Academics vs Athletics In College Recruiting

  • The NCAA college sport search and selection process is different for prospective student-athletes than it is for pure academics, and includes both an academic and athletic component. It is important to balance both of these components when engaging with each stage of the complex college recruiting process. The following guidelines explain why academics matter even more than athletics, even for college bound athletes.

    Academics Matter! 

    Although there are many different ways to maximize your NCAA college sport recruiting chances, none is more important than doing well in the classroom. Maybe that isn’t the answer you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. Let’s say, hypothetically, that you have a strong GPA, perfect SAT, and perfect ACT. With these scores you will be accepted as a student at virtually every college/university in the United States. According to a recent study in Forbes, Harvard, Stanford and Yale’s average SAT score for their 2017 freshman class was 1540, 1510, and 1540, respectively. Although colleges are beginning to adopt a more holistic approach when evaluating applicants, academic rigor and test scores still play a huge role. With a strong GPA and perfect test scores, you could almost guarantee acceptance to every school in the country.

    Now let’s say you’re at the other end of the spectrum and you have a 1.0 GPA and a 400 SAT. It is a safe bet there will not be many schools that will accept you as a student. Although not many schools have the strict academic requirements of Harvard, Stanford and Yale, every college has some level of academic standard. Unfortunately, a 1.0 GPA and bottom-of-the-barrel test scores will not get you accepted anywhere for NCAA college sport.

    Now, most of you are probably somewhere in between those two extremes, but you get the point. The better you do academically, the more schools that will be available for you to consider when trying to find your Best Fit school. Not doing well academically, however, will automatically limit the number of schools that you can look at. The last thing that you want is to be recruited by a college coach, visit campus and fall in love with the school, only to discover that your grades and test scores are not high enough to be admitted. Unfortunately, this depressing situation is all-too-common because high school athletes often underestimate the importance of academics when preparing for college and college sports.

    Athletics > Academics Myth

    We often hear this statement from high school students that do not prioritize academic achievement: “I’m not a great student, but grades and test scores don’t matter as long as I’m a great athlete. The coach will still want me.” Yes, if you are a fantastic athlete/player the coach will probably want you, but the university won’t and that’s a big problem. Believe it or not, it’s the college that has the final say on whether or not you will be accepted, not the college coach. Now, depending on the school, division, and sport, a college coach may be able to influence the admissions process in an NCAA-legal way. At certain schools, coaches may be able to get their top recruits admitted regardless of academic standing. At other schools, coaches might only be able to get recruits admitted if they are close to meeting the general academic standards. At many schools, however, coaches aren’t able to intervene in the admissions process at all. At the end of the day, counting on a coach to “get you in” will limit your opportunities and leave you unable to be involved in NCAA college sport at the schools of your choice.

    How Coaches Use Academics

    Academic achievement is often the deciding factor in whether or not a coach will begin the recruiting process with a player. For example, if the Harvard Men’s Soccer Coach receives an email from a local player with a 1100 SAT, do you think that the coach will take time to go see him play? Not likely. As we’ve mentioned before, college coaches are human and have a limited amount of time, attention, and energy. The Harvard Coach knows that even if the player is a great fit athletically, he will not be accepted based on his scores. Instead of wasting his time, the Harvard coach will focus on other interested players that meet Harvard’s academic standards.

    Most coaches use academics as a filter to help determine if they will begin to seriously recruit a prospective student-athlete. This helps them quickly focus their recruiting pool by eliminating players that will not be admissible at the end of the process. As a college coach, nothing is more discouraging than spending hours recruiting a player and developing a relationship with him or her, only to have the Admissions Department reject the student based on academic shortcomings.

    Academics Once in College

    Academics also matter once you have been successfully recruited to play NCAA college sport. If you have received a scholarship you will most likely have to maintain some base level grade score to maintain your scholarship and your place in the team. Developing good habits prior to college will only serve to strengthen your college sport experience. Additionally, the statistics show that a very small percentage of NCAA college athletes actually go on to play professionally in their specific sport. Good grades will ensure those who don’t play professionally will have opportunities for success after college.

    The above points show how important academics is for the college recruiting process, and how it should not be ignored no matter how talented you are as an athlete. For more college recruiting topics and information, check out the ACA blog.