Five Steps to a Scholarship

First off, I want to personally thank you for taking a look at what I feel are five necessary steps to earning a college scholarship.  For those serious about giving themselves the best shot to impress college coaches, these are the steps that will be essential during the recruiting process.

Some people still believe that if you are good enough, college coaches will find you.  The problem with that assumption is Division III coaches will be the ones that find you.  And while there is nothing wrong with playing college athletics at the Division III level, you are not reading this e-book and visiting Recruiting-101 to pay tuition rates for some of the most expensive schools in the country that legally cannot offer scholarship money due to athletics.

These five steps are similar to what have already been posted on the site but have been updated and include new tidbits of information.  If you have received this, I assume you are now an email subscriber to Recruiting-101 and also want to say thank you for signing up.

If you have any friends that are going through the athletic recruiting process, please feel free to forward this along to them and introduce them to the Recruiting-101 website.  The more people that come to the site, the more often updates will come regarding the ever changing recruiting process.

If you have any questions specifically related to the recruiting process, please visit the site and either contact me or post a comment following an article.

Going back to the five steps of a scholarship, doing these will put you in the best position to showcase your skills in order to be evaluated by college coaches.  While not everyone has the ability to play athletics at the scholarship level, these steps are your best opportunities to find a school that fits you as a person and will help you grow.

Here are a few other resources that Recruiting-101 has authored that takes even more in-depth looks at the recruiting process.  They are available for sale now:

Step One: Build a Recruiting Profile

The first step to earning an athletic scholarship is to build an informative recruiting profile that you can distribute to college coaches. Even for parents or athletes that lack computer skills, this is something that can be easily done in a Word Document, Google Docs, or a PDF so take the time to learn the skills needed to put together a professional looking profile.

Before putting your profile together, realize that college coaches only are concerned with high school stats/testing numbers that matter.  If you have not played an extensive amount of time at the varsity level, just wait until further along in your career.  College coaches will not recruit you if you scored 34 points in a freshman game. They don’t care if you were an Underclassmen All American or excelled at a national combine that is focused on making money.  All of this is great but you need to be realistic overall of the time that college coaches have.  Here is what I feel should be included in your recruiting profile:

Contact Information
It is important to send the coach as much contact information as possible. Include an address, phone numbers (home and cell), email addresses (yours and your parents), and even social media handles. Also talk to your coach about including his or her contact information. College coaches would much rather hear that you can play from a coach rather than your parent.  This will never change when it comes to the recruiting process.  If the college coach feels that you may have the skills to play at their level, including all relevant contact information will allow him or her to contact you when things get serious in the recruiting process. For parents, resist the urge to be overbearing and make sure to include the phone numbers for your children.  This is a process that you cannot micromanage so just trust in the fact that you have raised your kids well enough to be able to handle the recruiting process at times without you looking over their shoulders.  Providing this information will give you an advantage over other recruits because they know that you are interested in their school.  If they are interested, you have simplified a big step in the process.

Grades & Academic Information
Coaches know what it will take academically to get into their school so make sure that they are aware of your grades and test scores. If you have worked hard in high school academically, this should be something you are proud of and want them to see. If you have taken your ACT and SAT already, make sure to include those scores. The majority of the schools around the country do not have Ivy League standards so even if you have a 3.3 and a 23 ACT, that is still a strong resume academically. Most coaches seek out kids with these grades because that you will have no trouble getting past admissions. If you have talked to the guidance counselor to learn your class rank, throw that information in as well. As with contact information, the more academic information that you can provide the coach, the better. What also makes grades important is that many feel the better grades you get, the better kid you are overall. While I am not saying all kids with low grades are bad kids, it does show you can focus and succeed at something outside of your sport of choice.

Athletic Accomplishments
Make sure you are being realistic about this and not rounding your numbers up. The last thing you would want a coach to find out is that you were dishonest about your stats. So if you rushed for 956 yards, put that instead of 1,000. Keep things realistic because the coaches will eventually find out if things are exaggerated. Other areas to talk about in this portion of the athletic recruiting profile include individual stats, post season honors (try to avoid putting in preseason honors because that doesn’t really say a whole lot), team records, and team accomplishments. Combine accomplishments do not matter either.  Another good thing to add is accomplishments in other sports. Even if it is a 20-10 wrestling record or a letter earned in track, college coaches like to see athletes who play multiple sports. It shows that you are well rounded and have not been focusing on a certain sport your whole life. Football coaches love to see when a lineman plays basketball or wrestles. That is just an added dimension of athleticism that is good for you in the recruiting process.

