Finding Your College Experience Trifecta

Finding Your College Experience Trifecta

 "Being a student-athlete should enhance your college experience,

not be a roadblock to your success."

[embed][/embed] Prospective student-athletes should search for a school that will provide them with the best college experience academically, athletically, and socially; we call this the The College Experience Trifecta.   Too often prospective student-athletes will choose a school where they will have a great athletic career but other aspects of their college experience fall short of their expectations. Being a college student-athlete is more than just attending classes and playing a sport,  it is an experience.  That is why you must look at the college search process from three perspectives; as a student, an athlete, and as a young man or woman.  You need to find a school where you will be happy in all three aspects of your college life.   There are many factors that go into finding the College Experience Trifecta.  Each prospective student-athlete is unique and they need to find what is best for them.  A common mistake by many prospective student-athletes is they will begin the college recruiting process by looking at the athletic programs before looking at the school.  I believe you will have a better chance of finding the College Experience Trifecta by first looking at what each school has to offer you academically and socially.  When you create that list of schools then you should try to match an athletic program that fits what you are looking for.  There are over 1,200 colleges and universities,  if playing your sport is important to you then there is a school out there that fits what you are looking for in your college experience. Academically At this point in your life you have been attending school for over a decade.  As a student, you know how it works.  You attend classes, read, take notes, write papers, and take tests.  College is no different except the expectations are greater. In college you have the ability to do more free thinking, express your opinions, and defend your beliefs.   As you search for the right fit academically you should keep these questions in mind as you navigate through the process. You need to consider these things as you begin looking at schools
  • What type of school are you looking for?
    • 2 year / 4 year
    • public or private
    • liberal arts or research college
    • religious affiliation
  • What type of learner are you?
  • What subjects  do you do well in and what subjects do you struggle with?
  • Classroom environment: Do you do well in lecture classes, discussion classes or labs?  
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you identify what type of academic environment you may be looking for. Are you looking for a well rounded liberal arts education or are you looking for a more straight-forward approach to your education?
  • Would class sizes affect how you learn?
Personally, that was a major factor in my college search process.  I needed smaller class sizes where I had the opportunity to interact with my professor and classmates in a smaller group setting.  I knew that I would have never survived a school where I had to sit in large lecture halls listening to a professor speak for an hour.  But like I said earlier, every student is unique so you need to discover what environment best suits you to learn and grow. In addition, the areas of study you may be interested in will affect your college search process.  Yes, most schools have the popular majors like business, science, and education.  Are you interested in a more specific major like engineering or oceanography?  If so, that can quickly narrow your college/university options. The academic side of the college search process is very important.  Remember playing intercollegiate athletics is an experience that provides student-athletes the opportunity to excel at a sport they love while building an educational foundation for their future.   Social Life College is intended to provide students an experience.  It is the place where you develop and become the person you will be for the rest of your life.  Your world will be exposed to new ideas, you will make new friends, and you will have successes and defeats along the way, it is all part of the college experience.  This may be the most important part of the college search process.  It is this aspect of college where you will ultimately love your decision or regret your decision. And we don't want you to regret your decision.  There are many factors that are involved in finding a school that fits your social preferences.
  • Location:
    • How far away from your home are you willing to travel?   
    • What are your travel options,  is it a car ride away, or a train, or do you need to take a plane.  
    • Do you want your family to be able to see you play live as much as possible?
    • Do you want to be close enough where you can go home and get a home cooked meal or do some laundry?  On top of that do you want to be close enough where your family can just stop by when they please?
    • Do you dislike cold weather and would like to go to a warmer climate, or are you a cold person who like to ski or snowboard.  As a DI athlete these activities may be frowned upon from the coach because they can result in injury.
  • Campus Setting:  Size and Setting
Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond or big fish in little pond? There are thousands of schools in all different shapes and sizes.  There are Division I schools that have an undergraduate enrollment of 1,000 and schools that have over 50,000 students. There are schools located in the heart of a metropolitan area, center of a small town, or nestled on the side of a mountain.
  • Extracurricular Activities:
    • What is there to do on or around campus?
    • Do they have big time athletics program?  
    • Are there clubs or other organizations you can join?
The social/personal aspect of the college search process may be the most important.  The only way to experience this part of campus is to visit while classes are in session. If you are fortunate enough to be able to have an overnight visit at an institution please do it. There is no substitute for experiencing a day in the life of a student-athlete. Athletics Now that you have created a list of schools that match your academic and personal preferences, now it’s time to turn your attention to the athletics side , the reason this process started from the beginning.
  • Level of Competition
    • Are you looking for an athletic scholarship, then DI, DII, and NAIA are your best options.  If you are interested in pursuing DI opportunities, are you looking at schools in the major conferences (AAC, ACC, BIG10, BIG EAST, BIG 12, PAC12, and SEC) or are you looking at Mid-Major Schools?  
    • Are you looking to continue to play competitively but not the full year round commitment then DII or DIII may be a better option for you.
  • Athletic Program -
    • Who are the coaches?  Do you feel comfortable with your interactions with them?  
    • What are the athletic facilities like?  Could you see yourself competing on those facilities?   
    • What is the current roster make-up?  Are their a lot of graduating seniors in your class?  Is there a lot of roster turnover from year to year?  If, so that could be a red flag.   
    • What is the success of the team?  Is it traditionally a winning program or is it a program that is rebuilding.  
    • How important is playing time to you?  Are you looking for an opportunity to play immediately or are you willing to bide your time and work for playing time?  
Building relationships with college coaching staffs may be the most important part of the college search process.  Now you shouldn't choose a school solely based on coaches but they do play a major role in the process.   In the end, you should choose a school that you would enjoy if for some reason you were no longer able to play your sport.   Now go out and find your College Experience Trifecta


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.


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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