The process is very similar to looking for a job.
The process operates on two parallel tracks: soccer and academic.
Approach the process with a team mentality: player, parents, coach and school guidance counselor. Everyone has certain responsibilities, but, the player, your child needs to lead the team.
Section I: Soccer
When to get started:
To understand when to get started, you need to work backwards. Coaches build their annual recruiting process around the official signing date, February 1st. By February, many coaches have identified and talked with the players they want to be a part of their program. Because college soccer is a fall sport, most, but not all, recruiting takes place over the spring and summer months. However, there also is a flurry of recruiting that does take place after the fall collegiate soccer season is over between November and December.
With the above in mind, it is recommended that your child begin the process during the summer between his sophomore and junior years of high school. He should develop a list of schools that interest him both academically and athletically.
Note: NCAA regulations permit coaches to respond to prospective student-athlete inquiries, but the coaches cannot initiate contact until July 1 of the summer leading to your child's senior year.
Summer before the start of junior year:
• Develop list of schools
• Meet with coach to discuss viability of playing college soccer, appropriate • Level, list of schools
• Thoroughly research schools and soccer programs
• Draft letter of introduction
• Draft resume
• Finalize letter and resume
• Send letters and resume
How to get started:
Developing your target list (research)
Coaches expect players to have done their research on both the school and the soccer program. Coaches do not want to be in discussions with a player only to find out, for example, that the school doesn't offer what the player wants to study.
When developing the target list, the player will find it helpful to include the following minimum information:
• School name
• School Web site
• Athletic Web site
• Coaches names, mailing address, phone numbers, email addresses
Once the target list is complete and the player has met with his club, he is ready to develop his letter of introduction. The letter should be sent before the fall college soccer season begins. When surveyed, the coaches overwhelmingly preferred to receive the letter via email. Some noted that it doesn't hurt to email and send a hard copy. As for the content of the letter, coaches indicated they are looking for a fairly simple, straightforward letter. Players also are encouraged to personalize each letter with the coach's name, e.g., "Dear Coach Le Crom" versus "Dear Coach" and incorporate the name of the school into the body of the letter, e.g., "I am interested in attending XYZ to study accounting."
Coaches are looking for letters to include the following:
• Player's name
• Name of club team
• Name of high school
• Graduation date
• Projected major
• Upcoming schedule (tournaments, academy games, etc.)
• Coach references with contact information
• Resume (separate document)
The resume should include:
• Personal information – height, weight, birth date
• Contact information – address, email, phone (home and mobile), IM
• Academic – GPA, class rank, PSAT or SAT/ACT scores, clubs, community service, awards/honors
• Athletics – soccer info for club/academy (include uniform colors, jersey number, position), high school, ODP (if applicable), awards
• Other sports experience
• References – include name, phone (home and mobile), email, mailing address
Note: Photos are not necessary and you want to make sure that the resume can be easily emailed.
Team schedule (academy play and tournaments):
The player will want to develop a separate team schedule document which can be constantly updated and easily emailed. An updated schedule is a good way to stay in contact with coaches.
Once the letter, resume and team schedule has been sent, now what. The majority of surveyed coaches encourage follow-up while some indicated if they are interested, they will follow-up. When a coach responds with questions, he expects the player to respond within 24 – 48 hours. On the flip-side, it is helpful to understand that some schools will receive upwards of 1,200 – 1,500 letters of introduction. Coaches do their best to respond and most have departmental systems in place to help them manage the communications, but they do not always respond in a timely fashion. Patience and persistence become assets.
On the question of videos, coaches stressed watching the player live is most important. However, video can be helpful to spark interest for a coach to come watch a player.
Because you want to be in a position to respond promptly to a coach, parents and players have found it is better to have video than to have to scramble to get a video together. It is best to put together 5 – 7 minutes of highlights followed by 20 – 30 minutes of unedited play.
The majority of schools host summer camps. The camps serve a couple of purposes for the schools and their soccer programs: source of income for the program, recruiting and awareness building for the school.
Attending the camps of the schools your child might be interested in is not mandatory, but it can be very helpful. For your child, it gives him an opportunity to experience the school and to interact with the coaching staff. For the coaches, it is an opportunity to better assess a player's skills, attitude and team fit.
