Scholarships can be hard to come by. Here’s how you can give yourself an advantage.

In the grand scheme of college athletics, tennis is a middle-of-the-pack priority for many athletic programs. In Division I, women’s tennis is a headcount sport, with each team allowed eight full scholarships for an average roster of nine players. While that makes the odds of landing a full-ride scholarship better, the catch is, more foreign student-athletes compete in tennis than in any other NCAA sport. And that means, you’re not only competing with every high school tennis player for scholarships, but you’re up against players worldwide.

Consider that international players make up 62% of women’s tennis teams in Division I and 38% in Division II. That influx of international students makes your odds of making a Division I roster a staggering 181 to 1 and the odds of making any college roster at roughly 26 to 1. So, the first thing to know about women’s tennis recruiting is that earning a scholarship and making a roster will be tough. However, there are some other things to know about recruiting ahead of time that can improve your odds:

Know Where You Stand

With more than 1,100 four-year and two-year schools offering women’s tennis, you don’t necessarily have to be an elite tennis player to earn a scholarship. You do, however, need to have what college coaches are looking for.

If you’re nationally ranked, your ranking can give you a pretty good idea of where you might find the best fit. In general, women’s tennis players ranked in the top 100 wind up at top tier Division I programs, while lower-tier DI and top-end DII schools sign players from the top 200. Players ranked between 200 and 500 most often play for lower-level DII programs. Beyond the top 500, most women’s tennis players get recruited by NCAA Division III and NAIA programs.

That said, don’t let your ranking (or your lack of ranking) discourage you. Many coaches will consider your Universal Tennis Rating as a more accurate gauge of your abilities than your ranking. Even if you haven’t played in many USTA tournaments or attended elite tennis academies, a solid high school career and good UTR can get you on a coach’s radar.

So, once you have an idea of the college tennis level where you might fit best, assemble a list of schools at or slightly above that level that you’re interested in attending. Then…

Be Proactive

If you’re not an elite-level player, the ball is in your court to get yourself recruited. Start reaching out to the coaches on your target list. Send introductory emails that give a brief overview of your experience and abilities, why you want to attend and play for that school, your contact info, and links to your recruiting profile and highlight video. Follow up with phone calls. If a school doesn’t reciprocate your interest, recalibrate your list and keep after the schools and coaches that are interested in you.

Attend Camps And Tournaments

Attending a tennis camp on a college campus can help improve your skills and raise your profile with college coaches. If a camp is being held at a school you’re considering attending, you can also take the opportunity to tour the campus and interact with players and coaches from that school in an informal environment. In addition, entering tournaments at your skill level or above can also help increase your national ranking. And that can help provide more exposure to college coaches as well.

Keep Up Your Grades

A solid academic record and good entrance exam scores show a coach that you’ll be able to handle the course load in college while also making you a more attractive recruit. In addition, good grades can also help you earn academic scholarships on top of any athletic scholarships you may earn. That can come in especially handy with NCAA Division III schools, which don’t offer athletic scholarships but do have 371 schools with women’s tennis teams and ample academic scholarship money to award.

So now that you know some of the important elements of women’s tennis recruiting, start working to give yourself an advantage in your own recruiting. Have an online profile and highlight video, assemble a list of schools where you might fit best, work to raise your exposure, reach out to college coaches, and get yourself recruited!

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