A Picture
You might as well allow them to see a picture of you with a big smile on your face. If you visit the school in the future, this should help them have a clue who you are when you finally meet face to face. This picture will help that along if it is the athlete without a helmet on. Some schools have the coaches memorize the players’ names so when they come on a visit, they can make them feel at home immediately. Having a picture on your profile can really further this process along.

Format
I mentioned earlier that you can put it together in a Word or PDF document. Another option is using Microsoft Excel. When sending these out, make sure to not use an obscure program that causes the coaches any trouble in opening.  Send the profile out to multiple family members in order to make sure they all have no problems opening it.  If there is a problem, seek a solution.

Things to Avoid
College coaches will not want to waste their time reading irrelevant information. I said it is important to provide a lot of things about yourself but I don’t think being named MVP of the sophomore team will help you earn a scholarship. Try to look at things from the eyes of the college coaches and what would help them recruit you.

Conclusion
This recruiting profile is an important introduction of yourself to the coaching staff. While it may not seem like much, it is a good way to introduce a lot of coaches to your skills. It is easy to grab email addresses off of college websites and that can make things much easier than writing letters. Think of this as your athletic recruiting resume. It will help open doors for you at the next level so make it professional. When looking for a coach, if you have not heard from anyone at the school, try and find information on the recruiting coordinator.  That is the first place you should start when sending these out.

Step Two: Finding Schools that Fit

The second step to earning an athletic scholarship is finding schools that match you. In order to be successful at the college level, you need to think of a variety of things that could factor into the college decision process.  These areas will not be weighed the same but should be talked about.

Location
Most athletes don’t want to go to school in the same city that they grew up in but they also don’t want to be 1,000 miles away. Do you want that comfort zone where you are not too close or too far away? Think about what factor location would play in your decision.

Athletics

Another area to consider when looking for that potential college is finding a fit athletically. If your coaches feel that you are a Division II athlete, then chances are probably good that you are.   So if you are looking for a fit athletically, you want to find a school that matches your abilities.  Finding a fit athletically where you can succeed will help you enjoy your college experience a great deal.  In order to find that fit, talk to your coaches and anyone who has a feel for your sport in college about what level you can play.

Academics

You may not know your major early on (especially when you are 17 or 18) but think about what you are interested in. These areas may eventually help you pick what field you decide to go into after school so think long and hard about this. If you are interested in engineering and looking at programs that do not offer it or have poor programs, it would seem to me you are wasting your time.  Many athletes go to college undecided but have a good feel for what interests them.  It may be Business, Biology, or Computer Science.  While that may not be the path you eventually take, you should know what your interests are and have those factor into your decision.  Transferring out after two years because they don’t offer a field you are interested in should cross your mind at this point.

Social Aspects

The next fit you must find is a school that meets what you want socially. If you want to find a laid back place or a strict school, these are available all throughout the country. Would you be more interested in a military academy or a party school? Think about what you want to accomplish at the college level. This could help you find that match.  If you consider those around you uptight and too strict, you may be more comfortable at another school.
Finding Potential Schools
Once you feel you know what you are looking for, go to this website: http://www.utexas.edu/world/univ/state/.  This is a website that lists all of the colleges throughout the country. If I was searching for my future college, the first thing I would think about is location. More than major or athletics, distance could play a factor. How many students leave a school because they are home sick? While you may not be sure if you are that type of person, keep location in mind when looking at the list of colleges.

Narrowing Things Down

After you have narrowed it down to a location, start looking strongly at the athletics offered. If you are a lineman on the small side for a football player, it probably it not worth looking into the power Division I programs in your area. Think about what schools may be of interest for you and fit the criteria you are looking for. Really take some time and write out what you are looking for in a potential school. Then once you get to that website and research your options, you will not just be surfing websites. You are finding potential fits for you at the college level. Chances are good that you will spend four or five years of your life there so focus on what you want in your future.  The above linked site is also helpful because it allows you to search quickly on new schools that may have just sent mail.

