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Where to Start Your College Application Process

college applications and admissions

Once you’ve decided to apply to a college, call the coach immediately and let him or her know your intentions. Show that you are very excited.

Few college coaches can simply snap their fingers and have a recruit accepted. However, coaches who are effective recruiters have strong ties with the college admissions office.

The arrangements are different for each school, but most colleges have a system in which coaches identify and prioritize their recruits for the admissions department. The coach might also write a blurb about each recruit and indicate his or her expectations of the player.


• Blue Chip—An immediate impact player
• Will contribute as a freshman
• Can contribute within a few years
• Likely walk-on
• Long-shot—Athletically, a real stretch

Keep coaches updated on your application progress. Drop the coach an email to tell them that you stayed up until midnight the night before putting the finishing touches on your essay. Tell them that you took the SATs again and scored 50 points higher. Let them know if you’re going to apply Early Decision. When you finally send in your college application, email the coach immediately so there is a written record of it. Also, remind the coach of your conversations regarding admissions (e.g., “I know you said that you can’t guarantee admission but that you would strongly endorse my application—at this point, what does that exactly consist of? I really appreciate any help you can offer.”). If you’ve been diligent about promoting yourself throughout the recruiting process, you will be in a position where the coach will support your application.

FAQ: Iʼve heard that being recruited to play sports at a college guarantees admission to that school. Will my athletic ability allow me to get around the school’s academic standards?

Being a recruited athlete rarely opens the admissions door if you don’t measure up academically. If a coach knows that your academic record is sub-par, itʼs unlikely that he or she will make a stand for you with admissions. Coaches know that standing up for academically unqualified recruits usually fails. It also weakens the coachʼs credibility with the admissions department. An admissions department will be apprehensive of a coach who brings academically unqualified recruits to the table.


If the coach at your favorite college wants you on the team, a powerful way to strengthen your application is to let them know that their school is your top choice. They will pass that information on to the admissions department. The blurb they write about you for the admissions department might say something to the effect of, “Kyle will definitely come if he is admitted.” A phrase like that pleases admissions officers, who are always aware of how many accepted students actually enroll.


Early Decision candidates apply to only one school during the early fall of their senior year. Acceptance letters are sent out in November or December. If accepted, Early Decision applicants are required to attend. If denied, they still have time to apply elsewhere. Not only does Early Decision seem to increase the probability of acceptance, it also guarantees that the applicant will enroll. To a coach, this means that once a player is accepted through Early Decision, recruiting of that player is complete. The coach doesn’t have to make the argument that his college is superior to the six other schools who accepted the player.

In some circles Early Decision is a controversial topic. Its opponents argue that it puts too much pressure on applicants. Its advocates insist that it simplifies the college selection process for applicants and allows admissions departments to hand-select their students. Early Decision is a reality whether or not you agree with it philosophically. Its proliferation has not been lost on college coaches, who are always laboring to have their top recruits admitted and signed as quickly as possible. Many coaches now rely heavily on Early Decision to help them handpick their recruiting classes.


If you’ve played your recruiting hand well and a coach asks you to apply early, recognize the seriousness of the decision. Don’t let such a request go to your head and make you irrational. Sit down and reason through it.

Thoroughly outline the pros and cons of the school and its sports program. Discuss the situation at length with your parents and teachers. If you decide that Early Decision is the right choice, by all means, go for it. If you choose to apply Early Decision, you and your parents should discuss with the coach what guarantee you have of a place on the team should you be accepted. Consider requesting something in writing that says that if accepted, you will also be offered a place on the team.


If you are torn between a few schools, don’t feel that you have to apply Early Decision. Go with standard, non-binding applications. A coach may pressure you to apply early. If you aren’t convinced that the school is exactly what you want, don’t bow to the pressure. A coach’s primary concern is to finalize their recruiting class. Your primary concern is to find the school that best fits your needs. If you prefer to keep your options open, apply under standard, non-binding terms.

Create a free CaptainU profile today to get your college athletic search underway!

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