Thousands of high school students in our region dedicate large chunks of their week to sports. For some, it could provide some serious leverage in the college admissions process. That’s where Tom Kovic comes in. The former University of Pennsylvania gymnastics coach helps families across the country through his Chadds Ford-based Victory Collegiate Consulting. Here he offers some sage advice to those negotiating the athletic recruitment process.
Ask yourself two questions: “Do I want to use my strength as an athlete to gain an athletic scholarship?” or “Do I want to leverage my athletic ability to gain admission to an academically select institution?”
“Just over 25% of college athletes qualify for athletic scholarships, and the competition is fierce,” says Kovic. “College coaches use simple strategies when recruiting prospects, and scholarship athletes are typically immediate-impact blue-chip athletes.
Kovic suggests meeting as a family to identify college descriptors (academic strength, level of athleticism, geographic location, size of undergraduate population) that will help formulate an initial college list. “Students should research a small but equal number of Division I, II and III colleges and their sports programs, athlete profiles, conference competition and team success,” he says.
Visiting the NCAA website is a starting point. “High school athletic directors and sports club administrators are also tremendous resources for an easy-to-understand, scaled-down version of the rules,” Kovic says.
It’s important that prospects, families and high school advisors clearly understand the role the coach plays in this process and make every effort to develop a sincere and strong working relationship with the person throughout the college search. “College coaches have clear restrictions on when and where they may contact prospects and families. But prospects and families may call or email a coach early in the recruiting process,” notes Kovic. “An initial letter of introduction accompanied by a profile is a great way to begin, but it’s very important to follow up regularly with competition results and academic updates.”
It may appear daunting, but consider the long-term benefits. “Student athletes with solid academic credentials and the ability to strongly impact an athletics program can bring a very strong and competitive chip to the college admissions game,” Kovic says.
For Ivy League, Patriot League and Division III coaches, the evaluation begins in the classroom, not on the field. “They’re hungry for academic information (transcripts, high school profile, standardized testing) that will help them compute a rough admissions index,” says Kovic. “Once prospects pass this hurdle, coaches aggressively begin the sport evaluation.”