A Prospective Student-Athlete’s Guide for Selecting the Right School
College decisions are tough, but they are even tougher when questions aren't asked that can help both the parents and prospective student-athletes (PSAs) make the best decision. When the phone calls, emails, and visits start happening, many do not know the best questions to ask and become starry-eyed at the schools contacting them. They ask about the usual things: time management, facilities, and etc., but do not get in-depth about academics, injuries, scholarship, playing time, how does scholarship loss happen, and on and on. The list below was formulated by an ex-college coach (that's me!!) who now wishes PSAs and their parents would ask these questions to help safeguard their future and get the answers they need to make an educated decision that isn't made with stars in their eyes about the size of the school, conference, facilities, or swag they receive. An educate decision encompasses talking about scholarships, injuries, academics, support, playing time, college experience, and fit.
Please print out the list below and take it on every single visit (I am dead serious). Figure out what questions below are important to you and ask the same ones on each visit to be able to compare answers. Many who do not ask the important questions look to transfer the semester or year after they get to the school because they realize they do not fit into the program or school they chose.
- How often do you want me to contact you?
- How would you like me to contact you?
- Do you want me emailing you my high school or club schedules?
- What is your interest in me?
- Where am I on your list positional for my year?
- How many other athletes are you looking at for my position in my class?
- When do you plan on making an offer for my position?
- Do you give timelines and deadlines?
- What type of academic reputation does the school possess?
- Does the school offer a variety of academic majors I am interested in?
- Does this school have the ability for me to change majors, and if so is it a difficult process?
- Is the institution primarily teaching or researching oriented?
- How large is the faculty in my proposed field of study?
- What is the size of the school (enrollment)?
- What is the class size of the general classes?
- Who has the most interaction with the students? Professor or TA?
- What is the faculty/student ratio in my field of study?
- What academic credentials do the faculty posses in my field of study?
- What academic support services are available to me?
- Do I have the ability to study abroad?
- Do they have adequate learning disability services?
- What is the graduation rate for student-athletes?
- What are my career choices when I graduate?
- Will a degree from this institution help me in getting a job?
- Upon graduation from this institution, what is the success rate for entrance into master’s programs?
- What is the team GPA?
- Is this number consistent?
- APR? (sport and athletic program)
- Graduation Rate? (sport and athletic program)
- Transfer Rate? (sport and athletic program)
- Can athletes who leave to play pro without graduating get come back and get financial and academic assistance to graduate?
- Is my sport fully funded?
- If my sport is not fully funded, can I combine athletic and academic money to make a full scholarship?
- How many scholarships are available in my class?
- If you do a 1yr, 2yr, or 3yr scholarship when do I get my scholarship?
- What can I sign that will document and assure me of the scholarship I am going to get in the future?
- If coaches change will I still get my future scholarship?
- How are the athletics teams funded?
- Is the school state or privately funded?
- Have the budgets been cut in the past and is there a chance the budgets will be cut?
- If our budget is cut how will that impact our program?
- Is my sport's budget a competitive one?
- Is the University committed to the athletics programs?
- Under what conditions can my scholarship be taken away?
- How competitive is the conference/non-conference schedule?
- Who develops the schedule?
- How much class time is missed due to travel?
- Is the institution independent, a member of an NCAA automatic bid conference, or an at-large bid conference?
- What types of opponents/trips are foreseen in the future?
- Is any effort made to schedule events near the hometowns of out-of-state student-athletes?
TEAM PROFILE/PLAYING OPPORTUNITIES
- How many seniors are leaving the squad, and or leaving that are in my position?
- What positions need to be filled next season?
- What are my chances to contribute/start?
- Does the coach emphasize a style of play suitable to my skills?
- What is the coach looking for in me to bring to the team both athletically and personality wise?
- How is the coach that trains my position?
- Am I being looked at for more than one position?
- What do I need to do during club to be a better college player?
- How long has the coaching staff been at the institution?
- When is the head coach’s contract up?
- How have their past seasons been?
- Do they feel their contract will be renewed?
- What is the coaching staff’s background?
- Coaching staff retention?
- Do I feel the other student-athletes respect and support the coaching staff?
- Does the coaching staff work and communicate effectively?
- How many coaches are there; what are their respective duties?
PRACTICE AND COMPETITIVE FACILITIES
- Does each team have their own practice time and facility?
- Is the practice facility the same as the competitive facility?
- What playing/practice surfaces will my sport utilize (turf/grass/wood)?
- What types of locker room facilities are available?
- What types of weight room facilities are available?
- What types of film room facilities are available?
ADMINISTRATIVE/CAMPUS AND LOCAL AND SUPPORT
- Does the athletics administration attend athletic events on a regular basis?
- How involved is the Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) within the program?
- Do the other coaches/teams attend each other’s events?
- How is campus and local event promotion coordinated?
- Does the coaching staff portray a positive relationship with the administrators, other coaches/student-athletes?
- What type of crowd support has my sport generated in the past?
