Great Expectations

I spoke with a high school coach early this week who related to me the tale of one of her recent alumni who joined an NCAA riding program this fall and is already planning to transfer to a school closer to home next semester and ride in an IHSA program.  The reason?  The NCAA program wasn’t a good fit for her.

The coach was frustrated.  The process for that student to join the NCAA program had followed the normal channels:  the student worked hard in high school, caught the eye of several NCAA coaches, filed with the clearinghouse, was accepted to the schools, earned a riding scholarship, and ultimately enrolled at the university that had recruited her the hardest.  Everything should have worked out – but it didn’t.

“In the end, I don’t think she had all of the information she needed,” the coach told me.

I agreed.

I understand the excitement that her student must have felt when coaches from big-name universities were calling her on the phone and promising to pay her to compete in her favorite sport at the collegiate level.  Who wouldn’t want that sort of flattering attention?  But I also see where the student made some errors during the process – namely, she forgot that, not only were the colleges recruiting her, but she needed to recruit them as well.  An NCAA program wasn’t what she needed – but at the time, she didn’t know how to be a recruiter and advocate for herself.

So how does a student recruit a college?

It’s simple, really:  Coaches have goals when they set out to recruit new students.  They have certain places and/or roles on their teams that they need to fill and they target those students whom they believe will best do so.  They have checklists of traits they like their recruits to possess – certain skill sets, attitudes, and accomplishments.

In order to find the right program – and the right university – students need to have checklists of their own.  What academic majors must the college or university offer?  What type of campus environment will best suit the student’s personality?  Are scholarships and financial aid packages a significant factor in the student’s ability to attend?  What teaching style is most desired from the riding coach?

Most importantly – will the student still enjoy the university if she isn’t on the riding team after the first year?

If a student can assess all of this information about herself and answer some of those questions before beginning the college search process, she can begin to figure out which programs will be the right fit – whether NCAA or IHSA.  There really is a program out there to fit every student’s needs – and if a student needs help wading through all of the schools out there, be sure to contact me.  I’m happy to help.

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