College Application Booster​®: High School Seniors, Get ahead on your college application!

Athletic Recruiting

The athletic recruiting process is complex and misunderstood. Command Education Senior Mentors who have successfully navigated the process offer their expert guidance for students considering college athletics!

The process of athletic recruitment can be mystifying and intimidating to many students. However, many of Command Education’s Senior Mentors have successfully navigated the process and are equipped to help students do the same! This resource is designed to not only dispel prevailing misunderstandings about the process, but provide students with an easy-to-understand and comprehensive guide to the components of athletic recruiting, programs to consider, and answers to your most pressing questions.
As you begin considering athletic recruiting, here is the foundational information you need to know to begin your journey!

Though athletic recruitment is extensively written and talked about, the essential steps to securing a spot on a college team are still widely misunderstood. Word-of-mouth advice and tips that “worked for previous athletes” are often incomplete, circumstantial, and easily misinterpreted; despite being well-intentioned, this advice can prove detrimental to a student’s prospects in the long run. For this reason, Command Education offers individualized guidance to high school student-athletes as they navigate the complex, and often stressful, college recruitment process. In addition to our Premier Roadmap Package®, our Senior Mentors who played collegiate sports at Ivy League and other top schools help to ensure that you are poised for success within the recruiting landscape without neglecting any of the academic aspects of your application profile. We offer personalized expertise and strategic counseling tailored to each athlete’s needs. Our services help students become confident, well-rounded student-athletes prepared to be recruited by a top college, who thrive in their sport and in the classroom once on campus.

List of Command Education’s Top Picks for Student-Athletes

This curated list of schools includes colleges and universities that offer both top-tier athletics and stellar academic programs. Note that Division II schools tend to focus more on athletics than academics and therefore are not included in our top picks.As you begin considering athletic recruiting, here is the foundational information you need to know to begin your journey!

Division 1

Stanford University
Duke University
Princeton University
University of Virginia
UC Berkeley
Harvard University
University of Notre Dame
University of Michigan
The University of Texas at Austin

Division 3

John Hopkins University
University of Chicago
Amherst College
Williams College
Emory University
Carnegie Mellon
Tufts University
Washington University

Athletic Recruitment Materials

Sports Resume Development

This single-page document is an important part of the recruiting process. Just as you would submit a resume as a standard component of a job application, you are also required to submit a sports resume in the recruitment process. However, the sports resume is slightly different from your typical professional resume. The sports resume focuses specifically on your athletic achievements and qualifications. It gives college coaches the ability to review all relevant information about you in one easy place—and the photo you include will help them to recognize you at competitions and visualize you as a part of their team!

The sports resume’s content will differ slightly for each sport, but be sure to include:

A recent photo
Your contact information
Your school & club coaches’ contact information
Standardized test scores and GPA
Athletic bio/measurables
Link to highlight video/online profile

Recruitment Profile Building

While your sports resume allows you to share important information directly with coaches and recruiting coordinators, online profiles are one of the ways that college coaches find potential recruits. College coaches are aware of the top recruits in their area, those that achieve national recognition, and those that have been introduced to them through connections. However, a large number of student athletes go undetected simply because their online presence is too small. One of the ways to ensure that as many college coaches have access to your information as possible is to actively fill out online recruiting profiles on websites such as NCSA. Your sport may also have its own unique recruitment website or platform specifically tailored for its athletes, so be sure to fill out a sport-specific profile if it exists.


Almost every college athletic department offers a questionnaire for aspiring recruits to complete. By filling out a questionnaire, you effectively introduce yourself to a school, join their mailing list, demonstrate interest, and create an incentive to follow-up with coaches. Once completed, the questionnaires often send auto-responses that are not to be confused with being actively recruited. However, if you follow up with an email to the coach, it is possible that they will reach out to you in response.