- Do we play on TV? If so how much?
- What type of life skills programming do you have?
- Do you have a full-time life skills staff member?
- What type of career programming is done?
- What type of leadership programming is done?
- How much of a voice does the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) have?
- What type of conferences have you sent your student-athletes to in the past? How many do you usually send a year?
- Is there an athletic trainer available for my sport?
- Where are their offices located?
- If so how many sports do they handle?
- What happens if I have surgery?
- Who will be responsible for the bills?
- Who will choose the doctor who performs the surgery?
- Can I pick my own doctor?
- What happens if I have surgery at home? How will the bills be paid?
- Whose insurance will be responsible for prescriptions?
- What type of input does my family have?
- Do we have the ability to get a second opinion?
- If the family cannot be in the hospital who will go with me and be with me during the time in the hospital?
- If I have a season-ending injury and have to red-shirt will I receive my scholarship for an additional year?
- What is the procedure for redshirting for an injury?
- Who decides if I have to redshirt for an injury, and who decides if I get my year back?
- Do I have any say in this type of situation?
- Can my scholarship be taken away if I get injured? Under what type of injury conditions can it be taken away?
- How does the team usually travel to events?
- How early before a game does the team leave?
- How are meals arranged; eaten as a team or individually, required or optional?
- Does an academic advisor travel with the team? What about during midterms or finals?
- Can family, friends, or people we are dating visit with us when on the road?
- Can we go to meals with family, friends, or people we are dating when on the road?
TIME MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATION
- How much class time will be missed per semester?
- Is structured study time required/ encouraged when traveling?
- What are the practice time requirements (pre/in/post season)?
- How much time do the student-athletes have for holidays, school-year vacations?
- Can I expect to graduate in four years with the time requirements of my sport and chosen major?
- Is there flexibility in the proposed curricula?
- Will practices/athletic events conflict with course requirements?
- When can student-athletes leave campus to visit friends and relatives?
- Will student-athletes have time to become involved in other campus activities; is this allowed, encouraged?
- Is there a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or etc within close proximity to me?
- Do I have the ability to pray at the times my religion deems necessary?
- Do I feel the team and coaching staff is accepting of my religion?
- Have there been any attacks on those who practice my religion at the school or within close proximity?
- What is the percent of students at the school who practice my religion?
- Would I feel safe at the school practicing my religion?
- Are there kosher, halal, and other food options available at my school?
- What is your school’s diversity plan?
- What is the school’s strategic plan?
- Does the school have cultural centers?
- Is the coaching staff knowledgeable about the cultural centers?
- If so, how?
- If not, why?
- Are other student-athletes involved with the cultural centers?
- What is the racial makeup of your team?
- What has it been in the past?
- What is your student-athlete transfer rate?
- Have you ever had a student-athlete of color transfer?
- What is the racial makeup of your coaching/support staff?
- What is the racial makeup of your administration?
- What is the racial makeup of your academic staff?
- What is the racial makeup of your strength and conditioning staff?
- What is the percentage of students of color on campus?
- What is the percentage of faculty/staff of color on campus?
- Have there been any racial incidents on campus?
- If so, how were they handled by the university staff?
- Have there been any racial incidents involving student-athletes?
- If so, how were they handled by the athletic administration?
- When on campus can I tour the cultural centers?
OTHER MISCELLANEOUS CONSIDERATIONS
- What equipment is provided/ what must be purchased by the student-athlete?
- Is distance from home a factor?
- Is the campus basically residential or commuter?
- Where do most of the student-athletes live?
- Will I need a car at school, can I afford it?
- Is the campus layout efficient for my activities?
- If climate affects my sport, are the facilities available to maximize my practice time?
- Is the student population basically an active one; intramurals, cultural events, Greeks, etc?
- Are there things to do in my free time on campus or in the immediate surroundings?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
- Do I want to enter an established or growing program?
- Am I interested in the name of the program or the level instead of fit?
- What does school and program fit mean to me?
- Do I want to play or do I want to be on the team?
- Am I ok with never being a starter?
- Am I ok with potentially never playing?
- Do I feel comfortable with the student-athletes I met on my campus visit?
- Is sitting on the bench something I am prepared to handle?
- Do I respect the head coach?
- Do I feel the coaches have my best interests at heart?
- Do I feel I can communicate with the coaches?
- Do I feel the coaching staff is committed to the institution and the program?
- Do I feel comfortable on campus and in the housing facilities?
- Can I afford transportation costs to and from campus during the holidays and vacation times?
- Is a rural, suburban, or urban campus setting more to my liking?
- Do I have friends or relatives nearby, or in locations where events have been scheduled?
- Am I ok with not going home or potentially seeing my family/friends until Thanksgiving or Holiday Break?
- Is the school environment one in which I want to spend four years of my life?
- Given my interests, can my recreational and social needs be met at the university and in the surrounding area?
If you still have some questions please contact me through my email or social media. I would be glad to help you out!