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Six Tips for Choosing the Right School and Team

As you research college and athletic programs, you are looking for a match in two areas: academics and athletics. You will start with a long list of schools that meet your general criteria, then narrow the list as you progress toward your senior year.

Here are issues to consider when assessing whether the college itself is a good fit:

Academic Reputation
If you are certain you want to earn a specialized degree – in architecture, for example – be sure the schools you’re considering offer a program in that area. However, also consider that your interests could change, so make sure the school has other strong programs as well. Colleges also provide statistical profiles of current students and admissions criteria so you can compare your GPA and SAT scores to assess compatibility.

Size and Location
Often, smaller colleges offer a more intimate classroom setting and a better teacher-to-student ratio. Classes at larger universities are frequently taught in a lecture style, and sometimes by graduate students rather than professors. However, larger universities often have a broader range of programs.

A school's location is as defining as its size. You must choose either an urban, suburban, or rural setting. Do you want to stay close to home or are you comfortable moving away? What type of climate do you prefer?

Tuition and fees can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Remember, though, that most colleges and universities offer financial aid, based on financial need, academic success or athletic ability. If the price for a particular college looks impossibly high, research financial aid possibilities before crossing it off your list.

Of course, you are also looking for an athletic program that is a good match. Here are some issues to consider:

Only NCAA Division I programs may offer athletic scholarships. These programs tend to offer the highest level of college competition. However, there are many teams in Division II, Division III and the NAIA that are a good match for some athletes. Compare your performance with the athletes at schools at each level to determine what college program will match your skill level. You could also ask your high school coach for advice. Whatever your ability may be, there is certainly a matching program.

You are commencing a four-year relationship with the coaches, and you want to be sure it is a good match. Visit the schools, talk to coaches and players, and try to determine whether the coaching staff’s philosophy is a good fit for yours.

Talk to players and coaches to learn the details of the program. Find out how the team trains: Do they use weights exclusively, or tools such as medicine balls, power racks and stretch cords? How long are the team’s practices? How much are athletes expected to train on their own? Are the school’s facilities compatible with your athletic goals?


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