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Recruiting 101: The Terms

One of the most important parts of the recruiting process is understanding the terminology that is being used by coaches, advisors, and other athletes. We've compiled a list * of the most commonly used terms in college recruiting. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the definitions below, and if you have any questions, be sure to let us know!

Application Waiver: A coach’s waiver of the fee for applying to an institution.

Camps: There are two types of camps: instructional and showcase. Instructional camps are 3-8 week sessions where players undergo intensive training on improving their game. Showcase camps are usually held by universities where prospective recruits display their athletic abilities to coaches as part of the recruiting process.

Clearinghouse: Formerly known as the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse, the NCAA Eligibility Center is the first step in the recruitment process. The Eligibility Center handles all inquiries regarding an individual's initial-eligibility status. The Eligibility Center also maintains and processes all of the initial eligibility certifications.

Combines: Combines are a camp or clinic where players perform various physical exercises to rate their physical fitness. Scores from combine tests are sent to football programs for evaluating the player as a prospective recruit. Combines as a measuring tool are growing in popularity and effectiveness in the recruiting process.

Commitment: An oral or verbal commit is a non-binding agreement between a student-athlete and prospective school. While it is tentatively understood that the student-athlete will accept the scholarship offer and attend the school, he/she is free to explore offers with other institutions until a letter of commitment has been signed.

Contact: Any time a coach has any face-to-face contact with a prospective student-athlete or the prospect’s parents off the college’s campus and says more than hello. A contact also occurs if a coach has any contact with the prospective student-athlete or his or her parents at the prospective student-athlete’s high school or any location where the prospect is engaging in competition or practice. 

Contact period: The time when a college coach may have in-person contact with a prospective student-athlete and the prospect’s parents on or off the college’s campus. The coach may also watch the prospective student-athlete play or visit his or her high school. The prospect and the parents may visit a college campus, and the coach may write and telephone during this period.

Dead period: The dead period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches are restricted from making in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.

Early Action: Nonbinding plan that requires an athlete to submit his or her application in early fall (usually by November 1 or 15).The college lets the student know whether he or she is accepted by early January, but the student has the right to wait until May 1 before responding. This gives a student-athlete time to compare colleges, including financial aid offers, before making a decision.

Early Decision: A binding agreement whereby a student-athlete accepts an offer prior to National Letter of Intent Day. A student can apply Early Decision to only one college.

Equivalency Sports: Programs that fall into this category – all sports other than men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball – can offer full or partial scholarships.

Evaluation: An evaluation is when a prospective coach or recruiting agent assesses a student-athlete’s academic or athletics ability. Evaluations usually involve a coach or recruiter observing a game or practice.

Evaluation period: The evaluation period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches and authorized staff are permitted to make off-campus evaluations of a prospective student-athlete’s academic and playing abilities. Evaluations usually involve a coach or recruiter observing a game or practice. In-person, off-campus recruiting contact during evaluations is prohibited.

Expected Family Contribution: The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount a family can be expected to contribute toward a student’s college costs. Financial aid administrators determine need for federal student aid by subtracting the EPC from the student’s cost of attendance (COA). The EFC formula is used to determine the EFC and ultimately determine the need for aid from the following types of federal student financial assistance: Federal Pell Grants, subsidized Stafford Loans and assistance from the “campus based” programs – Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Federal Perkins Loans, and Federal Work-Study (FWS)

Free Application for Financial Student Aid: The Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form required by the government for application to any federal education aid program. The FAFSA is used to determine the expected family contribution (EFC) based on family financial information. A FAFSA is used to determine the specific Federal Student Aid programs that can contribute to a student’s total financial aid package and in what proportions. The Web site is

Federal Perkins Loan Program: Low-interest (5 percent) loans that must be repaid. The maximum annual loan amount is $4,000 for undergraduate students and $6,000 for graduate students

Federal PLUS Loans: Unsubsidized loans made to parents. If you are independent or your parents cannot get a PLUS loan, you are eligible to borrow additional Stafford Loan funds. The interest rate is variable, but never exceeds 9 percent.

Federal Stafford Loans: Student loans that must be repaid and are available to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants: Grants available for undergraduates only and awards range from $100-$4,000

Fee Waiver Request Form/Financial Hardship Waiver: Used to request a waiver for the NCAA Eligibility Center fee. Visit

Financial Aid/Scholarship: Money received from a college or another source, such as outside loans or grants. This may be athletic, academic, merit or need-based aid.

Grayshirt: A term used to describe a student-athlete who delays initial enrollment in a collegiate institution to the winter or spring term. Grayshirting usually occurs when a student-athlete is injured before the start of the academic year, forgoes classes and practice to join the team once he/she has recuperated.

National Letter of Intent: An NLI is an official agreement between a student-athlete and a prospective school stating the agreement to attend that institution for one academic year in exchange for athletics aid. Once a student-athlete has signed with a prospective school, he/she can no longer be contacted by prospective schools for recruitment.

National Signing Day: The first Wednesday in February is the official signing day for high school football. Following this date, student-athletes may sign letters of intent with prospective schools to attend that institution for one academic year in exchange for athletics aid.

NCSA Power Rankings: NCSA’s Collegiate Power Rankings are calculated for each college at the NCAA Division I, II, and III levels by averaging the U.S. News & World Report ranking, the U.S. Sports Academy Directors’ Cup ranking and the NCAA student-athlete graduation rate of each institution. The NCSA Collegiate Power Rankings provide data that allows prospective student-athletes and parents to evaluate the particular strengths of universities based on academic and athletic factors, as well as student-athlete graduation rates.

Official visit: Official visits include any visit to a prospective school by a student-athlete paid for by the school. Official visits include schools paying for transportation, room and meals and entertainment.

Prospective student-athlete: A student-athlete becomes a prospective student-athlete when he/she starts ninth-grade classes; or if before the student-athlete's ninth-grade year, a college gives the athlete, his relatives or his friends any financial aid or other benefits that the college does not provide to students generally

Quiet period: The quiet period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches may make in-person recruiting contacts only on the coach’s school campus.

Recruit: A student-athlete is considered a recruit when he/she engages in off-campus, in-person contact with a coach; receives a telephone call from a coach more than once; is issued a National Letter of Intent from a prospective school; or makes an official visit to a prospective school.

Redshirt: Also known as a "Fifth Year Senior," redshirt refers to a student-athlete who extends four seasons of play over five years. A redshirt player typically sits out of games for a season, while still attending practices and classes.

Rolling Admissions: The process in which a student applies and receives an admission decision within two to six weeks. Applications are accepted until the incoming freshman class is filled. Most public universities and many private colleges use this timeline.

Student Aid Report (SAR): The document received after the FAFSA is processed listing all of the answers to the FAFSA. A parent should review these answers carefully to make sure they are correct.

Unofficial visit: Unofficial visits occur when student-athletes pay their own expenses when visiting a prospective school, including transportation, room, meals and entertainment.

Verbal commitment: Phrase used to describe a college-bound student-athlete’s commitment to a school before he or she is able to sign a National Letter of Intent. A college-bound student athlete can announce a verbal commitment at any time. While verbal commitments have become popular, they are NOT binding on either the college-bound student-athlete or the school.

Walk-on: This term refers to a student-athlete who plays and trains with a collegiate team without an athletic scholarship.

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