This post was written by senior head baseball recruiting coach Jason Smith.
Deciding on a college will be the first major decision in a student-athlete’s life. For student-athletes I work with, baseball is driving the college search. It’s the same no matter what sport you love, but for simplicity I’ll stick with saying “baseball” in this post.
In addition to your sport, there are four other areas you and your family need to take into consideration. Finding the “right fit” means there are multiple reasons why you want to attend a specific college. Baseball should be one of those reasons, but let’s look at each below:
How will you fit into a college roster?
Finding a program where you can make an impact on the roster should be the goal. I’ve never talked with a prospect who wanted to be the last guy on the roster. But someone on each roster will be in that position.
Putting all your eggs in the “baseball basket” can be a recipe for disaster. If your baseball experience gets off to a rocky start, then you will most likely be re-thinking your decision. We recommend targeting a college baseball program where the coaching staff wants you to be a contributor on the roster.
Will you get the education you need at this college?
In the end, the education you receive will the most important element of your college experience.
This will allow you to land a good job, buy a car, buy a house, start a family, or accomplish whatever your goals will be after graduation. Sacrificing academics for baseball in the college decision-making process can have long-term effects.
You may not know exactly what you want to study as a graduating high school senior, but research the educational opportunities at the colleges you are considering. Keep the big picture in mind when making this decision. Stanford recently published a great article discussing the importance of academics beyond baseball.
What is your family’s financial situation?
The price tag of some colleges can make your (and, more importantly, your parents’) head spin.
Most students will receive some type of financial aid, but don’t bank on getting the minimum from colleges. In baseball, “full rides” are uncommon so you need to find other ways to lower the overall cost of attendance. Some of the best ways:
Get your grades up. There are many academic scholarship opportunities out there. Hit the books to raise your GPA, ACT and/or SAT test scores, and class rank to help you qualify for as much academic scholarship as you can.
Loans are available to help you get through college, but you will be paying these back for years after you graduate. Do what you can in the classroom to lower your cost of attendance for now and the future.
Look for scholarships offered by philanthropic or community organizations in your area. I know that a $1,000 scholarship might not seem like much compared to a year’s tuition, but these scholarships can add up – and being honored by receiving them is absolutely something you can include on your resume.
How far do you want to go for college?
Do you want to go away for college? Do your parents want you to stay close to home? This is a conversation you and your family need to have in the near future.
Things may change over time, but discuss it. It will help you target the right colleges in this process. Remember, state colleges will most likely have higher tuition rates for out-of-state students. This needs to be taken into consideration as well.
What’s the social setting like at this college?
College visits are a huge part of the decision-making process. It gives you a chance to “get a feel” for life at that college. Seeing the dorms, academic buildings, athletic facilities, and other areas of campus can move a program to the top of your list or sending it to the bottom.
Just over 1,600 colleges offer baseball as an intercollegiate sport. Only about 330 of them have an enrollment of 10,000 or more, with almost 140 being Junior Colleges and about 38 compete at the Division II, Division III, and NAIA levels.
This is true for other sports as well. If you are looking for the “big college experience”, then your options will be limited. Don’t commit to a college without experiencing the campus.
Taking all of these areas into consideration will help you make the best decision in this process, which will affect the next 40 years of your life. Give the decision the time and attention it deserves.