The College Search Process vs. The College Recruiting Process

For a high school student-athlete who wants to continue their academic and athletic career at the next level the process can be a very daunting task.   The challenge for many prospective student-athletes is differentiating the college search process from the college recruiting process.  What prospective student-athletes need to understand is that the college search process and the college recruiting process are different but they are both important in finding the right school.

Let’s begin with the College Search Process.   The purpose of the college search process is to find the school that will provide you with the best college experience academically, athletically, and socially or personally. We call this finding your College Experience Trifecta.    One of the main reasons you will be going through the process is to get a quality education that will set you up for life after college.  It only makes sense to begin your college search process with the Academic factors that will help you find the school that will help you develop academically.

When you begin researching schools based on the academic side of the process you need to focus on the following factors.

  • Academic standards/requirements to be accepted
    • What is the average GPA/Test scores for accepted students?
  • Academic programs offered
    • What field of study are you interested in?
    • Do you have a specific major in mind?
  • Learning environment/ Class size

There are also other factors that may also be important to you

  • Academic Opportunities (Internships, Study Abroad, etc)
  • Academic Support
  • Graduation Rate
  • Percentage of students who receive jobs out of college

The next step is to look at schools based on your social / personal preferences.     You should determine how important these factors are to your college search process.

  • Location
    • Distance from home
    • How often do you want your family to see you/ see you play?
    • Climate
  • Campus Setting
    • City
    • Suburban
    • Rural
  • Campus Size
    • Small  – 1,000 – 5,000
    • Medium  5,000 – 15,000
    • Large 15,000-25,000
    • Extra Large 25,000 +
  • Student Activities – What else is there to do on campus?

College is more than attending class and playing sports.  What else can you get in involved in?  Are there other clubs or organizations you can join.   What kind of campus activities are there on the weekends?  What is around campus?   Are there other points of interest you can visit?  

  • Cost of Tuition

College Tuition is going through the ceiling so cost plays an integral role into your college search process It’s important to understand that all colleges have a sticker price just like buying a car. However, it is rare that a student will be paying the full cost of tuition.  As you are doing your research on the schools you are interested in you should try to find out what is the average net cost.   That is what the average student pays to attend that institution.  The Average net costs will take in account all types of financial aid a student might receive like merit scholarships,  private scholarships, and need based financial aid.  

Now that you have a potential list of schools that match your academic and personal/social needs its time to turn your attention to find the athletic program where you will be a good fit.  Now this is where the College Recruiting Process begins.

Prior to starting you should familiarize yourself with the 5 Phases of the College Recruiting Process.   The first phase,  Planning and Preparation is where you will learn and understand the intricacies of the NCAA Eligibility Center, the NCAA Recruiting Rules and Regulations, and discover the differences between all the different levels of competition.  As a prospective student-athlete the only rule you really need to know and understand is the contact rule.  When can college coaches begin contacting you via email, phone calls, texts, and now social media.    For most sports it is September 1 of your junior year in high school.  However, some other sports have their own rules.

The Communication Phase and the Gaining Exposure Phase is the meat of the college recruiting process.  You should have an idea of what qualities college coaches are looking for in their recruits and understand how coaches identify, evaluate, and select potential recruits.   Learn how to communicate effectively with college coaches.  The college recruiting process continues with an evaluation period where the coach has the opportunity to watch you perform athletically.    Within the Gaining Exposure phase you will begin visiting campuses and meeting college coaches and starting to get a real feel for the program and discover more about the school.  Your first interaction with a college coach is an essential part of the college recruiting process.  This is where the coach really gets to evaluate you as a student-athlete and learn more about your personality off the field.

As you you begin visiting more campuses and speaking with college coaches your college selection process should start to become clearer.   You need to start narrowing your lists to about 5 schools to start the next phase which is the Decision Making Process.  This is the time where you begin looking at all your options.   Take the words of Mount St. Mary’s University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jamion Christian, “Choose the school where you are not only loved but wanted and needed.”    That is the place where you will be able to develop in all aspects of your life.   In order to select the right fit you fit you should answer the 50 questions every student-athlete should answer before committing to a school.  There are Academic questions, Athletic questions, Social Questions, and Financial Questions.   After answering all of these questions for each of the schools you are seriously considering compare your answers and select the school where you feel you will receive the best college experience academically, athletically, and socially.  Is it your college experience trifecta?  

Here are some tips from GFS to help you with the decision

  • Choose a school where you will best be able to develop academically, athletically, and personally.  If you can find a school that you allows you to develop in the classroom, on the field, and in your community then that may be the best school for you.
  • Don’t always choose the program that gives you the best financial package it might not be the right fit
  • Choose a school you would enjoy if you were not playing a sport.  You never know what could happen.  It’s important to pick a school and not just an athletic program.  If you were no longer playing your sport would you be able to remain at that school and still enjoy your college experience.

If you want to learn more about College Recruiting Process and a tool that will help you navigate the journey to finding the right school pick up your copy of The College Recruiting Playbook Today.   It is a step by step guide for student-athlete’s  to navigate through the 5 Phases of the Recruiting Process and will ultimately help you reach your goal of finding your College Experience Trifecta.  Visit our website more information about our College Recruiting Exposure and Education Initiative

The College Recruiting Playbook


In 2015, the College Recruiting Playbook was published to help educate prospective student-athletes about the college recruiting process. The College Recruiting Playbook is a student-athletes workbook to finding the right college to fit their academic, athletic, and personal needs.

Finding the right college for your student-athlete doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with College Recruiting Playbook, you can navigate the five phases of the recruiting process with surprising ease.

1. Planncollege-recruiting-playbook-covering and Preparation

2. Communication

3. Gaining Exposure

4. Decision Making

5. Beyond the Decision

This step-by-step guide walks parents and students through everything they need to know and do in order to find the best college athletically, academically, and personally.

Discover the answers to these questions and much more

  • What does it take to play at the next level?
  • What are the academic requirements to play in college?
  • What are the differences between DI, DII, DIII, and NAIA?
  • What do college coaches look for in prospective student-athletes?
  • What are the Three Key Elements of Gaining Exposure ?
  • What is a verbal commitment? What is a National Letter of Intent?
  • What are the 50 questions every prospective student-athlete should answer before committing to a school?
  • And much more

Written especially for high school athletes, this guide is also an essential read for parents, teachers, and coaches. By utilizing the included organizer and looking at the process from more than an athlete’s point of view, you can form the best strategy for your young athlete’s near and distant future.