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Key Factors to Ponder Before Pursuing Sports in College

As a high school athlete looking to continue competing at the college level, it’s time to think about what you want out of your college athletic experience. Here are some key factors to ponder before pursuing sports in college.

what it Means to Compete at a Collegiate Level

Understanding what it takes to be successful as an athlete at the college level is imperative if you want to contribute to your team.

If you thought playing sports in high school was a big commitment, playing sports in college can require even more of your time and focus. Practice can be more involved and training more intense, and you will be on the field with upperclassmen and stronger athletes who are all talented.

Understand that your teammates will become more than just people you play a sport with, they will be your support system. You will live, eat, practice, travel and study with them. Your coaches will also be more involved in your academics, so making sure to communicate about your schedule will also be important.

Show up in shape, work on your soft skills and above all else, be coachable. You might be an awesome athlete, but there is always room to be even better.

Jill Harter, Assistant Vice President of Athletics at UHSP

Choosing a Level of Play

Four-year universities offer different levels of competition within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

The NCAA is divided into Divisions I, II, and III. The difference between the divisions is based on several factors such as athletic budgets, with Division I schools having higher budgets and placing more demands on their athletes.

NAIA generally has fewer regulations than the NCAA and, while still competitive, focuses on the overall success of the athlete and consists of more private schools.

If your goal is to secure more playing time in college sports, opting for a smaller athletic program could offer that chance due to their distinct structural setups.

What Scholarships Are Available

NCAA Divisions I and II as well as NAIA can all offer scholarships. Because the amounts vary based on school, sports and skill, it is important to ask your college recruiter if you may be eligible for a potential athletic scholarship.

Colleges will package scholarships and offerings differently, so make sure you understand how much you are getting and what that amount covers. Amounts vary depending on the sport, and the level of play.

It’s important to note that “full ride” scholarships are rare and extremely difficult to receive because they are so significant. So, set your expectations realistically.

Scholarships are mostly awarded based on merit, and then there can be a layer on top of that of athletic awards. The scholarships that offer to pay for everything are few and far between and are usually given out at the largest Division I schools.

Jill Harter, Assistant Vice President of Athletics at UHSP

Ask Questions

As you pursue athletics at the collegiate level, ask questions to narrow down what team is the right fit for you: 

○ What are the eligibility requirements?
○ How many hours a week will I practice?
○ How much playtime will I get??
○ What is training like?
○ How realistic is it to play a sport and pursue my chosen major?
○ What is life like as an athlete on this campus?
○ What is this team’s dynamic like?

You can also talk to current college athletes and gain perspective through their experiences. Being a successful college athlete is more than just making the team. You must be ready mentally to compete at a higher level and remember that your coaches are there to help.

The coach’s job is to help student athletes be successful on and off the court. Melding really solid academic programs with the ability to compete as an intercollegiate athlete is what it’s all about. 

Jill Harter, Assistant Vice President of Athletics at UHSP

Finding the right team and athletics program is an important part of finding the right school. Keep these key factors to ponder before pursuing sports in college in mind as you make your final decision.

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