Money Could and Should Factor In

One note that I want to make that could throw a wrench in all of this matching is if a school that doesn’t match what you want offers you a scholarship. What should you do then? That is a tough question to answer because leaving college debt free is something most people wish they could have done. That may not be realistic in some sports but I would not go to a school for free that does not offer what I am looking for academically. Having student loans are better than going into a field you are not interested in because you will be doing more schooling later on in life.  The athlete needs to look at the repayment plan as well for student loans to see if they want to be paying thousands of dollars over an extended period of time.

Conclusion

You have a chance to play athletics for the next four or five years. Your academics will help you find a job for the next 40 plus years of your life. So think about it carefully when accepting a scholarship just because it is a scholarship. It may be tough to turn down money to play a sport you love but you need to find a school that is a good fit for you overall athletically, academically, and socially.

Step Three: Market Yourself to Coaches

The third step to earning an athletic scholarship is to market yourself to the college coaches.  If you are skipping steps, make sure to go through step two beforehand.  You need to find the schools that match what you are looking for and that is what the second step is all about. After you have found those matches and put together your recruiting profile, now is the time to get the attention he or she deserves.

Finding Contact Information

What you will need to do is delve further into the college websites and onto their athletic pages. If you have done a good job researching them, you will have already seen the athletic pages and what the school has to offer in sports. Now you will be going to the page on a mission to find an email address of the recruiting coordinator of the sport your son or daughter plays. If there is no recruiting coordinator, find a coach who you feel most comfortable sending the information to. You may find that by looking at their bios and seeing their background. If you have something in common with the, bring it up in the email.

The main area you will be looking for on the athletic site is the staff directory. This has email addresses from everyone in athletics, including the athletic director, coaches, compliance officers, and sports information directors. There will be a lot of email addresses if you are able to find the staff directory so know the name of the coach you are looking for.  Before finding this, go to the sporting page and read the information about coaches.  Once you have found which coach you plan to send the information to, then look for this staff directory.

One thing to look out for is many coaches do not have their email address listed. Instead, they have a secretary’s email address listed that is the default email for all coaches. If this is the case, then you want take a different attack than if you have the coach’s email address.

Writing the Email

If you have the email address of the coach, you will want to write an email introducing yourself, your son or daughter, and including the athletic recruiting profile that you have already put together as an attachment. This is an introductory email that should be short and to the point. Say a little bit about your child and that you have researched schools and this program is one you are interested in. Keep it very friendly and offer to do anything to help them in the recruiting process.  Include your highlight video link in the email as well as your profile.

If it is the email address of a secretary, email this person with an intro email about your child and what high school they play at. Say you are interested in emailing the coach you are looking for. I would not include the athletic recruiting profile with this email.

Stay on Top of your Emails

Obviously not all coaches are going to respond but they should at least email back saying something like they will get back to you. That is the polite thing to do but does not happen in all cases. When emailing coaches, try to keep a log to know which ones you have and have not emailed. If one coach doesn’t get back to you in two weeks, try one to two more times.  If that doesn’t work, it may be best to try another coach at the school. You could also try calling and speaking with the coach as well but this is something few high school athletes want to do.

If the original coach does not respond, make sure to not give up.  You honestly have no idea what emails get caught in spam filters and which ones are not read.  What you are looking for is an honest answer.  They could tell you that they are not interested but at least you know one way or another.  I doubt that coaches would actually say that because you just never know what could happen but getting a definite answer one way or the other is required in this step.

Returning Questionnaires

Another way to help with your marketing is by returning the questionnaires that the schools send you or has available on their website.  If you have a lot of this type of mail from coaches, you could print out a copy of your recruiting profile when sending it back.  If you do this, make sure to include a note to the coaches and say something about their program.  If all you send back is a recruiting profile, they may think you are big timing them.

Coaches really find these questionnaires as an important gauges if a recruit is interested in a program.  The letter may get lost in the mail but if a coach doesn’t hear back, there are chances that the school will no longer recruit the athlete.  It is important to consider all of your options so fill out these questionnaires and do it well.

