If you’re one of the lucky high school student athletes to have a chance to play at the college level, what factors will you take into consideration in making the decision of where to attend? While the majority of high school student athletes wishing to play sports in college will chase Division I athletic scholarships and opportunities, widening the scope to include all levels of athletic competition is a smart move for most to consider. Granted, when it comes to scholarship dollars offered no other level of college competition can compete with DI schools, but after money there are many additional variables to consider that should weigh into most future sport decisions.
Finding the right fit unique to each student athlete is very important and well worth the time needed to examine all the variables involved. In order to make the best decision try to think about all the things that you value, including both on and off-field opportunities.
When thinking about college athletic opportunities it is important to ask many questions, including:
- How soon will I play? Will I be red-shirted?
- How do student athletes balance school & sports at this level?
- What academic resources are in place for student athletes?
- What majors does the college offer?
- What are the faculty to student ratios? Will the majority of my classes be taught by tenured professors, or teaching assistants?
- What is the sport travel schedule like?
Big school v. small school
Division I schools typically get the most attention and fanfare, but smaller D2 and D3 colleges offer fantastic athletic experiences, too. Small school student athletes are still expected to train and play hard, as well as succeed in the classroom – the same expectations of D1 schools. In fact, when you take out scholarship money and the bigger stadiums and crowds, there are far more similarities between types of schools than there are differences.
Student athletes need to ask if they want the big school experience (assuming they have a chance to play at that level), or want a more balanced approach when it comes to athletics and academics? Smaller schools typically provide less of a chance of making it to the professional level, but the success rate for D1 student athletes to turn pro is only about 2% anyway. In fact, some borderline D1 players who would likely sit the bench most of their careers at the big school level could become instant stars by playing at a smaller school.
Make a choice best for YOU
Regardless of what level of competition student athletes choose, the experience of being a college student athlete will feel like a full-time job for most. There are many questions to consider, but perhaps most important is to remember the decision of type of competition and choice of school should be a unique, personal decision based on factors including academic considerations, likelihood of playing, scholarship dollars available, majors offered at the school, and even additional factors like faculty-student ratio and distance from home (if future costs travel will be a factor).