Choosing a University To Study and Play Sports


Choosing a university that you’re going to spend four years of your life is a pretty big decision. There are many factors you need to consider in the decision-making process.

When you are making this decision taking into account that you are going to be a student-athlete, this decision can become more complicated. More than the factors you’d typically consider as a student, you also need to consider the factors as an athlete.

In this post, we will be talking about the key factors you should take into consideration when choosing a university. Understanding them will help you to evaluate your options and make a better decision.

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Student Factors

Academic Major Availability – The first thing you should look at in a university from the student perspective, is if they offer the major you want to study. Universities offer different courses, and not all of them will have the one you want to study available. Make sure the university you are considering offers the major you want.

Admission Requirements – Once you know the university offer your study course, you need to find out what are the admission requirements for the university. What’s the GPA you need to have? What is the SAT/ACT scores you need to obtain?

Affordability – I would say it is one of the most significant factors students and their parents take into consideration. College is a massive investment, and parents sometimes start saving money since their child is born to pay for their degree.

As a student-athlete, getting a sports scholarship will give you some financial help. You can also apply for academic scholarships, that can be awarded depending on your GPA or entry-level tests scores.

Location – As an international student, you are moving away from your family and your country. Choosing a place that matches your preferences in life will help you in the adaptation, making you enjoy your experience.

Do you like warm and sunny or cold and snowy weather? Do you want to live in an urban, suburban or rural area? What are the off-campus activities you will find?

Campus Size – Here, you will look into enrolment numbers and facilities. Again, as an international student, you will most probably be living on campus and spending most of your time there as well.

How many students are there at the university? What options are available for dorms? What choices do you have for food? Do they have recreational facilities and activities available?

Athlete Factors

Sports Program – Just like the academic majors, not all universities will offer all sports programs available out there. From the athlete perspective, this is the first factor you need to find out about before choosing a university.

Does the university offer the sports program you want? Will they be recruiting your position on your graduation class year? Are there scholarships available?

League and Division – This falls under two things: what is the league and division you desire to play and your ability to play at the desired league and division.

Coaches will evaluate you by your highlight skills video. Your video will tell them how good you are, even if your ability is higher or lower than what the video shows.

Of course, you can always aim to play at the highest level, but you need to keep your mind open to all possibilities, looking at a program that will best fit you and your skills.

The second thing to take in consideration is how you want your athlete experience to be. Do you want to be a key player from the beginning? Are you happy to sit on the bench? Is being part of the roster enough? Answering these questions will help you make a better decision.

Competitiveness – This factor may not be relevant to everyone, but it is worth mentioning. By playing any sport, you will be competing. What is the outcome you want out of the competition? Do you want to win? Is qualifying to playoffs enough? Are you happy only participating?

You need to know yourself and how competitive you are. If you want to win, you won’t be satisfied playing for a program that never makes the playoffs. If you are happy only by playing, you may not like the pressure that a winning team has.

Choosing a university process

By now, you already know better on what to consider and look for when choosing a university. The next step is to start doing your research and putting your options together.

Keeping yourself organised will help you to evaluate each university better. It will give you the data you need to make your decisions. Following the process below is one of the ways you can make the process works.

Make a list of universities – As you have been reading in this post, there is a lot of factors you should be considering when choosing a university. Trying to fit all of your preferences in the initial research could make you waste a lot of time.

Instead, we advise you to research first the universities that offer your sports program and the course you want to study. Make a list of at least 30 universities. The more universities you have in your initial list, the better.

Narrow your list down – After you have your initial list, start being picky to narrow it down with the universities that best match your preferences. You want to have at least ten universities in the next list.

To help you out, you can make a spreadsheet with all the points that matter to you. When researching the university, put a note on the corresponding cell if the university matches your preferences or not. Organising your research will help you to visualise your options better.

Start contacting coaches – Research time is over. Now it’s time to start approaching the college coaches. With your list of best options, get the contact information of the coaches and start a conversation of what are the possibilities of you getting a sports scholarship in their program.

If you need help on how to find the coaches contact information, what is the best way to contact them, and what to say in your communications, this article will help you.

I think the best advice we can give here is for you to keep your mind open. As we mentioned before, several factors can make the university you most want to attend not being a good fit for you at that moment. Not all of your options will tick all of your boxes, but be open and consider them from the beginning. They could become your best or last choice, and it will be easier for you to accept going to that university then.

Another piece of advice, now related to athletics, is for you to have universities from different leagues and divisions in your final list. Imagine you are obsessed by playing sports at NCAA D1, and you only have universities from this league and university in your final list. D1 schools are very hard to get in, from their academic admission requirements to the number of students you will be competing against for a spot in the roster.

It comes down to the first advice of keeping your mind open. Some D2 universities have better programs than some D1 programs. So make sure to have a variety of options to increase your chances of finding your sports scholarship offer.

Lastly but most importantly, make sure you’re choosing a university you’re will be happy at even if you weren’t playing sports.

You’ll spend one-semester playing sports and competing, while in the off-season you’ll be focusing more on studying and training. Choosing a university that will make you happy in the off-season means you enjoy being where you are.

When making the final decision-making process before committing to a school, ask yourself if you would go there even if you weren’t playing sports. If your answer is yes, then you can rest assured you are making the right decision for yourself and your student-athlete experience.

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