Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Choosing the right University for a student-athlete

A little over a month ago, the first part of a series on University recruiting in Canada was posted here. Due to some real life events, the rest of the series was a bit delayed, and I apologize for that. Without further ado, onto part two.

It's one thing to to be recruited or to put yourself forward to a school, but choosing the right school for you is a really tough decision. Just how do you make the right one?

At this point, the student-athlete has made the decision that they want to play their sport at a CIS university. As noted previously, it is vital to have a good understanding as to what each school can offer, both athletically and academically. The first place to start is to visit the website of each school's athletic program and look for their information about recruiting. Every school will have a page describing the benefits of attending that specific institution. For example, Queen's University presents information focusing on their facilities and athlete services before giving a more general summary as to what the university itself is like. At the other extreme, RMC presents a very specific list of team contacts and the information they will need. Of course, RMC has a different approach to recruiting student-athletes, one that we'll cover in a future article.

The recruiting page should give the prospective student a good starting point and should hopefully answer some of the more basic questions. The next step is to either speak with the coaching staff on the phone or in person. If you are making a visit to campus or are already in town, inform the coaching staff and try to make an arrangement to meet up with them to discuss what their school can offer. At this point, it is a good plan to put together a list of questions to ask. Of course, the final list of questions to ask differs for everyone, so use this list as a starting point and come up with any other questions that you may want to know the answers to.

Academic related
  • How is scholarship money allocated?
  • What are my chances of receiving a scholarship in the next four years?
  • What is the policy on renewing athletic aid?
  • How are academic conflicts handled?
  • Are tutors available to athletes?
  • Will I get help in course selection?
  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • What are the goals of the program?
  • What kind of progress have you made toward these goals?
Training and Games
  • What is the practice schedule? How many hours a week?
  • How long are training sessions?
  • What are my chances of playing my first year?
  • What is your "red shirt" policy?
  • What are the commitments during the off-season?
  • What happens if I get injured?
The Team
  • How many players are graduating this year?
  • How many players graduate in four years?
  • Do many of the players live together?
  • How many players do you carry on the team?
  • How many Academic All-Stars or All-Canadians are on the team?

Note: The term "red shirt" is an NCAA concept, but seems to have become much more common in Canada when referring to first year student-athletes. As such, the real question when asking about "red shirts" is to find out what amount of playing time to expect in a student's first year.

Once your questions have been answered, the next step is to look at the non-athletic side of the picture. These factors range from the programs offered (if they don't offer a program you're interested in, why are you thinking of going there?), academic requirements (are your marks good enough?), location, costs (tuition fees, living expenses, and other costs), and housing options. Many resources exist to help you with looking at these factors including school guidance counselors. Use all the resources available when weighing the choices. After all, choosing a post-secondary school is one of the biggest decisions most people will ever make in their lives.

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