With the time it takes to fill out an application as well as the fee for each one, this would not exactly be something that high school athletes look forward to. It is something that they will dread, especially one that requires an essay, simply because of the time and effort involved. Teenagers spend enough time in school that they don’t want to do much critical thinking outside of the classroom.
But in order to find a college that perfectly fits you, these applications are needed in order to be accepted at the schools. Basically this is a necessary evil and something the parents shouldn’t be taking care of (even though I know it happens all the time). I personally believe that the recruiting process is a growing experience for athletes so doing this will help in the long run. But how many of these should I be filling out?
Unless you commit before your senior year or are prompted to fill out an application by a college coach for a strong academic institution, filling them out likely doesn’t need to be completed until early in your senior year. Without any offers, filling out applications for schools is difficult because you may end up walking on or going to a Division III program. There are so many different options that it makes it tough to really decide what direction you are headed in.
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One school I would certainly apply to might be a state school that you head to if athletes are not in the equation. This is likely going to be a backup plan if you lose your love of the game or if you get seriously injured and can’t play any more (which likely won’t be happening). Knowing that there is a good school you can always get an education at is a huge benefit to have in your back pocket if things don’t work out.
If a school ends up offering you a written scholarship and you are serious about the program, then you will likely want to apply there too. The key is just to make sure that you can get in. I knew an athlete a few years ago who had a chance to walk on at a school in his home town. But because his high school had great academics, he was in the bottom half of his class with a 3.1 GPA and couldn’t get in. Knowing that definitely will change things overall.
Outside of that, I would wait until you start narrowing things down. If you have been accepted at your backup school, then you know that is the worst you can do. You know that is there no matter what does or does not come throughout the athletic recruiting process.
So how many schools should you narrow it down to? That really depends on how many letters and calls you are getting from coaches. I feel strong that if a school is not calling you, then there is no reason to apply to their program. They are not showing enough interest in you so why show it back? Applying to a school is not going to make them get serious about you as a recruit.
I would end up picking somewhere around four colleges that you are seriously interested in. These should be ones that you have visited, have talked to the coaches, and know have a major that you are interested in. Don’t waste time with schools that don’t fit you academically, athletically, and socially.
If you pick four final schools, that would mean you apply for around five total. That would just be a few hours and between $100 and $200, depending on what the application fee is (it may be higher depending on the school). The first thing you need to do is get in and then you can work on athletic and academic scholarships from there.