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College Selection Process

VarsityFastpitch: An athlete’s guide to playing college softball
Our Mission: To help high school softball players find their way through the complex and confusing maze of identifying careers, finding colleges that are a good match, and navigating through the recuiting process.
Colby   Norris   a   pitcher   from   James   City   County,   Virginia   signed   her National   Letter   of   Intent   November,   2014   with   Bryant   University,   a Division   I   school   in   Rhode   Island.   As   a   high   school   senior   getting ready   to   graduate   with   a   4.0   grade   point   average,   it   would   seem   to some   that   Colby   could   just   sit   back   and   wait   for   the   offers   to   come in.   After   all   she   throws   a   fastball   in   the   mid   60’s,   gets   great   spin   on her   pitches,   and   is   a   pretty   good   hitter   too.   Well,   it   just   doesn’t work that way in the world of college recruiting. Colby    started    her    college    recruiting    journey    when    she    was    11. That’s   right   –   11   years   old.   Are   you   shaking   your   head   saying   that’s too   early?   Well   it   isn’t   –   especially   for   pitchers.   Colby   attended one    day,    two    day,    and    overnight    camps    as    a    way    to    provide exposure     to     college     coaches.     It     also     gave     her     experience performing   in   front   of   large   groups.   I   started   addressing   the   topic of   college   recruiting   with   our   12u   program   last   year   and   we   are working   through   the   process   with   our   14u   program   this   year.   The steps   of   the   Alexander   Early   Recruiting   College   Selection   Process are listed below. STEP   ONE:    Student   athletes   need   to   have   an   idea   of   what   career path    they    want    to    take.    I    provided    some    links    to    our    families (many   resources   are   available   on   the   Internet)   that   help   students think   about   their   future   careers.   Some   of   the   links   provided   career selector    guides    and    even    some    interactive    web    pages    where students   can   narrow   down   what   careers   they   are   interested   in   and might   be   good   at.   Some   links   provided   information   about   what types   of   jobs   will   be   in   demand   when   the   students   graduate   from college.   One   thing   that’s   important   here   is   to   realize   that   middle   school   and   even   high   school   students   may   not   be   able to   pick   a   definitive   career   or   one   that   doesn’t   change   many   times   before   they   graduate.   The   important   lesson   from   this process   is   to   understand   the   process   itself.   There   are   many   benefits   for   student   athletes   who   can   actually   identify   a career   early   on.   Many   students   who   identify   their   career   choices   early   can   set   goals   and   focus   on   achieving   these   goals more quickly, more easily, and often with higher performance. STEP TWO: Student athletes should consider school location. Many students fall into one or more of the following categories which are extremely useful in narrowing their searches. Keep in mind the distances are approximate and can be changed according to your own requirements: Students want to live at home while going to school or students that want to stay close to home. This geographically limits students to schools that are within commuting distance – roughly 60 miles. Students with special needs. Depending on the needs of the student, there are typically two categories that are useful. The first, is a student who needs to live at home, which limits the school’s distance to approximately 60 miles. The second, is for students that can live away from home but need to be accessible by parents within a few hours by car. This limits the school’s distance to approximately 200 miles. Students that want to choose a school in a particular region. For example, some students may want to select a school in a warm climate, or a cool climate. This limits the available schools to those regions. Students that don’t care about the location of a school. Students that want to get away from home. STEP THREE: Identify what type of school you want to attend. For the sake of this article, we will limit the discussion to Division I, Division II, and Division III. Each of these three types of schools has their own attributes. You need to decide what goals you want to meet by going to school: is softball your primary focus and your education is secondary, or is your education the most important and softball is secondary. Three attributes that seem to be most important are: 1. Focus on athletics 2. Focus on education 3. Availability of scholarships vs. financial aid The following statements are gross generalities with many exceptions. Better definitions exist and can easily be found on the Internet. Division I schools typically have more money to spend on athletic scholarships than Division II. Division I schools focus on athletics as being very important, while Division II schools focus more on education. Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships, but need-based aid packages are typically available. STEP FOUR: Students need to be honest with themselves and evaluate both their academic and athletic abilities. Students with a high GPA, may be able to academically get into most schools. Student athletes with elite softball skills may be able to make the cut in most softball programs. The combination of elite athletic ability and high GPA are rare. Be honest with yourself when making the evaluation. If you are interested in attending a Division I school, but your softball skills aren’t near the top of your team, you may need to rethink this category. Similarly, if your grades aren’t that great and you’re interested in attending an academically competitive school, you may need to look elsewhere. STEP FIVE: By this step you know what career path you want to take, geographically where you want to attend school, what Division school you want to attend, and you’ve performed and honest assessment of both your academic and athletic abilities. You now use the results of STEPS ONE through FOUR to narrow your search. Lists of schools in the Division you are interested in can be found on the Internet. Use the following checklist to narrow your search of schools in the desired Division. If you can’t “check off” each category, then move on. This school is located in the region I want/need This school has a program that supports my career path This school has a softball program This school is within my reach academically This school is within my reach athletically STEP SIX: Now you should have a master list of ALL schools that fit your basic requirements and are within your reach to attend. Keep in mind that many college selection processes will talk about having a “backup” or “safe” school you know you can easily get into as well as a stretch school that you may not be able to get into on your prospect list. You should also include these schools in this process as well. However, our focus is on the middle part of the fit curve – the schools that most closely meet your requirements and skills. Start researching the schools on your list. There are many resources that can provide advice on what attributes you should consider when selecting a college. Try to narrow your list down to 15-20 schools. STEP SEVEN: You’ve made a lot of progress by this step and you now have a narrowly focused list of 15-20 schools you are interested in attending and playing softball for. The next step is to further narrow your list down to your top 5-10 favorite schools. Then identify the top 2 schools on your list. Finally, check out the websites for each of these programs. If camps and clinics are listed, make note of the details on a calendar. If nothing is listed, then email the contact address asking to be notified when camps and clinics will be held. The idea here is to make initial contact with the coaching staff by attending their camps and clinics. You should try to attend the camps and clinics held by the top two schools you identified as often as possible, and at least every year. STEP EIGHT: Now that you have a calendar of camps and clinics you want to attend. Work with your parents to select camps and clinics that meet your family’s schedule and budget. Once you have this finalized schedule in place, be sure to register early for each camp or clinic. About two weeks prior to each, mail (by physical snail mail ONLY) the coaches holding the camp or clinic the following: a handwritten note telling them you are interested in their program and that you will be attending their event, a player profile sheet (there are many examples on the Internet), and a list of the upcoming travel games you will be playing in if they are known. The process doesn’t end at step eight, but student athletes can follow this process through their freshman year. If you’re currently a freshman or older and you haven’t performed these steps, you need to begin as soon as possible! Student athletes should run through the entire process at least annually if any of the decisions used in school selection have changed. Next steps include registering on the NCAA Eligibility Website, playing in showcase tournaments, taking informal school visits, creating a skills video, and keeping coaches on the top 15-20 list updated on your progress, including academic and athletic achievements. A great resource that EVERY prospective college softball player should buy is Preparing to Play Softball at the Collegiate Level by Catharine Aradi. It can be purchased through the NFCA website. Coach Sue Enquist has commented many times that she and other coaches evaluate MANY other attributes of student athletes besides their grades and playing skills. You need to be very careful about how you use social media. Never post anything that is inappropriate or can be interpreted as inappropriate. Coaches are very interested in your character. They want to see that you are involved in charity and community work. They watch you as you are arriving at the practice field. They want to see how you interact with your family members as well as with the other players. Colby Norris attended clinics since she was 11 years old, and narrowed her focus to 15-20 schools when she started playing 14u. She took her first SAT in her sophomore year and started playing in showcase tournaments. Having an early, high SAT score is a great way to draw attention to yourself! All Division I and II schools prefer to select players who are high academic performers as these student athletes may also be eligible for academic scholarships which helps coaches have more athletic scholarship money available to obtain other great players. So make sure you keep working hard at your GPA and SAT scores!