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The Sport Source College Quick Tips

It’s got to be NCAA DIV I or nothing at all? Not so much...

It’s easy to think of NCAA DIV I athletics as the only option to pursue for college sports. For most, it’s the epitome of “making it and playing at a higher level” and whether it’s a passing thought, daydream, or genuine interest, what athlete hasn’t thought at least once about playing for Maryland, Notre Dame, Wake Forest or the like? Those programs are good for a reason – they have the luxury of being able to recruit the very best student –athletes both in the U.S. and from around the world. If you were to look at the numbers, it’s estimated that less than 2% of top high school recruits looking to play at the college level, are actively recruited by these programs and others just like them. There are greater opportunities for recruitment at the NCAA DIV I second and third tier levels no doubt, but here’s the deal; student – athletes have many excellent options to consider when thinking about combining an academic and athletic college experience. The scope of these options goes will beyond the most well known college programs, and often can turn out to be a much better fit overall especially when it comes to time management, class schedule, and training schedule. So how does one cull out the best college choices for themselves academically and athletically? They look at all opportunities, while turning a blind eye to affiliation designation.

NCAA Division II - Opportunity Knocks

With the ability to offer academic and athletic scholarship dollars, DIV II has become a well sought out option for student – athletes to consider. Talent and competition are abundant within this division of play, and for it’s athletes it can very much have the feel of the big fish in a small pond scenario. Academically, DIV II institutions are known for having one of the highest graduation rates for the student athlete population, on average 7% higher than non athletes. Known for academic and athletic balance, DIV II truly can offer the best of both worlds. As a DIV II athlete – you’re not on the 5 year clock as you would be at a DIV I program. You will have 10 semesters of overall eligibility, and are allowed some flexibility with how it’s counted. For example: if you do not enroll as a full time student (less than 12 hours) or do not enroll at all for a particular semester(s), this will not be counted against you. In other words, you do not burn a semester of eligibility. DIV II can offer up to 9 scholarships for men, and up to 9.9 to women. Since soccer is considered an equivalency sport, these can be broken down and distributed as partial scholarships on a discretionary basis by the coach. What about the competition? Although DIV II is typically labeled an intermediate level of competition, you will find programs that not only could win, but will win over DIV I programs any day of the week. Lynn College, Cal Poly Pomona, Wingate University – these are all programs that are well known for their ability and talent. With about 302 college soccer programs playing at the DIV II level, chances are there is one well suited for you, if your open to opportunity.

To D3 or not D3 – Is that really a question?

College is all about perspective. If a college is willing to invest in you academically, award you academic scholarship dollars based on your achievements in high school, and let you participate as a student-athlete playing the sport you love, why would not jump at the chance if the fit is perfect? The DIV III culture revolves around the following philosophy: “The Division III experience provides for passionate participation in a competitive athletic environment, in which student-athletes push themselves to excellence and build upon their academic success with new challenges and life skills. And student-athletes are encouraged to pursue their full passions and find their potential through a comprehensive educational experience.” While Division III programs do not offer athletic scholarships, you will find that academic scholarships are available and often very generous, especially if you have the grades to back it up. As with any college or university you might apply to, the better your grades and test scores, the better your chances for admission to the school, and academic monies. What about the competition? Carnegie Mellon University, Messiah College, Trinity University, University of the Redlands, and Wheaton College (MA), are great examples of the excellent competition you can find within DIV III. These are quality programs that attract talent, are very successful, and can be selective when recruiting. The great thing is, you’ll find many programs of this caliber all throughout DIV III....Think you’re a play-maker, and or game-changer? Check them out! For more on what DIV III offers academically and athletically, visit http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Facts%20and%20Figures%202014_FINAL.pdf

Let’s talk about the NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics

What’s not to like about the NAIA and the opportunities it offers? NAIA colleges are usually small by enrollment standards, are private institutions, and have a religious affiliation tied to them. The heaviest concentration of NAIA colleges will be located in the Midwest, although you will also find them from coast to coast, an as far south or north as you want to go. Academically, they can offer excellent degree programs along with opportunity to earn significant academic scholarship dollars. Athletically, NAIA colleges can offer up to 12 scholarships both on the men’s side and women’s side. You’ll need to check with the coach on how his or her program is funded and how those dollars might be allocated across the team. Is it a straight up partial scholarship that would be equal in amount to each participating player, or does the coach allocate based on abilities, needs, roster size, etc? You’ll find too, that the NAIA has a different set of eligibility standards that are far more flexible than NCAA. What about the competition? Don’t be fooled by the small membership of the NAIA ( about 260 colleges), it offers some of the best competition in the country. Need an example? Look at Hastings College, University of Jamestown, Kansas Wesleyan, Lindsey Wilson, Embry Riddle, William Carey, and the list goes on. While some programs are comparable to NCAA DIV I teams, it would be fair to say that overall most are on par with NCAA DIV II teams in terms of ability. So if competition is what you’re looking for, and a chance to impact the roster from day one, you might find all that and more with NAIA programs. Visit www.playnaia.org to learn more

Not sure if you want to tackle a 4 year program after you graduate from high school

Junior College can be a route to explore your options, work on your GPA (if you need to), earn a 2 year degree, and save a ton of money in the process. You’ll find many student –athletes transition to 4 year programs to continue their education and play college soccer after completing 2 years of junior college. Athletic money can be available for NJCAA DIV I, but not NJCAA DIV III programs. What about the competition? Check out the women’s program at Hutchinson Community College, the men’s program at Tyler Junior College, and the men’s program at Andrew College in Georgia – smokin hot! For NJCAA DIV III, while they do not offer athletic dollars, you will find programs loaded with talent. Take a look at Richland College or Brookdale Community College, they are full of quality student – athletes who know and play the game very, very, well. Additional opportunities you might not know about when it comes to athletic affiliations? Consider looking at USCAA and or NCCAA opportunities. The USCAA does not have scholarship limitations – in fact depending on the program, the number of scholarships issued can be unlimited along with eligibility standards that are also very flexible. NCCAA is under the Christian School umbrella, with some colleges having a dual athletic affiliation with NCAA DIV II. However, most NCCAA colleges will follow NAIA eligibility guidelines. You’ll need to have a clear understanding when looking at NCCAA colleges, regarding dual affiliation and with whom it is.

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