College Planning

College Planning

  Whether you are pursuing academic endeavors only, or dream of playing soccer at the college level, find out how to realize your potential and get a start on planning for your future. One of the most important choices a student will make up to now is where to go to college.  Whether attending college for strictly academics, and or pursuing aspirations to play a sport at the collegiate level, organizing your search, understanding academic and athletic standards, and knowing exactly what options are available to you are a key focus. When beginning your college search, think about the following items that may influence your decision to attend a particular school, or not:
  • Local vs. Distance
  • Urban vs. Rural
  • Commuting vs. Residential
  • Large Campus vs. Small Campus
  • Student life – campus activities
  • Meeting admission standards
  • Majors - area of academic interest
  • Expense
  Cast a wide net when considering the types of colleges and universities that might be available, this is especially important as a high school freshman or sophomore. As you progress through your high school career and refine what it is you do want in a college, you will find your idea of the perfect college fit becomes more concrete, and your list of schools more concentrated.  By the time you are a senior, you most likely will have a defined list of 5 to 7 serious schools of interest.   Consider the different types of Colleges and Universities available
  • Public
  • Private
  • Service Academy
  • Military
  • Junior College
Campus Visits Campus visits can never start too soon, and if you have yet to take one, now’s the time. Take the opportunity to establish dialogues with admissions counselors early in the college planning process, and request media packets from those schools that you want to learn more about.   Connect with the Department Head in your projected major to find out about the depth of the degree program you are considering, as this can be a good indicator of whether a college or university will satisfy your academic pursuits. Arrange visits prior to, and well before your desired date to make a campus tour.  This gives admissions a chance to organize an itinerary so that you can sit in on a class, speak with current students, visit a dorm, dine in the cafeteria, and maybe even stay the night on campus. Be sure to check out student bulletin boards, posters, the school newspaper, message boards, and find out what is going on in and around campus.  Make a mental note of what campus groups are available, student concerns if any, and upcoming social activities.  These can offer a wealth of information and give you insight into student life and the social side of college. Tuition, Scholarships OR Paying for College   Tuition will vary depending on whether the college is public or private, and if you live in state or out of state.  Service Academies are tuition free, but do require a military commitment after graduation.  Although public universities are traditionally less expensive than private ones, consider all factors that may impact your total tuition expense. For example, if you are a resident of Washington State and are accepted to an in State School, tuition will be much lower for an in state resident, than for one who is not.  Tuition fees for non-residents can often be on par to private college cost. So consider the best option for you, your family, and financial situation. While private college tuition is consistent in expense for all students whether they are from in state, out of state or even out of country, private colleges can also have a very selective admissions process.   Admission standards usually apply to both public and private institutions, where a minimum GPA/ test score(s) are in place and must be met in order to be considered for acceptance. The majority of colleges and universities will offer academic scholarships, with many having athletic scholarship opportunities as well (Ivy League schools will not have athletic scholarships).  When thinking about the expense of, and how to pay for college, consider this; a great high school GPA, advanced or honor courses, SAT and or ACT scores can reap dividends when you begin applying for college. Your grades = Money College and universities will offer academic and merit scholarship money awards dependent on your high school GPA and SAT/ACT test score(s).  The better your GPA and test scores, the more money you could receive in scholarship monies.  Have a GPA of 3.5+ and an SAT of 1800+?  You could earn a Presidential or Provost Scholarship! What’s even better?  The amount awarded will usually be offered for each year you attend (up to 4 years total), as long as you maintain the designated GPA set forth by the college to keep the scholarship. This means your college education, or a good part of it, could be paid for due to the great grades you earned in high school. Additional opportunities to garner scholarship monies can often come from these categories:
  • Community Service work
  • Religious affiliation
  • Athletics
  • Work Study
  • Endowments and Grants
  • Departmental Opportunities
  • Fine Arts
  • Leadership
  • Environmental or Green Club
  • ROTC
