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How To Win An Athletic Scholarship - Take These Steps



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If you've always dreamed about competing in college athletics, your dream may be within reach. But, you need more than athletic talent...you need to know how to "connect" with appropriate colleges.

First, be sure you "get real". Most high school student-athletes don't have the talent to play basketball in the ACC or football in the Big Ten. And, most coaches in those leagues already know which high school players they want to recruit. So, instead of spinning your wheels contacting the universities which are on TV every week, have a frank conversation with your coach and other well-informed folks and compile a list of colleges whose coaches might want to pursue you.

Then, ask your counselor which of the listed colleges makes sense from his or her perspective, and if there are others you should add to your list.

Whatever you do, don't weigh athletics too heavily. Academics should always come first...always. Size, location, campus environment, special programs, and other factors should be considered as well. Try to find the "ideal" college for you, not just a place where you can compete in athletics.

Don't make the mistake of failing to consider colleges you haven't heard much about. Until recently, the Rutgers and Louisville football programs attracted no national attention, but look at them now.

Have you ever heard of Mount Union? They have a pretty good football program too. Kenyon, a great academic school, has built a dynasty in swimming and diving, Hobart has great lacrosse, and lots of much bigger schools envy the record of little Hartwick College in soccer. And, have you heard about the "giant killer" softball and baseball teams at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette? There are dozens of examples like these.

There are many kinds of scholarships and financial aid other than athletic scholarships. And, there are lots of good colleges with excellent athletic programs at levels other than NCAA Division I.

Don't forget, even for a minute, that achieving your athletic goals is not nearly as important as leaving college with a good education and a degree. And, leaving college with a degree will not mean you have gotten a good education if you have selected courses only to remain eligible for athletics. Sadly, there are coaches (including some well known names) who appear to be more interested in wins and losses than the welfare of the student-athletes on their teams. Be on the alert for them.

Get familiar with the rules that govern recruiting. Ask your coach if you have questions or concerns. Always keep in mind that any rules violation could have a negative impact on your future.

Coaches aren't the only people who can help you learn about colleges. Communicate with admissions counselors too. They will often provide you with far more information than you can get from coaches.

Don't worry to much about listed college costs. What it will actually cost you may be far less.

Don't panic if coaches don't immediately reply to an initial letter or email from you. Wait a month, and try again. Remember that some coaches get a lot of mail, and that they are especially busy just before and in season. Some coaches may never get back to you...at least you'll know where you stand with them, right?

And, be aware that even the coaches that do respond to you with letters, brochures and emails may not have a serious interest in you or may want to seriously recruit you only if the athletes in whom they are most interested decide to go elsewhere. That being the case, continue to communicate with all coaches who appear to be interested in you until you have and accept a firm offer from a college. It's the best way to protect yourself against disappointment.

When you do accept a final offer, send a "thank you" note to all the coaches who showed interest in you...it's just good manners. And, you never know; you might want to transfer from the first college in which you enroll.

Daniel Z. Kane, now a university dean, is a former high school coach. You can find lots of helpful information on his websites about how to get an athletic scholarship, and online colleges.



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