College Recruiting Process for Athletes

Are you interested in playing sports in college, but don’t know where to start? In this article, Mike Savello, a high school coach with 15+ years of experience, shares his advice for high school athletes.


We tell our athletes to get started at the end of their sophomore year. They should register with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Eligibility Center to begin the recruiting process. This will prove that you’re eligible to play a college sport. You just have to set up an account and fill out your profile with your athletic and academic information. Some people begin this process as early as freshman year, but I’ve found that sophomore year gives students plenty of time.

Steps after setting up your account

After you register, you should take a look at the academic requirements. Depending on what division you are aiming for, you will need to make sure you complete a particular set of core courses and reach certain requirements for your GPA and standardized test scores. 

Once your grades are squared away, you should work to create a highlight tape of your best moments on the field. You and your coach will then post this on a recruiting platform like Hudl or Field Level for recruiters to view. You can also upload your transcript to these platforms.

New Level in College

As you start the process in tenth grade, sit down and have a conversation with your coach. I always tell my athletes to focus on their grades first and foremost. Whatever level they want to play will be determined later on. That will take care of itself. Register for the NCAA first and see what happens.

I recommend going on the NCAA website to learn about the different divisions and related scholarships. (See here)

Looking to be recruited in junior or senior year

Interested schools will reach out to you directly. They often contact you and set up a visit at the end of junior year. Many schools offer an official visit, where you can go to the school and get a sense of what it would be like to play on their team. 

The NCAA site explains the recruiting process in detail (see here) and provides in-depth recruiting calendars for each sport. There are certain periods where college coaches cannot contact students and certain periods when they can, so be aware of that as you’re going through the process.

The school in your mind

If a kid is interested in a school, they can reach out to that coach themselves and send their film. Their coach doesn’t have to be involved. Over the years, thanks to the online platforms, the process is very hands-off in general. You do not necessarily need your high school coach to reach out.

The athletic program

It might sound simple, but it’s just a gut feeling. Go on campus and see if you feel comfortable with the team members, the coaching staff, the surroundings. You will spend four years playing a sport there, so if it doesn’t feel right, chances are you won’t be happy. 

I always tell my athletes to go to a school for academics as well as the sports. They should go to school where they will be comfortable getting an education. As yourself: If you weren’t playing sports, would you still be happy there?

Advice for athletes

Trust the process and work hard. You will end up where you need to be in the end.