Something else to keep in mind about attending a camp is that coaches from other schools often work at the camp for their own recruiting purposes. So, your child is exposed to multiple opportunities and if your child attends a camp(s), he needs to make sure that at some point during camp, he introduces himself to the coaches.
Unofficial and official visits:
An unofficial visit is any visit to a school that is paid for by the player or parents. There are no limitations on when you can visit or how many visits can be made. The only expense a school may offer to pay is for three complimentary tickets to a school's sporting event.
There are more regulations pertaining to an official visit. Briefly, an official visit occurs at the invitation of a coach and is paid for by the school. Please go to the NCAA Web site for the specifics on unofficial and official visits.
A helpful tip for official visits to DI schools:
• keep multiple copies of the player's high school transcript
• have SAT and/or ACT scores handy
• register with NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known as NCAA Clearinghouse)
The player will be asked to provide the coaches with transcripts and test scores as well as confirm registration with the Eligibility Center.
It is the player's responsibility to understand and abide by the NCAA regulations. It is strongly suggested that you and your child spend time reviewing NCAA regulations. The NCAA Web site is a wealth of information and easy to navigate.
Go to www.ncaa.org. On the left side of the home page, go to Academics & Athletes. Next to access the Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete, click on Eligibility & Recruiting. The guide will answer all your questions.
NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known as NCCA Clearinghouse):
The NCAA Eligibility Center establishes the player's amateur status and eligibility. There is an online form that needs to be filled out by the player. He should complete this online information by the end of his junior year, preferably before summer starts as he might need information from his guidance counselor. CLICK HERE TO GO TO ELIGIBILITY CENTER
Section II: Academics
Choosing a school:
Getting an education should be the first priority. A player should not choose a school based solely on its soccer program. As a prospective college student-athlete, you must choose a school based on both its academics and its soccer program.
When considering schools, players need to ask themselves several questions:
• Do I want to go to a big school or a smaller school?
• What part of the country would I like to be in?
• What do I think I might want to study?
• Does the school offer what I want to study?
• Does the school fit our family's budget?
• What are the athletic facilities like?
• What are the soccer facilities like?
Your guidance counselor:
If your child hasn't met with his guidance counselor, now is the time. The guidance counselor can be a tremendous asset during the college process. The earlier your child meets with the counselor the better because the counselor can educate him about the college application process, the high school's process for supplying transcripts, recommendations, meeting deadlines. Also, check out your school's Web site and the guidance department's section. Most guidance departments will have a guideline and tips pertaining to the college application process.
Transcripts, GPA and Class Rank:
In preparation for the letters of introduction, at the end of the player's sophomore year, he should request a copy of his transcript which will include his GPA. This transcript is considered an "unofficial" transcript. Coaches understand that official transcripts are not available until a player's junior year as well as class rank. When the player receives his official transcript, he can forward it to coaches as necessary.
SAT's and ACT's:
As it relates to recruiting, the important thing is to make sure the player has registered with NCAA Eligibility Center and puts the NCAA Eligibility Center code on his test as the scores have to be sent directly to the NCAA. The code is 9999. Be sure to thoroughly read the NCAA regulations.
Applications & Deadlines:
As the search and recruiting begin to narrow, the player needs to be mindful of application deadlines. The player doesn't want to find himself in a situation where he receives an offer from a coach in mid-January only to find out he has missed the deadline to submit his application to the school. The player might want to consider submitting applications as soon as he begins any discussions with a coach.
Scholarship and Financial Aid:
Soccer at most schools is not a revenue-generating sport like football and basketball. Therefore, the soccer programs do not have the depth of scholarship money like the other sports. Each program is given a set number of scholarships for the program – not per year. So, the scholarship money available to the player's recruiting class is usually dependent upon the graduating scholarship players. It is not unusual for players to receive partial scholarships, which allows coaches to spread the funds across several players.
Because of limited scholarship funds, players and parents are encouraged to research the financial aid and merit scholarship options available through the schools. Again, the player's guidance counselor can be very helpful navigating the financial aid process.