Every athlete dreams of finding the perfect university to continue their sports journey while pursuing an education. The decision isn't one to be taken lightly; it requires careful consideration of various factors. Here, we'll explore the most crucial aspects athletes should keep in mind when choosing the right university to play for.
Division and Level: Juco, College or University?
JUCO is a Junior College which is a two-year institution. Colleges mostly focus on undergraduate programs and career training, whereas Universities offer more advanced academic and professional programs. From an athletic perspective, Division I (D1) is considered the top tier, and it is usually associated with universities.Remember that within D1, there are numerous conferences, each with its unique characteristics and competition levels.
*TIP: Assess your ability, goals, and what level suits you best.
Coaches and Teammates: Do You Vibe with Them?
Your coaches and teammates will play a significant role in your athletic and personal development. Gauge your compatibility with the coaching staff and teammates. Are the coaches genuine, or do they seem inauthentic? It's essential to ensure a harmonious relationship and a supportive environment.
*TIP: Attempt to identify at least one individual with whom you can envision establishing a connection.
Academic Excellence and Athletic Success: Striking the Right Balance
While sports hold a prominent place in your journey, academics should never be overlooked. Carefully examine the university's academic reputation and its compatibility with your educational goals. Additionally, evaluate the athletic program's track record.
*TIP: Ensure that the institution offers the academic programs that align with your aspirations.
Public vs. Private School
Decide if you prefer a public or private school and if class size matters to you. Smaller class sizes often mean more personalized attention from professors, while larger schools may offer a wider range of resources. Some public schools have classes with 3000 (three thousand) students, while private university classes could be even less than 10 students. Do you want your Professor to know your name and who you are?
*TIP: Ask yourself, is it important for you to develop connection with Professors?
Scholarships and Benefits: The complete package
Ensure you fully understand the scholarship package offered. Ensure it covers all years and inquire whether there are additional benefits, such as access to mental performance and supporting resources, free room and board, textbooks, or meals.
*TIP: You can negotiate more than you think. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.
Campus Visit: Ask Questions and Connect
If possible, visit the university in person. Meet academic advisors, coaches, program directors, players, and students. Ask questions and seek connections to get a firsthand feel for the institution.
*TIP: Ask for paid visits from the coach who is recruiting you.
Location: Remote or Urban Setting?
Consider the location of the university. Are you more comfortable in a remote, quieter setting, or do you thrive in the hustle and bustle of a city? Location can greatly affect your overall university experience. There is a BIG difference between studying in New York City or a small town with not much things to do around. You will be studying, breathing, practicing and living there for 4 years! Although, as a student-athlete you will not have much time to explore, on those times you do have the opportunity, where do you want to be?
*TIP: Are you an adventurous person?
The Right Mindset: Earn Your Place
Understand that promises of playing time or starting positions may not always materialize. Be prepared for challenges and competition. A robust mental performance and mindset coaching program can help you develop the resilience and adaptability needed to thrive in such situations.
*TIP: Be realistic, don't fall for empty promises. Be ready to start from the bottom.
Buy into the Program: Flexibility is Key
To be successful, you must buy into the university's athletic program completely. Be flexible, adaptable, and willing to accept the circumstances. The more resistance you will have, the harder it will be for yourself.
*TIP: If you have difficulty adapting and fitting in, consider transferring to a more suitable environment. Or talk to a professional - psychologist, mindset coach, mental performance coach or other specialist who can help you get through the difficult times.
Commitment: Verbal Agreements Matter
Finally, be cautious with commitments, even verbal ones. Honoring your word is essential in sports. Ensure that you're ready to commit to the university and uphold your end of the agreement.
*TIP: Don't even say "Yes I would love to be on your team" if you are not ready to commit to them yet.
International Athletes: Consider Support
For international students, it's advisable to inquire about the coaching staff's international background. Additionally, find out the number of teammates who come from diverse countries. International student-athletes encounter unique challenges distinct from local students.
*TIP: Understand the support and cultural diversity within the team. Find out if there are any people living in the area from your country.
In conclusion, choosing the right university as an athlete is a multifaceted decision that involves balancing academic and athletic aspirations. Take your time to explore your options, ask questions, and consider all the factors that matter most to you.
Your university journey is a significant chapter in your life, and making an informed choice will set you on the path to success both on and off the field.