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Last updated March 6, 2023

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The Basics of Athletic Recruiting

Key Takeaway

Being a recruited DIII athlete can sometimes give your application a slight boost in the admissions process, but not always. Throughout the process, you'll want to keep your academics up, maintain clear communication with coaches, and remember to interact with the admissions office too. 

Chances are, if you’re a recruited athlete who is going to head to an NCAA DI school on scholarship, you don’t need this article because you’ve already worked with the coaches recruiting you.

If you are, however, interested in collegiate athletics at the DIII level or in a sport that isn’t regulated by the NCAA, you need to have an understanding of how your position as a prospective student athlete factors into your admissions process.

Most of our clients are applying to highly selective schools. Our student athletes want to leverage their athletic skill to gain admission into an academically selective institution where they can also compete.

This article covers some of the information we share with our clients who are interested in college athletics and points you in the right direction when gearing up for applying to college as a student athlete. We’ll cover the basics of DIII recruitment, how being a recruited DIII athlete affects admissions, and what you need to do now as a high school student interested in being a recruited athlete.

NCAA Division III recruitment

Division III athletics offers a true student-athlete experience. That is, the student is a student first and an athlete second. Now, that doesn’t mean that DIII athletics isn’t competitive or a huge commitment. DIII athletes take their sport seriously and must find a balance between athletics and school. But, since DIII schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, athletes need to be academically competitive to earn admission, maintain eligibility, and have a great academic experience.

Recruitment for DIII athletics is a lot less regulated than DI and DII, but there are still some quirks of the process to understand.

Recruitment forms for DIII

The first step for an athlete interested in any DIII school is to fill out that school’s recruitment form. This can be done at any time and will get you into the team’s database of potential recruits. You can easily find a college’s recruitment form with a simple Google search such as, “Grinnell College men’s basketball recruitment form”. The form will ask you to fill out demographic, contact, and academic information as well as your athletic stats and video or other information if you have it.

Contact with coaches and visits for DIII athletics

With all levels of collegiate athletics, your relationships with coaches are crucial to your success in the process. Since there are fewer restrictions on communicating with DIII coaches, you should start early, follow up with coaches with whom you have a relationship when you have relevant updates, and communicate clearly and in a timely manner at all stages of the process—from your introductory message to when you make a commitment.

For DIII prospects, recruiting materials, phone calls from coaches, and email or other digital communication with coaches can happen at any time. So, if you are a student in 9th or 10th grade or a parent of a 9th or 10th grader interested in DIII athletics, you aren’t required to wait to reach out to coaches.

DIII coaches cannot conduct off-campus in-person contact with students until after their sophomore year, no earlier than June 15. Prospective DIII athletes can begin taking official campus visits after January 1 of their junior year, but unofficial visits can happen at any time.

Note that official visits are formal visits where the recruiting school may take on some or all of the costs associated with visiting. Unofficial visits are regular college admissions visits or tours, just as any student athlete or non-athlete would make.

Does being a recruited DIII athlete help in admissions?

The short answer is… it depends.

Being a recruited DIII athlete can positively impact your chances of admission. This varies school to school and is impacted by your relationship with the coach, the coach or team’s relationship with admissions, and the school’s priorities and policies.

In general, your admissions chances are helped by being a recruited athlete more when:

  • You apply Early Decision
  • You are already academically competitive for the school
  • You are higher on the coaches’ priority list of recruits
  • The coach has a positive and trusting working relationship with admissions
  • The sport is a higher profile sport for that school
  • You’ve demonstrated interest to admissions (outside of athletics!)
  • Depending on the school’s financial aid policies, not needing much need-based aid is a plus

DIII coaches often share lists of recruits with admissions. These are students with whom the coach has had contact and would like on their team, listed in order of how high a priority they are. The higher you are on that list, the more weight admissions might put on your file.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen athletes make in this process is assuming that their interactions with athletics or a coach is equivalent to interacting with admissions. It is not!  Demonstrated interest can be a key factor in admissions and you can read more about that on our website. If a school tracks demonstrated interest and you haven’t attended an information session and tour, interviewed, or connected in any way with admissions, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Finally, the best thing you can do as an applicant is to be academically competitive. Being highly recruited by the school of your choice may give you some amount of a boost, but if your application is simply not viable academically, you are highly unlikely to be admitted. Many DIII schools are academically competitive in admissions and want to bring in student athletes who will thrive in the classroom as well as on the field. And, of course, you want to set yourself up for success too.

We hope this guide helps you do just that. Feel free to reach out to us if you need some more support!

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