The Ultimate Guide to Athletic Recruitment for High School Students

If you are a high school student with dreams of playing sports for a college team, navigating the athletic recruitment process can be both exciting and challenging.

To help you achieve your goal, we’ve put together the ultimate guide that outlines the steps you should take each year to maximize your chances of getting recruited. Drawing from personal experience and expert advice, we’ll walk you through the crucial stages of the recruitment journey, from your freshman year to your senior year. Let’s dive in and get you on the path to college sports success!

Freshman Year – Building the Foundation

Your freshman year in high school lays the groundwork for your athletic recruitment journey. While it may seem early to start thinking about college sports, the decisions you make now can significantly impact your future prospects. Here’s what you need to focus on:

  • Focus on your academics. Take a challenging course load and strive to excel in all your classes. Your freshman year provides the foundation for your GPA and class rank, which are crucial factors in the college admissions process.
  • Dedicate yourself to improving your ranking or rating in your chosen sport. Freshman year allows you the most time to focus on your sport, so take advantage of this opportunity to sharpen your skills and make significant progress.
  • Start researching colleges you would like to play for and create a list of your top choices. This will give you a clear goal to work towards and help you stay motivated throughout the process.

Remember, while it’s essential to have an eye on your future, don’t get caught up in the recruiting process just yet. Focus on improving your performance in your sport and performing well academically to give yourself the best chance in the coming years.

Sophomore Year – Expanding Your Horizons

As a sophomore, your recruitment efforts should intensify. College coaches may begin to take notice of your athletic achievements and potential, so it’s crucial to continue building on your foundation. You have to focus on:

  • Continue taking a challenging course load and aim for good grades. Some college coaches may start looking at your records to assess your eligibility for recruitment.
  • Start thinking about SAT/ACT preparation. Doing well on these standardized tests can significantly boost your chances of getting recruited, especially if you are considering strong academic Division III schools.
  • Expand your college list and explore the divisions within the NCAA. Each division offers different experiences, and understanding their nuances will help you make informed decisions about where you want to play.
Division IDivision IIDivision III
Athletic scholarships are available. Please note Ivy League schools are D1, but cannot offer athletic scholarships.Some athletic scholarships are available.No athletic scholarships, only academic scholarships and need-based financial aid.
DI Practice ~20 hrs/weekDII Practice ~16 hrs/weekDIII Practice ~12 to 14 hrs/week
Much leeway is given to recruited athletes depending on the school, but still do well in your classes to make sure you can even get some academic scholarships if they allow you to stack athletic and academic scholarships.Some leeway is given to recruited athletes, but you are held to a certain standard academically.Almost no leeway is given to recruited athletes. You still must meet very high academic standards to be admitted despite being a recruited athlete.
Examples include state flagship schools, Stanford, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Georgetown, USC, Georgia TechExamples include Point Loma, St. Edwards, Adelphi, Cal States, Young Harris, Wayne StateExamples include MIT, Caltech, Pomona, Johns Hopkins, Case Western, Emory, Amherst, UChicago, Carnegie Mellon, Tufts, Middlebury

Junior Year – Standing Out to College Coaches

Your junior year is arguably the most critical phase in the recruitment process. College coaches will pay close attention to your athletic and academic achievements during this time. So, you have to focus on:

  • Academically, give it your all. Junior year grades hold significant weight in college admissions, so challenge yourself with rigorous courses and perform to the best of your abilities.
  • Initiate contact with college coaches and express your interest in their sports programs. Division I coaches can be contacted starting June 15th or September 1st of your junior year, depending on the sport.

Senior Year – Sealing the Deal

As a senior, your recruitment journey nears its conclusion, and it’s time to make critical decisions that will shape your future as a college athlete. Thus, you need to:

  • Coordinate with college coaches for the academic pre-read process. Coaches may request your academic stats to send to admissions for evaluation, as academic eligibility is essential for recruitment.
  • Compare your college options carefully, considering factors such as the strength of the athletic program, academic offerings, and overall fit for your goals.
  • Maintain your academic performance and retake standardized tests if necessary. A higher score can improve your chances of getting admitted and securing potential scholarships.

If you receive a positive academic pre-read and a coach offers you a spot on the team, you may then commit and send your application for early decision or early action. Celebrate your commitment to playing college sports and enjoy the next four years as a student-athlete.


Congratulations! You’ve successfully navigated the athletic recruitment process and committed to playing college sports. This journey required dedication, hard work, and persistence, but it has all paid off. As you step into the next chapter of your life as a student-athlete, relish every moment and make the most of the fantastic opportunities that lie ahead. Your future as a college athlete awaits! Good luck and enjoy the ride!

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