Think of National Signing Day as akin to National College Decision Day, but for the countryâ€™s top amateur athletes. Like you, these teens pick a home for the next four years, even signing and sending over a letter of commitment â€” the only difference is that theyâ€™re choosing both a college and a team.
Even if you donâ€™t dribble, tackle or score with the best of them, you could learn by following their example. These seven takeaways from student-athletesâ€™ experience might help you select the right school come May 1.
Five-star recruits who excel on the field donâ€™t even need to dial: Head coaches from schools all over the country will be ringing regularly.
But many of these prep athletes donâ€™t just take the first offer they get. They might have phone calls with assistant coaches, members of the athletic department and others to ensure that the school offers them what they want out of their athletic and academic experience.
In your case, speaking with the admissions and financial aid offices is one thing, but it wouldnâ€™t hurt to contact the people youâ€™ll be interacting with at the school. For instance, you might reach out to department heads, faculty and professors who would take part in your education in your preferred (or just potential) major.
The very best young athletes play host to recruiters in their living room. Afterward, they might narrow their college choice list to a handful of contending programs, book their travel and take guided tours of the campus athletic facilities.
To save money and time, you might start by using eCampusTours to make virtual visits. Identify your contending schools and map out your visit. (Unless youâ€™re hoping to be an intramural sports star in college, itâ€™s worth visiting spots other than the campus gymnasium.)
You might not receive as much hand-holding as a heralded basketball recruit, so be prepared to do some exploring on and off campus. Confirm that these are places you could imagine yourself studying and living until your degree is complete.
Incoming freshman football players might follow their prospective teams on Twitter or like them on Facebook to track win-loss records, to see how head coaches handle defeat or to understand the locker room culture.
You could gain a similarly valuable perspective on your favorite universities (or schools within the universities) by at least checking in on studentsâ€™ social media posts. Learning about campus culture and events, for example, would help you get an idea of whether youâ€™d fit into a given schoolâ€™s social scene.
Many incoming college athletes receive full-ride scholarship offers without having to ask for them. Itâ€™s not unheard of for some sportsâ€™ coaches to make these offers when the student-athlete is still in the eighth grade.
Many other prep athletes, particularly those playing sports that donâ€™t draw national attention, receive only partial scholarships. Like you, they must find other ways to fill the gap in their cost of attendance and living expenses.
As you search for scholarships, ask yourself what value youâ€™d bring to campus, even if itâ€™s not a championship trophy. Then present that case, whether itâ€™s centered on your grades or life experience, to financial aid offices at the schools youâ€™re interested in.
You might not score the full-ride given to football players (or even the partial aid afforded to competitors in lesser-known sports), but you could receive a smaller scholarship that lessens your reliance on federal and private student loans.
High school athletes who are good enough to play in college might even be good enough to play professionally too. A talented point guard looking for the right womenâ€™s basketball program, for example, might award extra points to schools that have graduated guards into the WNBA.
Adopt the same mindset for your job prospects â€” after all, choosing a college is not unlike choosing a career path.
Say you want to study computer science, but youâ€™re unsure if a particular university pumps out the kind of candidates that startups and tech giants fight over. Put in a little research, whether by talking to a schoolâ€™s alumni relations office or searching a website like LinkedIn. Then youâ€™ll know whether a campus has served as a springboard to the kind of positions you might one day seek.
High-profile recruits often verbally accept one schoolâ€™s scholarship offer, only to turn around and sign with another on National Signing Day. Decommitting and choosing a college elsewhere is inevitable for some teenagers deciding where they want to play college ball.
No one is expecting you to have it figured out immediately either. So thereâ€™s no harm in having your heart set on one school at the beginning of your college choice process, but then deciding that a rival school is a better fit. Keep an open mind to ensure you land in the right place.
Of the six college sports that offer full-ride scholarships, football and basketball seem to attract the most attention. Their top-notch recruits have been known to go on TV, start a live stream or otherwise record the moment they announce their school choice.
You might see these college choice announcements as over the top, or even brash, but thereâ€™s also something genuine about them. The student-athletes are practically giddy about where theyâ€™ll be going to school.
Even if youâ€™re not a fan of the pomp and circumstance of National Signing Day, make sure you enjoy the spotlight youâ€™ll be under on College Decision Day. After all the work youâ€™ve put in (including steps one through six, above), itâ€™s your time to shine. Revel in it.