  Each college or university web site will have information on the scholarship/grant opportunities they offer, guidelines for eligibility, and the process for application.  Be mindful of application and scholarship deadlines, so you don’t miss out on money to help fund your college education. College Soccer If pursuing collegiate soccer, there are well over 1300 men’s soccer programs available, and approximately 1400 program options for women.  Athletic scholarship awards will vary by affiliation, division of play, and the individual funding that each college provides to the coach for that particular athletic program(not all will be fully funded).  You will need to check with the coach of each program you are interested in to determine the number of athletic scholarship options available to you. Keep in mind, that the coach will use his or her available scholarship funds to cover freshman through seniors for the upcoming year.  In addition, student athletes awarded athletic money usually only receive those funds for a one year period of time.  This means that at the discretion of the coach, he or she can do the following for your return to the program the following year; renew your scholarship for the same amount, withdraw the scholarship altogether, increase or decrease it. Connect with the Coach If your path does include college soccer, connect with the coaches of the programs you feel would be both a good academic and athletic fit with, as soon as possible.  Although athletic affiliation, division of play, and your age will impact what communication can or cannot take place with a particular college coach, being identified as a potential recruit early on is important. Opportunity abounds everywhere, if you know where to look - consider all affiliations, the divisions within each, and what they have to offer:
  • NCAA
  • NAIA
An introduction of yourself via a cover letter along with your player profile is ideal.  If you are participating in an upcoming showcase or tournament where college coaches may be attending, provide your game schedule as soon as possible.  This gives those attending coaches you contact a good indication of your interest in their school, an opportunity to see you play, watch you develop as a player, and determine if your abilities could fit well with their program. The 4 components a College Coach will look for in a potential recruit
  • Tactical ability
  • Technical ability
  • Physical ability
  • Psychological ability
If the goal is to capture the attention of a college coach, it is critical to be excellent in at least one area.  As you size yourself up in ability, consider your strengths, and areas that may need improvement. NCAA Guide for College Bound Student Athletes  - NAIA Guide for College Bound Student Athletes – If you are interested in playing either NCAA DIV I or DIV II, and or NAIA athletics, you must register with the eligibility center for each one and pay the required fee(s).   NCAA-
  • The NCAA Eligibility Center registration fee is $65.00
  • The registration fee is $95 for international college-bound student-athletes
  • Fee waivers are available to those student – athletes who meet the criteria sit forth by the NCAA – refer to the NCAA web site for specifics
  • Students should register for the NCAA Eligibility Center at the beginning of their Junior year of high school
  NAIA -
  • The NAIA Eligibility Center registration fee is $70.00 for both U.S and Canadian students enrolling full-time for the first term of college following high school graduation
  • The registration fee is $90.00 for U.S and Canadian transfer students who are current NAIA attendees, or students with more than a summer break after high school graduation
  • The registration fee is $120.00 for international applicants
  • Fee waivers are available for U.S students – refer to NAIA web site for specifics
  • Students should register for the NAIA prior to their senior year of high school.
  For students and parents with questions - visit the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers for registration policies, fees and information regarding eligibility procedures. NCAA Eligibility Center - Phone: 317/223-0700 Fax: 317/917-6888   NAIA Eligibility Center - Phone: 816-595-8300 Toll free: 866-881-6242 Fax: 816-595-8301 Email: International student questions, contact:     International Students International applicants should begin the process as early as possible to determine academic and athletic eligibility.  Apply no later than 6 months prior to the semester in which you wish to begin your studies.  You will need extra time to obtain your official school records, arrange for required examinations, forward bank certification of your financial resources, and obtain your Visa. It is important to note that many U.S. colleges and universities require international students applying for undergraduate studies (bachelor’s degree) to pay all expenses themselves.  Many universities do not give scholarships or financial aid to international students seeking undergraduate studies.  Be sure to check with each school of interest before applying, to determine what financial aid is available to you. Requirements International students are usually required to be proficient in the English language and good students in their own countries before they will be considered for attendance at a U.S. college or university.  Students will typically have 12 years of study (beginning at age 6), with the last 4 to 5 years to include studies in English, history, mathematics and science.  Although each university or college will have their own individual guidelines, this is an overview of what most will require for application from an international student.   Application Form
