The College Search Process vs. The College Recruiting Process

The College Search Process vs. The College Recruiting Process

The college recruiting process is an exciting time for a prospective student-athlete, it is the pinnacle of all of the time, effort, and energy dedicated to their sport.   However,  the challenge for many prospective student-athletes is differentiating the college search process from the college recruiting process.  What prospective student-athletes need to understand is that the college search process and the college recruiting process are different but they are both important in finding the right school.

Let’s begin with the College Search Process.   The purpose of the college search process is to find the school that will provide you with the best college experience academically, athletically, and socially or personally. We call this finding your College Experience Trifecta.    One of the main reasons you will be going through the process is to get a quality education that will set you up for life after college.  It only makes sense to begin your college search process with the Academic factors that will help you find the school that will help you develop academically.


  • Academic standards/requirements to be accepted
    • What is the average GPA/Test scores for accepted students?
  • Acceptance Rates
  • Academic programs offered
    • What field of study are you interested in?
    • Do you have a specific major in mind?
  • Learning environment/ Class size
There are also other factors that may also be important to you
  • Academic Opportunities (Internships, Study Abroad, etc)
  • Academic Support
  • Graduation Rate
  • Percentage of students who receive jobs out of college
  • Location
    • Distance from home
    • Travel Options (Car, Train, Plane)
    • How often do you want your family to see you/ see you play?
    • Climate
  • Campus Setting
    • City
    • Suburban
    • Rural
  • Campus Size
    • Small  – 1,000 – 5,000
    • Medium  5,000 – 15,000
    • Large 15,000-25,000
    • Extra Large 25,000 +
  • Student Activities – What else is there to do on campus?
College is more than attending class and playing sports.  What else can you get in involved in?  Are there other clubs or organizations you can join.   What kind of campus activities are there on the weekends?  What is around campus?   Are there other points of interest you can visit?
  • Cost of Tuition
College Tuition is going through the ceiling so cost plays an integral role into your college search process It’s important to understand that all colleges have a sticker price just like buying a car. However, it is rare that a student will be paying the full cost of tuition.  As you are doing your research on the schools you are interested in you should try to find out what is the average net cost.   That is what the average student pays to attend that institution.  The Average net costs will take in account all types of financial aid a student might receive like merit scholarships,  private scholarships, and need based financial aid. Now that you have a potential list of schools that match your academic and personal/social needs its time to turn your attention to find the athletic program where you will be a good fit. ATHLETICS
  • Level of Competition (NCAA Division I, II, and III,  NAIA, NCCAA, NJCAA)
  • The Coaching Staff
    • Tenure
    • Philosophy
    • Personality
  • Current Roster
    • Graduating Seniors
    • Roster Turnover
  • Athletic Facilities
  • Athletics Support Staff
  • On the field Success
  • Academic Success
  • Playing Time
Now this is where the College Recruiting Process begins. Prior to starting you should familiarize yourself with the 5 Phases of the College Recruiting Process.   The first phase,  Planning and Preparation is where you will learn and understand the intricacies of the NCAA Eligibility Center, the NCAA Recruiting Rules and Regulations, and discover the differences between all the different levels of competition.  As a prospective student-athlete the only rule you really need to know and understand is the contact rule.  When can college coaches begin contacting you via email, phone calls, texts, and now social media.    For most sports it is September 1 of your junior year in high school.  However, some other sports have their own rules. The Communication Phase and the Gaining Exposure Phase is the meat of the college recruiting process.  You should have an idea of what qualities college coaches are looking for in their recruits and understand how coaches identify, evaluate, and select potential recruits.   Learn how to communicate effectively with college coaches.  The college recruiting process continues with an evaluation period where the coach has the opportunity to watch you perform athletically.    Within the Gaining Exposure phase you will begin visiting campuses and meeting college coaches and starting to get a real feel for the program and discover more about the school.  Your first interaction with a college coach is an essential part of the college recruiting process.  This is where the coach really gets to evaluate you as a student-athlete and learn more about your personality off the field. As you you begin visiting more campuses and speaking with college coaches your college selection process should start to become clearer.   You need to start narrowing your lists to about 5 schools to start the next phase which is the Decision Making Process.  This is the time where you begin looking at all your options.   Take the words of Mount St. Mary’s University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jamion Christian, “Choose the school where you are not only loved but wanted and needed.”    That is the place where you will be able to develop in all aspects of your life.   In order to select the right fit you fit you should answer the 50 questions every student-athlete should answer before committing to a school.  There are Academic questions, Athletic questions, Social Questions, and Financial Questions.   After answering all of these questions for each of the schools you are seriously considering compare your answers and select the school where you feel you will receive the best college experience academically, athletically, and socially.  Is it your college experience trifecta? Here are some tips from GFS to help you with the decision
  • Choose a school where you will best be able to develop academically, athletically, and personally.  If you can find a school that you allows you to develop in the classroom, on the field, and in your community then that may be the best school for you.
  • Don’t always choose the program that gives you the best financial package it might not be the right fit
  • Choose a school you would enjoy if you were not playing a sport.  You never know what could happen.  It’s important to pick a school and not just an athletic program.  If you were no longer playing your sport would you be able to remain at that school and still enjoy your college experience.

Are you ready to get a jump-start on your college search process?

Let’s begin the journey to find your College Experience Trifecta.   Grab your copy of the College Recruiting Playbook today and start making your dream a reality. In 2015, the College Recruiting Playbook was published to help educate prospective student-athletes about the college recruiting process. The College Recruiting Playbook is a student-athletes workbook to finding the right college to fit their academic, athletic, and personal needs. Finding the right college for your student-athlete doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with College Recruiting Playbook, you can navigate the five phases of the recruiting process with surprising ease. 1. Planncollege-recruiting-playbook-covering and Preparation 2. Communication 3. Gaining Exposure 4. Decision Making 5. Beyond the Decision This step-by-step guide walks parents and students through everything they need to know and do in order to find the best college athletically, academically, and personally. Written especially for high school athletes, this guide is also an essential read for parents, teachers, and coaches. By utilizing the included organizer and looking at the process from more than an athlete’s point of view, you can form the best strategy for your young athlete’s near and distant future.


About the Author Christopher Stack is the Founder and CEO of Guiding Future Stars and author of the College Recruiting Playbook. GFS is a student- development company that transforms the next generation into excellent students, great athletes, and extraordinary people. A former Division I soccer player for Mount St. Mary’s University, he holds a degree in sports management and an MBA in marketing. Stack has worked in intercollegiate athletics for over twelve years. Starting his career in college administration at his alma mater as the Coordinator of Intramurals, he also served as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the university’s women’s soccer team. He eventually transitioned to the academic side of college sports as the coordinator of student-athlete academic support.  In 2014, he created Guiding Future Stars.  In 2015, he published his first book The College Recruiting Playbook. Stack now enjoys using his higher education experience to help educate  high school students achieve their dreams of playing sports in college while also gaining first-rate educations.      

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