Step Four: Make a Quality Highlight Tape

The fourth step to earning an athletic scholarship is to put together a quality highlight video. Athletes in football rely on putting together a quality highlight recruiting video that showcases your abilities. If you have a bad tape, chances are that the college coaches will quickly move on to another recruit.  Unless you have already excelled at their camp, putting together a good highlight video is something that is essential for the recruiting process.  The majority of this advice is focused on football recruits but like all articles on Recruiting-101, it does apply to other sports as well.  If a coach is unable to see you during the season or you need to get your foot in the door recruiting wise, a highlight tape is critical.

If you are sending out your video online, make sure that you have a full game tape available (either online or in DVD form upon request) as well as all the background information about the athlete with the recruiting profile.  On the DVDs I have made in the past for college football coaches, they have consisted of three different parts. This includes a highlight video, a full game tape, and more about the athlete.  Making DVDs like this has helped athletes land at all levels of college, including Division I, I-AA, II, and III.

Here is what I feel the three parts are.

The Highlight Video

Unless you are among the top football players in the country, you will not receive a scholarship offer just based on the highlight portion of your tape. But this is the time that college coaches will finally get a chance to see your best plays over the course of your career.  In a lot of cases, the coach will make a decision either to pursue you as a recruit or take you off of their athletic recruiting list. So when it comes down to it, this really is a vital part of the recruiting process. There are conflicting reports about how many highlight clips should be included in this segment and they vary from 12 to 40, depending of course. I have also seen highlight videos that last over ten minutes and include every positive clip from the previous season. A five yard gain up the middle will not help recruiting. So with that in mind, try to keep the video between 20 to 40 plays and somewhere between four to eight minutes if possible. With the amount of tapes that these coaches have to go through, few have more than five minutes to spare on each prospect.

When picking out these clips, it is important that the quality of video is as good as you can get. If you are a parent, you may have to tape the games yourself. It may be tough to do this, but if it could help your child get a scholarship, it may be worth it. Also speak with the head coach of the team to see what kind of video footage you can get your hands on. It seems that the bigger the school, the better quality of tape but that really can vary from school to school.  Asking opposing teams about getting video highlights can work at times as well.

Make sure that your best plays are early in the tape.  If anything, order the plays and put the very best first, then second, and so on.  College coaches are sent thousands of tapes each year.  You need to jump out on the video and the best way to do that is include your very best highlights early on.  If not, the coach has more than enough other tapes to watch and will quickly move on to another recruit.

In a lot of cases, it may be worth the initial investment to have a professional produce your highlight DVD. Now that doesn’t mean you have to spend in the thousands to get a quality product. I would advise looking online or locally.  One company that we have worked with, www.highlight-videos.com, focuses only on creating highlight tapes for athletes and does not do other video work.  Company that also do weddings, proms, and things of that nature should be ones to avoid.  It is very important to find a company that has experience with the recruiting process and it not stretched thin in other areas trying to earn money.

Some families also considering doing it themselves and certain online video websites make the process very easy.  If you feel comfortable with doing it, take the time and get the job done as soon as possible in order to send out.

I have seen DVDs with interviews of the athlete and in the background there is video of the athlete on the field. Others have included smoke introductions that are amazing to see. But in the long run, these things will not help you earn a college scholarship. I think they are outstanding videos to watch but as a college coach, interviews or great video production don’t matter. A scholarship will be extended only if the kid can play. Expensive highlight tapes are not worth the money. Spending thousands of dollars is too much.  You just need something professional and something that can showcase the athlete and his abilities.

Using Hudl
If your school offers the opportunity for you to create a highlight video using Hudl or other online software, take the time to learn it.  This is a fantastic resource that puts control in the hand of the athletes and their family.  Be willing to spend time on this and follow the directions within this book and on our site during the update.

Full Game Tape
If a college coach is impressed with the highlight tape of an athlete, he will want to see more of the athlete in action. If you are sending out a DVD to coaches, ensure that it includes a full game. This coach can learn a lot about the player through a highlight tape but will get to see the player in all of their glory on the full game tape. They will be able to see if the player takes plays off, his demeanor around teammates, how hard he plays every down, and a lot of other aspects that are missing from a highlight tape. For recruits that coaches are serious about, these game tapes may be even more important than the highlight video.