  • Answer all questions on the form
  • Your principal or headmaster may be asked to do the same
  • There may or may not be an application fee
  Financial Certification The student or parent must often submit proof that he family or sponsor can pay the tuition expense.  This amount can vary greatly depending on the school of interest and will include tuition, room and board, books and miscellaneous expenses.  The university needs an official statement from a bank, employer, sponsor, or other official affidavit of support. School records These are transcripts or certificates of satisfactory study.  Records should include English translation of subjects the student has studied, grades for each, and overall GPA if available. It is very important to explain the grading system of each school attended.   Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) This is required for all international students except those whose native language is English. Information about the TOEFL can be found at U.S. Embassies, Consulates, offices of the United States Information Services, or at schools in your home country.   Aptitude Tests (SAT/ACT) The Scholastic Attitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing, which measure verbal and Mathematical ability, are required for both international and American students alike. For additional information about examinations, dates of testing, and fees, contact:   ACT
  • Student Services 2727 Scott Blvd., P.O. Box 414 Iowa City, IA 52243-0414  USA Phone 319-337-1270 Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Central Standard Time
  • College Board SAT Program P.O. Box 025505 Miami, FL 33102 Phone 1-866-756-7346   International 212-713-7789 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
  Visa Once admitted to college and all financial certification information/bank statements have been received, the university will send you a Visa qualifying document.  In most cases, you will be sent an  I-20 Form, which is used to get an F-I Student Visa.  To get the Visa, you will need to go to the nearest American Embassy or Consulate and provide the following three items:
  • Your Passport
  • Your I-20
  • Your current Financial Certification
Since you may be asked to prove your financial resources, you should retain certified copies of the original financial information that you are sending to U.S. colleges when applying.  If you are currently in the United States, you will not need to get a new Visa; you will receive a transfer which will extend your time to the dates of the appropriate academic program.  An I-20 will be sent to you to do your transfer.

Need more information? 

NCAA Rules National Collegiate Athletic Association 700 W. Washington Street P.O. Box 6222 Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-6222 Phone: 317/917-6222 Fax: 317/917-6888 NAIA RULES National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Headquarters 23500 W. 105th St. P.O. Box 1325 Olathe, KS 66051 Phone (913) 791-0044 NJCAA RULES National Junior College Athletic Association 1755 Telstar Drive, Suite 103 Colorado Spring, Colorado 80920 Phone: 719-590-9788 Fax: 719-590-7324  

College Basic Time Lines

  • June 
  1. Whether you’re an incoming high school freshman or an outgoing senior, securing a job for the summer speaks volumes about your ability to manage your time, manage your finances, take on responsibility, and even multi-task. All important items when it comes time to apply to college.
  1. Why?  Admissions Counselors are always looking for well-rounded students who would complement their campus.  Combining employment experience along with extracurricular activates, athletics, advanced or honors courses for example, gives them a complete picture of who you are as prospective student and if you can balance college studies with additional activities.
  • July - Organizing the college search
  1. High School might be out for the summer, but organizing your college search shouldn’t be on summer break too.  Here’s what you can do to keep yourself proactive:
  1. Cultivate a list of colleges which are a good fit for you academically, and if interested in college soccer, athletically as well.  Decide what is most important to you as you review each one; is it the location, the climate, type of campus, programs of study, is it a junior, public or private college that appeal to you?
  1. Consider looking outside your own backyard for college and think about options that are out of town, or even out of state.  There are hundreds of colleges and universities across the United States, and many may have exactly what you are looking for in a degree program and overall college experience.  Take the time to thoroughly research all opportunities, you might be surprised at just how many choices you have to receive a great education in a place you’ve only dreamed about.
  • August - Register for Eligibility
  1. If you’re an incoming high school junior and are considering playing at the NCAA DIV I or DIV II level, know the time to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.  The NCAA affiliation will require certification of your eligibility in order to make sure you are on track academically and are of amateur status.
