How to Find Your Best College Match
Student-athletes usually have a couple of dream schools in mind when they begin their recruiting journey. But the chances of those coaches recruiting their position and offering a scholarship might not be too likely. That’s why we tell every athlete to research several programs and build a school list to maximize their opportunities and find the best college matches.
Create your target list of schools
Create a list of 20-30 schools you’re interested in and initiate contact with the college coach or recruiting staff there. Then, based on how well you qualify and who you’re getting responses from, bucket each of these into one of three categories: safety, target and reach.
5 safety schools
Injuries happen and sometimes scholarship offers fall through, so it’s essential to have a safety net. Pick 5 colleges that you could easily fall back on if your top choices don’t work out. Academically, your GPA and test scores should be in line or above average, and athletically, you should have the ability to play.
Insider tip: It’s best practice to be in contact with these coaches early on—not just when you need to talk to them—so the coach knows you’re genuinely interested. You can even reach out to these coaches first as a practice run before you talk to coaches at your favorite college matches. Learn more about contacting coaches: 4 Ways to Make Coach Communications Easier and More Effective.
On the other hand, some student-athletes may come to the realization that they don’t want to pursue their safety school. Maybe they’d rather excel academically, even though they don’t have the opportunity to play their sport. Having a safety school keeps your options open, but doesn’t have to be the end all be all.
10 target schools
These are your best college matches and the ones you will focus on most. Not only are they a great fit for you academically and athletically, but they also meet your personal preferences. Include 10 college matches where you have a real shot at creating coach interest.
Insider tip: The best negotiation tactic you’ll have as a recruit is multiple offers. It’s in your best interest to have several target schools on your list because you can use different offers as leverage to earn more aid from college coaches. Read more about athletic scholarships: Everything You Need To Know About Athletic Scholarships.
5 reach schools
Maybe it’s the price tag on the school, or the fact that it’s extremely competitive—whatever the reason, these programs might be just out of reach for you. For most recruits, this list is comprised of 5 Division I or academically rigorous colleges.