One of the areas that I discussed in the article about taking all five of your official visits (Click here for that article) is if you should make your college decision based on the offers you currently have or roll the dice by hoping that another school will extend you a scholarship. But what should you do if the school you are waiting has been the program you have spent your life dreaming of playing at?
This question again depends on the situation and you will have to look at a number of factors before making that final decision. And no matter what state you live in, there is a good chance that you grew up loving a state school or another national program that has made a name for yourself. Making that decision will really affect the rest of your life so it is important to weigh both the pros and cons of each side.
If your dream school is really interested in you (And by really interested I mean calls, hand written letters, and a request to come on an official visit), then there is a good chance that at the very least they would take you as a preferred walk-on. Being a preferred walk-on would be the worst case scenario here and along with that comes a lot of options.
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The first depends on the financial situation of your family. Can your family pay for you to pass up a scholarship either by having the money or taking out student loans? As a preferred walk-on, you will get to wear the jersey that you have dreamed of but the financial situation is what should factor in the most. A lot of athletes that come from wealthy backgrounds have no problem spurning scholarship offers to live their dream and walk on at a Division I school. The problem is few people have that type of money to turn down a scholarship. And as I have said here many times, student loans are not exactly fun to pay off over time.
The next situation is that as a walk on, everyone’s dream is to prove college coaches wrong and eventually become a starter at the school of your dreams. The problem is that the majority of athletes who take this route either never play for the four or five years of their career or end up transferring to a smaller school to play. I would assume if you are considering this, you are the stud at your high school and most likely play every down in football or never leave the basketball court. Whatever the case, you will have to be happy with sitting for at least a few years. Rarely does a walk on come right in and start within the first few years of their college career. It does happen, but not very often.
If you do a good enough job, the school will likely extend you a scholarship offer. But it could be your third year at the school. And with walk-ons, you may receive the offer one year and it may be taken away the next. While all scholarships are a one year contract, coaches are more likely to pull the ride from a former walk on than someone who was offered in high school. This does really happen.
At this time in basically all recruiting processes, your dream school is probably still evaluating you and if you are worthy of a scholarship. They may be up front with you and tell you that you can come there as a preferred walk on. The most likely case is that the school is waiting on other prospects that they have rated higher on the recruiting board to decide. If they pick another school, then you are moving closer to that scholarship offer on the recruiting board.
What is interesting about following the recruiting process of schools is that with the help of sites like Rivals.com, Scout.com, and a variety of others, potential recruits and their parents do follow what is going on with the recruiting process. While it is never going to be 100% accurate, this site will give you a feel for who the school is after and who they have offered. The biggest schools have the most in-depth coverage so if Alabama is after you, it would be easy for you to check what defensive backs they have offered and who they are bringing in for visits.
As I have always said, it is important to ask the coaches questions when they call you about your current situation. If they are serious about you at this point, they should be calling you weekly. Ask them about your status, who is above you on the recruiting board, and if they feel you have a realistic shot at a scholarship. They may up front with you or they may feed you lies. You never know. But asking the questions can never hurt in the recruiting process.
In the end, it comes down to money and being able to pay for college. You want to find a school that you love and has academic areas that you are interested in. If your dream school does not have the Engineering major that you want to go into, you need to think about that as well. You will roll the dice waiting for that scholarship offer but sometimes it pays off.
For example, a school in the Midwest is having their potential late minute scholarships/preferred walk-ons all on official visits a week and a half before Signing Day. Right now, none of them have made decisions and they all hope that they will get an offer from this school. The problem is, out of the three for sure visiting, I don’t see more than one leaving the visit with an offer. And if that scholarship comes, it may end up coming the day before Signing Day.
It will be a tough decision either way. Passing up a scholarship, no matter what school offers it, is difficult. Look into money, your potential major, and your desire to play early versus going to your dream school.