  1. Visit for more information.
  1. Incoming high school seniors who are interested in playing NAIA, will need to register for eligibility as well.  The NAIA has its own set of standards that must be met and you can find out specifics by visiting
  • September – Time to submit college applications
  1. If you’re a high school senior and have a pretty good idea of the colleges or universities you would like to submit applications to, now is the time to do so if you have not already.  Be sure to keep an eye on application and scholarship deadlines.  Many colleges have hard dates in place to receive applications and apply for scholarships.  Once those deadlines have passed you will not be considered for application and or scholarship opportunities.
  1. Keep in mind that the more competitive the college is in admissions, the earlier you need to apply.  Colleges typically have a pool of money that is used when awarding scholarship and or grants.  The earlier you apply, the better chance you have at receiving a larger portion of funds from that resource.  Once the pool of funds is depleted, it will not be replaced until the following year for award distribution.
  • October – SAT and ACT Testing
  1. Consider taking an SAT and or ACT test if you are a junior or senior in high school.  For seniors, find out the last applicable date that a college will accept your scores from, as many will have a December cut-off date.
  1. Did you know on average, most students take the SAT test 2 to 3 times, and or the ACT twice?  Check to see what combination of scores can be utilized for the colleges and or universities you apply to.  Many will let you create a Super Score, or will allow you to take the best scores from a single testing date to submit for admissions purposes.
  • November – Showcase your abilities and connect with college coaches
  1. Traditionally, late fall and early winter are a time for teams to participate in college showcases across the country, giving players an opportunity to be seen, noticed, and recruited.  For student athletes considering college soccer, this is a great time to connect with those coaches whose programs interest you the most.
  1. If participating in a showcase(s), be sure to review the list of attending colleges’ coaches and connect with those who have what you are seeking both academically and athletically in a college program.  An email introduction with 3 to 4 paragraphs about yourself if sufficient, be sure to include your game schedule, and attach your player profile/resume as well.
  1. Follow up with any replies or phone calls from coaches after the showcase in a timely manner, and begin to establish a dialogue.  If your and their interest persists, consider scheduling a campus visit, see if there is opportunity to work out with the team and even spend the night.  This will help you determine if this could possibly be your perfect college fit.
  • December – Take the time to volunteer your time and talent!
  1. City web sites usually have an area dedicated to volunteer opportunities within the community and how to connect with organizations who need your help.  While some opportunities might be one time only, many others will ask you to commit to either a weekly or monthly obligation.  Think about what you can do, what you would like to, and the type of commitment you are willing to take on.
  1. Admissions counselors are always looking for students who can offer more than just a great GPA, and will often gauge applicants on what they have also done outside of an academic environment, such as volunteer work for example.  Not only is volunteering a great way to give back to your community, it helps you become a well-rounded individual too.
  • January -  Keep calm and file the FAFSA
  1. For those seniors graduating in the spring, now’s the time to file your FAFSA!
  1. The FAFSA can be completed as early as January 1st, and should be done so as soon as possible to give you the greatest opportunity to receive the maximum amount of financial aid.   All colleges and universities require students to submit a FAFSA before they can determine exactly what you will receive in aid and how much.  It’s important to file the FAFSA even if your family has yet to file their IRS return.  You will have the option to select “Will File” when filling this form out, and then will be able to go back and change it at a later date to “Has Filed” once the IRS return has been completed.
  2. The longer you wait to fill out the FAFSA, the less money there may be available to you in your financial aid package.
  • February – National Signing Day is right around the corner
  1. National signing day is February 5th, but don’t panic if you have yet to commit a college or university.  You will have until August 1st to sign on the dotted line.  As a matter of fact, the greatest number of soccer signees will sign between March and April.
  1. Signing day usually involves a National Letter of Intent, but is also dependent on the athletic affiliation you’ve decided to play within.  You’re future coach will be able to provide you with information on what their college or university and athletic affiliation expects, regarding an NLI and the obligation it requires from you.
  • March – Time for a road trip
  1. Did you know March is a great time to take advantage of Spring Break and make a college campus visit?
  1. With the school year almost over, this is a great time for those freshman through juniors to make campus visits to prospective schools.  Check the calendar of those schools you would like to visit though and make sure they are in session and not on break as well.
