to better prepared student-athletes. 

Basically the longer you wait, the less options you have in terms of scholarships! So why wouldn't you prepare as early as the American students and give yourself the best possible chance of finding a sports scholarship at a college that is the right fit for you? With our Premium and Ultimate members we help you from the day you sign right up until you graduate college, so regardless on whether you sign with us with three, two or one year to go at school, it's a one-off fee, so if this is where you want to go talk to us EARLY! :)

If you do want to do this on your own by using our Free or Certified memberships you need to be proactive, it's no good saying "I want to go to college in the USA" and then not actually do anything about it!? If you want to go or want to know whether it's even a viable option for you, start doing something about it now!

By Sheridan Adams