One of the questions that comes up a lot has to do with the general timeline of the whole recruiting process and when you should be doing what. If you’re trying to slide into a coaches inbox as a freshman or sophomore … chill. I’ll touch on contacting coaches when you’re not an upperclassman in a later post but for the purposes of today’s I’m just going to focus on what you should be doing your junior and senior year.
The first thing you should do is figure out your list of schools. This is really the only thing you can actively do before your junior year rolls around but once school starts as a junior, that’s when you really want to start solidifying it. This is in no way your final list though since it’s just going to be the schools that you’re interested in learning more about. The number of schools will vary but 7-10 is usually a good number to start out with. (I think I initially had seven or eight on my list that I eventually whittled down to three by the time I applied to schools.) If you’re having a tough time figuring out what schools interest you, you can check out this tool on the Sparks website that lets you look at different schools based on various select criteria (such as location, tuition, religious affiliation, selectivity, etc.).
I don’t remember which coach said this but as you’re making your list, don’t just throw shit at a wall and hope it sticks. You should have three general categories for the schools you’re interested in – “locked in” (aka your safety school – if you can spell your own name right, you’ll get in), “baseline” (you’re a good candidate for this school and have a realistic shot of being admitted), and “reach” (the Harvard to your Elle Woods – you’d love to go here but it’s gonna take a lot of work on your end to get you up to par with the rest of the applicants). Once you’ve got this laid out, you can fill out the recruiting forms on the athletic department’s website and send a quick email to the coaches introducing yourself (which we’ll get into more later).
Now that you’ve had a couple of months to learn about the universities, their academic programs, and their crew teams you can start getting serious in your talks with the coaches. Throughout the winter you should be continuing to send them updates on your progress while at the same time beginning to narrow down your list of schools to your top 3-5. This is the time to be seriously thinking about which school/program is going to give you the experience you want. By mid to late spring you should know who falls under that umbrella and be letting the coaches who aren’t know that you’re no longer interested in that school.
As Marcus said, “don’t push for an official, just ask for a visit”. Officials are offered by the coaches, not requested by the students, which is why the “pushing” can be a real turn off. Since the summer tends to be a little more relaxed you don’t necessarily need to do this right away either, especially if you’re busy doing other things like dev camp, JNT, prepping for Club Nats, etc. Don’t wait until the week before school starts though to sort this out because the two week period before classes begin can be and usually are pretty hectic.
If you weren’t in contact much with coaches over the summer this is when you should be, to quote Marcus again, “re-solidifying your relationship with the coaches” and setting up your visits if you were offered any. Based on what I’ve seen/heard/experienced this tends to happen in early to mid September and then later in the month and throughout October, that’s when you actually go on them. If you weren’t offered an official, you should still utilize this time to go on unofficial visits so you can learn about the schools and meet with the coaches.
Related: Official vs. Unofficial Visits – If you’re unfamiliar with the differences between the two, check out this post.
Pretty simple – decide where you’re gonna go. (If you applied early decision you’ll have already done this in December and if you applied early action you’ll have done this in either January or February.)
Now that you have a general idea of what the recruiting timeline looks like, I want to quickly touch on the things you should consider when looking at schools. There were three main points that were mentioned this summer that I think covers pretty much all the bases but if there’s something you think is important that isn’t listed here, feel free to leave it in the comments.
What do you want and where do you want to be?
Urban vs. rural, small vs. medium vs. large school, size of the rowing program (i.e. on the men’s side, do you want to be at smaller program like Stanford that typically puts out 2-3 eights or a bigger school like Wisco that fields 12…), culture of the team (i.e. partying vs. studying – if the team leans more heavily one way or the other, will that work for you?), etc.
Where do you see your ideal four years?
You have to pick a school that fits your needs. This entails the academics (not just what you choose to study but the rigorousness of the program too), the overall college environment, and the rowing program itself (ideally you’ll be on a team where you feel competitive and challenged).
Would I be happy here if I stopped rowing/coxing?
This is the bottom line and probably the most important question you’ll ask and be asked during this entire process.
At Northeast there was a handout that the kids got that included a “college evaluation grid” to help keep all this info organized so I threw that into a Google Sheet for you guys to use if you think it’d be helpful. You can find it linked below. My dad and I put together something similar when I was looking at schools and it was so helpful because all the information I had (or wanted to find out) about each school/team was in one place.
Related: College evaluation grid
In that Google Sheet there are two tabs – a blue one that has the grid in it and a green one that includes some more info on what early decision I and II, early action, and regular decision entails if you’re not sure of the nuances of each one. If you’re considering early decision I would definitely recommend doing your research since it is binding and can have some pretty unfortunate consequences if you violate the rules that are attached to it.
Next week: What do coaches look at?