  1. Be sure to research each campus you plan to tour, and find out what makes it unique for those that attend.  Is it rich in history, have an outstanding athletic program, is it known for study aboard opportunities and great degree programs?  All these factors will form an imprint as to what it is you may want out of your college experience.
  1. Think of it this way, the better informed you are about a college or university, the better your perspective will be when it comes time to make a decision about where you could spend 4 to 5 years of your life after high school graduation.
  • April – Charting your future
  1. April is the time most high school students will begin the process of course selection for the next academic year.  Take time to sit down with your high school counselor to determine the following:
  1. Are you meeting graduation requirements with core courses and required electives
  2. If pursuing athletics, are you meeting NCAA core course requirements
  3. Ask about taking Pre-AP, AP or Dual Credit courses where applicable
  4. Ask which courses you should take if there is a specific field of study you would like to pursue, to help give you a head start in your selected field
  • May – Formulate an action plan
  1. Determine if you have done or could be doing the following to make your path to college an easier one:
  1. Performing in the classroom and on the field
  2. Assessing your strengths as a player and student-athlete
  3. Beginning the college identification process early, freshman and sophomore years in high school
  4. Eliminating those college programs from your search that are not a good fit for you academically, athletically, or financially
  5. Evaluating your options as a student first and an athlete second
  6. Selecting 7-10 compatible college programs based on your needs and ability
  7. Choosing the one college or university that best fits your needs and abilities.  The right choice for you means that it fully meets your objectives of a degree plan and athletic program, all at a cost you and your family can afford

College Tips

  Tip # 1
  • As you begin to cultivate a list of prospective colleges, keep your search in perspective – this means academics should be the first priority above all else, regardless of if you play college soccer or not.  Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What happens if I don’t get along with the coach?
  2. I become injured and can no longer play?
  3. I find other activities I prefer to be involved in?
  4. I lose my athletic scholarship?
  5. The University eliminates soccer from their athletic program?
  6. Would I still attend a particular college if I no longer played on the team?
  • Your answer should be - yes. 
    • There are many factors that can impact your college experience, with some that you can control and others you can’t.  Playing college soccer is a great experience, but it should not dictate your decision to attend a particular university or not.  At the end of the day, earning a college degree is much more important to your future than playing a sport.
  Tip # 2
  • Think about where you would fit best in an athletic program.  Are you DIV I material, or are you best suited for a DIV II or a DIV III program.  Do you want to play right away, or are you OK with sitting the bench your freshman or maybe even sophomore year?  Have you thought about the NAIA, USCAA, or NJCAA? Do you have the time management skills to juggle college soccer and studies?
  • Depending on the program, these variables can have a big impact on your decision to pursue a particular program or not. Understand all the athletic affiliations that are available, the divisions within each, and determine which one might be the best bet for you.  Consider the following:
    • NCAA
    • NAIA
    • NJCAA
    • USCAA
    • NCCAA
  Tip # 3
  • Every college coach gives clues about what he or she may looking for in a potential prospect and there is no better place to begin your research than to visit the athletic web site of each program of interest.  Here are a few things you can review to see if you “measure up” to what a coach may be looking for in a recruit:
  • Coach’s biography – Learn about where he or she played in college,  the style of play they utilize in a game situation,  how successful the program has been under their guidance, and the expectations they have for the program going forward.  These details will help you understand their coaching philosophy.
  • Roster – Size yourself up and see if you model the type of player the coach recruits.  Look at physical characteristics of the players, the pedigree of the players (what level they may have played at during high school), the area/state(s) players are being recruited from and potential number of graduating seniors on the roster (this will give you an idea of the roster holes that need to be filled for the next season).
  • Conference and record – Look at the conference the school competes in to determine how competitive the program currently is, where the team may need help from an impact player(s), and if there is good opportunity for incoming freshman to fill important positions.
  • Although these are just a few considerations, being well informed about the program you are pursuing, is half the battle.
  Tip #4
  • Everyone wants a full ride when it comes to athletic scholarships, but the truth of the matter is that very few athletes receive one.  Not all soccer programs are created equal and when it comes to scholarship dollars, amounts can vary across the board from one college to the next.