As a recruit, it is important to pick your best game of the season. If the coaches are serious about you as a player, they may spend the hour to watch the entire tape to see what type of player you are from the start to the end of the game. Your performance, effort, and ability on the full game tape is important. Coaches may decide to request even more game tape after this as well.

Contact Information and Vitals
No matter if the coach has been in contact with you or not previously, make sure to include contact information that includes home phone number, cell phone number, email address, and home address. These are even more important if the staff you are sending the video to has not been in contact with you. Also try to include your jersey number on the tape, height, weight, bench press, 40 time, squat, and anything else of interest. Do no overrate these stats as well and remember to focus on the video first.

If you are sending out an online video link, this information should be included at some point within the highlights.  Simplify the process as much as possible on your end and leave no questions in the eyes of coaches.

Step Five: Build a Website with Video

The fifth and final step to earning an athletic scholarship is to put together a website that provides stats and video of the athlete in action in their chosen sport. Some may consider this an egotistical thing to do for a cocky player but I consider this a smart investment that utilizes the Internet as well as being able to get video to coaches within seconds of their request.  It saves you money on producing more highlight videos as well as sending out the tapes. Having that video available by clicking on a link makes things very simple for college coaches during the recruiting process.

Video Online

When posting video footage online, if you have the expertise or can get it at a good price, it is definitely worth registering a domain name with your son’s name (For example, if your son is Michael Jordan, register http://www.michaeljordan.com). If that domain is taken because it probably is rather popular, try something like jordanbasketball.com or jordanfootball.com. While you can email college coaches the extended link of a youtube video, it may be easier to be able to tell them to go to an easy website that mirrors the name of the athlete.

Why Post Video Online?

As for the main reasons to get this footage online, the biggest advantage is to make it easier for college coaches. Let’s say that you just finished sending your profile out to 50 schools that fit you academically and athletically. Say that 22 college coaches get back to you and say they are interested in learning more about you and seeing video footage of you. Having these highlights online will be quicker, easier, and cheaper than to send each of the 22 college coaches your highlight video.

Not even counting postage, you save the money of producing copies of your DVDs because you send them to the same exact website where all of the coaches can view the highlights. While some may move on to another recruit after seeing the video, these coaches would feel the same way if you took the time to go to the post office, pay the postage, and sent them a physical copy of your highlight video.

This is especially important for recruits later in the process. As the end of your junior year blends into your senior year, getting these highlights online is huge. If you came off the bench as a junior in basketball and suddenly started pouring in 25 points per game in the best conference in your state, this gives the college coaches a quick look at your ability.  It may not include your off-season of improvement but it certainly shows to coaches what type of player you are.  This helps move the recruiting process along quicker than sending your highlight without any previous contact with the college.

Costs Involved

If you are going to the trouble of putting a quality highlight DVD together by a professional, it would be at least worth seeing what the costs of building a website for the athlete would be. I am not recommending paying in the thousands of dollars but in the $300 to $700 area could be worth it in the long run. This is another advantage that most athletes or parents do not see when thinking about ways to get their son or daughter recruited. Plus it also allows out of state friends or relatives to visit the site and see the athlete in action himself.

When posting any video footage from a DVD to a size suitable for a website, the quality of the video will be hurt. So make sure when doing this to make it obvious where you are on the field or the court before sending this out to college coaches. In football, it is important to have a squares or circles around where you are if you are a lineman and the quality is not great to begin with.

If costs are an issue, another route really is to just post the video free on youtube.com and then send out that link.  It may not be a pretty link to send out but the biggest thing is if you can play or not.  This is a great advantage that may be worth looking into.

You also could register a domain and forward it to your online footage.  If that helps garner attention and makes it easy for those that can offer scholarships, it may be worth it.

Conclusion

The recruiting process is a difficult journey for families.  There will always be questions about what you need to do to impress college coaches at all levels, from Division I to Division III.  That is why Recruiting-101 was created.  We are here to do our best to help those with questions and figure out how they can help themselves in front of college coaches.

For parents unfamiliar with the recruiting process, things can get stressful in a hurry.  But in order to better prepare yourself as much as possible, I recommend getting a better feel for the process and reading up all that you can.  If you use this information that was provided in this e-book, you will help to put yourself in a better position for an athlete to be recruited.  These methods have worked in the past and they will continue to work in the future.

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