College Sports Recruiting: Year-by-Year Admission Tips

If you have a student athlete with aspirations to compete in college, the sooner you start the admissions and recruitment process, the better.


Here are steps to take each year.


Plan your four years of coursework  to ensure that you satisfy the NCAA Eligibility Center requirements.  To help you keep track, check to see if your school is licensed to use If not, you can subscribe yourself.

Research and join club, travel, or AAU clubs.

Check the rosters of a few colleges online to see the size and speed of the players and the kinds of honors they got in high school. This will give you an idea of where you might fit.

Get good grades. A bad freshman year will be really difficult to overcome and may come back to haunt you.


Get an accurate assessment of your skill level. Even if you’re not playing varsity yet, your high school or club team coach can give you an idea about what level you should target and what specific skill areas you need to work on.

Research college athletic programs online. There are 1700 colleges between the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA (junior colleges). Use the college search programs available on the Internet to start narrowing down to a list of 30-50 that you want to research further.

Keep up your grades. There are lots of talented athletes that don’t have the grades to gain admissions into the more selective colleges. Good grades will give you access to sports programs that more talented athletes might not have the grades for.


Take the ACT or SAT in the fall or winter of junior year. Get remedial help if you need it, and take it again at the end of the year or in the summer. (Need more info on college admissions terms? Check out “20 Must-Know College Admissions Terms.”

Continue researching and assembling your college list. Aim for 30-50 schools.

Pull together your stats, resume, and video, and get them posted for free on a recruiting website such as

Initiate contact with coaches at the 30-50 schools on your list.  Send an email to let them know about you and why you’re interested in their program. Direct them to wherever you posted your info and video.

Fill out the online questionnaire at every school on your list. This will get you in their database.

Visit a few schools over spring break if possible. Pick large and small, suburban and urban.


Get your applications in as soon as possible.

Make both official (invited and paid for) and unofficial (on your own) visits to the schools you’re most serious about in the fall.

Explore the financial aid options at each school, especially if there’s minimal or no athletic scholarship involved. There are many other sources of aid available to you.

And finally, make the big decision. Congrats!

About the author: As a marketing research professional for 24 years, Laurie Richter, PhD., has tackled all kinds of assignments. But it was as a parent that she faced her most challenging research project to date:  figuring out the complex and mysterious world of athletic recruiting so that her son Dylan could choose the right school and continue playing basketball. While Dylan attends classes and shoots hoops at Washington University in St. Louis, Laurie, husband Jim, and son Brady live in a suburb of Chicago. Richter’s books include: “Put Me In Coach: A Parent’s Guide to Winning the Game of College Recruiting,” and “The Recruiting Companion for College Sports.”

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