Highlight Reel Videos

Athletes are increasingly being recruited based on their performance in video compilations. Putting together a reel that can be publicly viewed and shared is a great way to increase your visibility and chances of getting noticed. It also allows coaches to verify your abilities and see if your skill set fits what they are looking for. While the video content will vary slightly by sport, here are some things to keep in mind as you compile your video:

Keep your video short (3 min max)
Focus on your strengths, but demonstrate varied skills
Label each clip with a description
Circle/highlight yourself if in a group
Include a title page with your info
Make sure your video quality is high
Post your video to Youtube as well as to your recruiting profiles

For more information about highlight videos, visit NCSA.

NCAA Regulations

Regardless of the collegiate sport you hope to play, you will likely be subject to NCAA regulations if you play college sports. However, there are 2 other governing bodies for intercollegiate sports: the NAIA (small colleges) and the NJCAA (junior colleges). The NCAA is notorious for having overly complicated and far-reaching rules regarding student-athletes. It is important to keep in mind that even recruits who are not yet official NCAA student-athletes are beholden to many of these rules and bylaws.

For the most up-to-date rules and regulations, visit the NCSA website here.

College List Building

Building a personal and balanced college list that includes reach, match, and safety schools is a difficult task that requires careful consideration and research. This becomes even more complex when seeking to find schools that are both an academic and athletic fit.

The key to building a balanced college list is to start by casting a wide net and leaving yourself open to the possibility of being recruited by schools you weren’t initially interested in. Though you’ll eventually narrow your list down to about 12 serious candidates, you don’t want to cross any schools off your list too early. It’s best to start by seeing where you stand with the coaches at your top schools, but if you fail to get responses or receive negative feedback, you should quickly adjust your strategy and target universities with programs that recruit athletes of your caliber.

It is imperative to start early in seriously considering how important playing sports in college is to you. This is a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong path, but waiting until it’s too late to consider schools that were not on your list for recruitment but could be a good academic match will likely set you back in the application process. We typically recommend that students have 3 reach schools on their college lists that satisfy their academic desires even if they are unable to play sports at those schools.

Showcase and Event Identification

No matter how skilled you are at your sport, you will have to work hard to put yourself in front of college coaches in order to get recruited. Being noticed by coaches is about being strategic with regards to which events you attend (especially when many of them occur simultaneously). Here are a few tips that can help you make some of these tough decisions and ensure the events/camps you attend are worth your time and money:

Always look at which coaches are planning to attend an event. The host is unimportant, but the list of coaches that will be present is critical.
Make sure you’re healthy and ready to perform. Often, your time is better spent training/improving before trying to get exposure. If you’re unsure which option is right for you at a given time, discuss with your coach to assess your skill set and areas of improvement.
Communicate with as many coaches as you can before registering for an event to let them know you’ll be there and to confirm that they will also be in attendance.
Don’t play out of your league. You don’t want to go to an event and fail to stack up against peers who are much more advanced than you are.
Determine whether your peers are attending this event as a way to gauge whether it’s important in your area.
Showcase your sportsmanlike conduct, positive attitude, and maturity.

Initial Coach Contact

In order to get recruited, you will need to speak with a number of college coaches. Once electronic communication is allowed for your class (for most D1 sports this is either June 15th after sophomore year or September 1st of junior year), coaches can begin contacting you about recruiting-specific topics. We recommend sending at least one email to each coach on your list in the months leading up to this day in order to increase the chances of being contacted. Coaches will not be able to respond until September 1st, but trust that this is an extremely important part of the process.

Your initial email to coaches should include the following information:

Introduction with general academic bio & test scores, along with relevant sports information
Section expressing interest in the school and evidence you’ve done meaningful research on the university and athletics program
Sports resume as an attachment
Link to highlight video
Invitation to continue the conversation (for instance, “I look forward to speaking with you when time allows.”)
Showcase your sportsmanlike conduct, positive attitude, and maturity.

Remember to keep your email fairly short and concise. Coaches are busy people, and they appreciate when athletes respect their time.


Regular applicants and recruits alike should prioritize studying and achieving their target scores on the SAT and ACT. While some schools have test-optional policies in place, students tend to fare better in the admissions process when they have submitted their scores. Additionally, many top schools are reversing their test-optional policies, so students should be prepared for policy changes to continue in the coming cycles.

