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.

Writing Supplemental Essays

In addition to your personal essay, some schools require a supplemental essay as a part of the application process. In the supplemental essay, you are often asked to explain why you want to apply to that particular school and why you would be a good fit. Here are some tips to help you out as you tackle these types of prompts:

Identify your passions 

Before you get started on the essay, think carefully about where your interests lie. In addition to studying, what else do you hope to do while at college? Are you passionate about science and want to work in a research lab? Do you love sports and plan to join an intramural soccer team? Do you enjoy writing and dream of working for the school newspaper? Write it all down and come up with a list of a couple of things that are essential to your college experience. 

Do your research 

Now that you know what’s important to you, go onto the school’s website and find out what opportunities they have in those fields. Most schools have a list of available extracurriculars and student groups that you can join when you get there. It’s also beneficial to look up different academic programs, research opportunities, internships and study abroad options. As you’re doing this, jot down everything you find that makes you genuinely excited. 

Culture matters 

Another aspect you should touch on in your essay is the school culture. Is the school’s community based around sports? A tiny liberal arts college with a small-town feel? Is there a strong religious presence on campus? In your essay, you should identify the school culture and explain why it’s a good match for you. Use as much first-hand experience as you can. If you’ve visited, mention something you learned on the tour that stood out to you. If you haven’t had the chance to visit, browse on the school’s website and look at class sizes, research the city the school is located in and read about student experiences. The more information you can get, the better.

Quality over quantity

Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to begin writing the essay. These essays are usually short: only one or two paragraphs. Since you do not have a ton of space, prioritize quality over quantity. First, in a few sentences, explain why the school would be a good culture fit for you. Then, rather than listing out every activity you find interesting, select two or three of the opportunities from your list and talk about why you want to do them in detail. Be as specific as possible, mentioning the exact names of the programs or student groups you’ve researched. Colleges will be impressed with your attention to detail and it’ll show that you’re serious about the school. 

Be authentic 

Sometimes students write down the things that they think colleges want to hear. However, you should always be true to yourself. For example, if the school is super religious, and that’s not something that matters to you, don’t say that it is. The most important thing is that you’re happy and successful wherever you go to college. This essay provides an excellent opportunity to think critically about your values and determine whether they align with that schools mission. In your research, you might find that it’s not a good fit, and that’s okay! It’s better to know early on. 

Don’t stress 

There are no right or wrong answers for this essay. As long as you put some thought into it and do your best to explain yourself, you’re all set.  Colleges want to see you for the student you are. Look at it as a chance for them to get to know you better. Don’t forget to have fun with it! 

The World of Portfolios

Briti Prajapat, CollegeFindMe Intern

Out of those hundreds of thousands of applicants, how can you stand out? Are you excelling in school? Do your test scores set a promising representation of you and your abilities? If you’re an artist, then your talents might be another great way to set you apart from the crowd.

Whether it be dancing, painting, acting, or singing, your skills may be rarer than you think. Just by submitting a clip of you singing or a collage of your amazing drawings, you can stand out from other students in the application pool.

What should you send?

Well, the hard part is to choose what to use. Answer these questions: what are you most proud of? What do you think reflects your abilities? And lastly, is it unique?

If you want to turn in a video of you singing, choose a song that is challenging, yet you have managed to not just sing it well, but also highlight your vocals. You also need to be careful not to choose a song that contains inappropriate words and sentences. So basically, select a song that you can sing during a family gathering or a school event.

Furthermore, for artists, make sure to save ALL your artwork from previous years of art classes. Choose your favorites, but if you have any questions, seek help from your art teacher. Your pile of artwork for your portfolio should include only 10 to 20 of your best artworks, showing both your skills in a variety of media as well as your development in a few media over time. This will help to show schools the range of your talents, but also your commitment to mastering one or two artforms.

Unlike drawers, dancers should try to concentrate on one specific type of dance. If you are a dancer and you want to submit a group dance, be sure that it focuses mostly on you.

An important note

Some colleges and universities do not necessarily have a section on Common App where you can attach your portfolio. To submit your portfolio to these schools, you can mention it in the “Additional Information” section and attach the link. Also, you can send a professional email to the admissions committee of the school informing them about your interest in submitting a portfolio.

Don’t be afraid to display your true talents!  Show these colleges what you have to offer through our platform – we’re working on a new function where students can share their profile photos and videos with schools!

From one artist to another, I wish you luck!