You want to give a college your promise. What’s the difference between the National Letter of Intent and a verbal commitment?

There’s a college you love, and it’s time to give a pledge. You can do this in a couple of ways. Sign a National Letter of Intent, a move always saved for senior year and tied to scholarships, or give a verbal commitment, a promise that you plan to someday sign with that school. Even when you give a verbal, keep talking with other coaches, because a lot can change—“your” college can switch coaches or you can find new things you want from a school. Whatever promise you make, feel great about it.

You’ve looked at colleges and talked with coaches. You’ve thought it through and made your choice. Once you pick your college, you get to proudly tell it to everyone—coaches who pursued you and people who know and care about you. The question is whether to make your pledge through a verbal commitment or a National Letter of Intent.

The National Letter of Intent is a legal contract that you’re able to sign during your senior year of high school. The letter gives the college your promise to attend, though you can transfer schools later if something changes with the fit. It’s always connected to athletic scholarships, so it’s limited to some of the athletes looking at Division I or II schools. If you feel ready to give a college the letter, fill it out during one of the two signing periods, either in fall or in spring.

The letter isn’t the only way to show loyalty. Plenty of athletes aren’t receiving athletic scholarships or just aren’t ready to sign a contract. If that’s you, you’re still able to give a college your verbal commitment, a way to say your plan is to attend that school. You know its coaches well and want to give them good faith that you’ll play for them.

There’s no reason to rush or force your promise to a college. A lot happens during high school that can change your mind. Coaches at your favorite college might leave for other jobs, and when head coaches switch, the new coach doesn’t have to honor the old one’s verbals.

You might change, too. Friends and teammates will pick their colleges, and that may change your pick. You might decide you like a new type of school—bigger or smaller, with an athletic program that demands more or less of your time. It’s nice to keep your promises, but it’s no good, for you or the college, if you make yourself go somewhere you don’t want to be.

Even once you give a college your verbal, don’t ignore other schools. Keep talking with coaches from the colleges that interest you. Be honest with them about your verbal but tell them you want to know them and their schools in case anything changes.

When you take the step to choose, through a letter or a verbal, be proud of yourself. Share the big news and update the “Recruiting Status” part of your CaptainU profile. Get excited about the college and the work that got you to this moment. Your promise is a big part of your path to make a great college team.

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