It is important that student athletes begin studying and preparing to take exams early (typically the second semester of sophomore year) so that they have their scores readily available when coach communication begins. Coaches seek to identify students who will excel at their university academically as well as athletically. Your goal should be to get within striking distance of the typical test score at the schools you are targeting. If you can get that score (or it can be reasonably projected that you will on your next attempt), coaches will be much more likely to move forward with the recruitment process. The fewer variables a coach has to worry about, the easier the athlete is to recruit!

Sport Specific Resources


Our Top 3 Tips For Getting Recruited In Baseball

  1. Pitchers need to develop velocity (90 mph is a magic number).
  2. Attend high-level showcases even if you have to travel (particularly Perfect Game events).
  3. Prioritize summer baseball—play on the most competitive team, even if that means traveling out of state. The summer before junior year is especially important for gaining recruiting traction.


Our Top 3 Tips For Getting Recruited In Golf

  1. Play at national tournaments to create a resume of significant accomplishments. Your handicap is not as important as your tournament scoring average and results.
  2. Create a swing video that can be sent to coaches like the ones found here.
  3. Keep your grades up—as a non-money-making sport, golf coaches are especially concerned with recruiting academically minded athletes.


Our Top 3 Tips For Getting Recruited In Rowing

  1. Your 2K erg time is the number one metric college coaches are looking at.
  2. Attend summer rowing camps at your favorite universities to get to know college coaches and show your technique in person.
  3. Row for a competitive local club team—rowing for your high school is not enough to get noticed.


Our Top 3 Tips For Getting Recruited In Tennis

  1. Focus on improving your UTR rating and USTA ranking (11+ UTR minimum for D1).
  2. Play official matches and national tournaments to create a resume of significant accomplishments.
  3. Train with the highest-level coaches available to you. In tennis, there are a small number of programs that develop a huge number of college players.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do scholarships work?

There are many things to know when discussing athletic scholarships, but here are a few helpful facts that can help clear things up:

  • Ivy League schools unequivocally DO NOT offer athletic scholarships.
  • D3 schools also do not offer athletic scholarships. However, a majority of student-athletes receive other forms of merit-based aid. D1 and D2 schools are the only programs that can offer athletic scholarships.
  • “Full Rides” are highly uncommon. Each D1 sport has an allotment of scholarships they cannot exceed (for example, baseball has 11.7 scholarships to give and a 35-man roster). This means that scholarships are splintered up and spread amongst the team so that most athletes at least receive some aid. Only top recruits who would not otherwise be able to attend the school in question are offered complete scholarships.
  • Athletes should talk to coaches to get a better understanding of the scholarship landscape at individual schools.

A list of scholarship allotments by sport can be found here.

What is the difference between official and unofficial visits?

Official and unofficial visits are some of the most fun parts of the recruiting process, offering you the opportunity to go visit campus, meet the coaches and team, and get a true sense of a program. Here are the differences between official and unofficial visits:

Official Visits:

  • Recruits can take only one official visit per school
  • Each official visit may be up to 48 hours long or the span of one weekend
  • Parents are invited to join athletes on official visits
  • The school can pay for three meals per day and tickets to a home sports match

Unofficial visits:

  • Paid for entirely by a recruit’s family
  • Students cannot schedule them with the coach
  • Students cannot talk about recruiting with the coach if you see him/her on campus
What is a verbal commitment?

According to the NCAA: “A verbal commitment happens when a college-bound student-athlete verbally agrees to play sports for a college before he or she signs or is eligible to sign a National Letter of Intent. The commitment is not binding on the student-athlete or the school and can be made at any time. The timing of verbal commitments varies by sport, but the NCAA recently conducted a helpful study to identify recruiting trends for each sport that can be found here. When a student athlete officially commits to attend a Division I or II college, he or she signs a National Letter of Intent, agreeing to attend that school for one academic year.”



Command Education’s experts take the guesswork out of the college admissions process.

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