  • Review scholarship limitations for each athletic affiliation to see what could be available for those programs you might be interested in.  Remember, that although a Div I college may be able to offer up to 9.9 scholarships for men’s soccer, not all will have the full funding to do so base on allocated funds.  Find out from each coach what might be available for your specific situation regarding athletic scholarship opportunities.
    Tip #5
  • If you haven’t created a player resume and cover letter, it’s time to get started. Refer to the examples on the US Youth Soccer College Planning page.
  • An introduction of yourself via a cover letter along with your player profile is ideal.  If you are participating in an upcoming showcase or tournament where college coaches may be attending, provide your game schedule as soon as possible.  This gives those attending coaches you contact a good indication of your interest in their school, an opportunity to see you play, watch you develop as a player, and determine if your abilities could fit well with their program.
  • If participating in a showcase(s), be sure to review the list of attending colleges coaches and connect with those who have what you are seeking both academically and athletically in a college program.  An email introduction with 3 to 4 paragraphs about yourself if sufficient, be sure to include your game schedule, and attached your player profile/resume as well.
  • Follow up with any replies or phone calls from coaches after the showcase in a timely manner, and begin to establish a dialogue.  If your and their interest persists, consider scheduling a campus visit, see if there is opportunity to work out with the team and even spend the night.  This will help you determine if this could possibly be your perfect college fit.
  Tip #6
  • Keep your eye on the ball when it comes to your high school GPA.  You could be a great athlete but if you aren’t making the grades, you won’t be playing college soccer.
  • Consider taking Honors, AP, or Dual Credit classes when you can.  These types of classes can go a long way when a coach evaluates not only our athletic ability, but if you will be able to stand of up the academic challenges of college coursework.  Coaches need student-athletes who can not only handle it on the field, but in the classroom too.
  • In addition, these types of classes are what college admissions like to see on a student’s transcript.  The overall idea is to have a student who has challenged themselves with rigorous classwork, even if they received a lower GPA because of it.   It is often a good indicator to admissions of the type of student you are and could be at their college or university campus.
  Tip #7
  • Know the 4 components that college coaches look for in a recruit:
  • Tactical ability
  • Technical ability
  • Physical ability
  • Psychological ability
  • It’s essential to be excellent in at least one component if you want to garner the attention of a college coach at any level.
Tip #8
  • Take the time to attend a college game and watch the team in action for those programs you are considering.  This is a great way to view the team in a game situation, see how the coach conducts him or herself on the sidelines, and to see if you have the ability to contribute and make an impact to the program should you play there.
  • If you can’t make it to a game during the season, visit the college web site and see what games might be streamed live and or if there are any games that have been recorded and archived for viewing.  If the college web site does not have any taped games available, check out YouTube or any number of social media sites to see if there might be game tape for viewing through these outlets.
Tip #9
  • Don’t get stuck or focus on schools where the coach has shown no interest in you as a recruit.
  • Too often players will latch on to a college or university because it has always been their dream to play for that particular program or they feel pressured to pursue it because a parent or relative may have attended and played a sport there.   Although it’s good to have aspirations to play say, for the top Division I program in the nation, if you aren’t what the coach is looking for, you need to move on.   Most coaches will let you know exactly where you stand in their recruiting hierarchy and if you are a consideration for their roster, or not.
Tip #10
  • Arrange for a campus visit and see if there is a chance to spend the night with the team.  The length of your visit may be based upon the athletic affiliation the school is tied to.  The coach from the program you are visiting will give you specific details on how long your visit can be.
  • You’ll have a chance to talk to roistered players, develop a repoire, and gain valuable insight into the program from a players’ perspective.  You’ll also get to experience campus social life and get a good feel for what you could expect as an attending student.
Tip # 11
  • Always respond to a coach who has reached out to you and initiated the recruitment process.  Why?  You never know when your college search could change course, and a program you might not have considered as an option initially, could well become your first choice.
  • It also goes without saying that once you have made a decision to commit, to let those coaches who were also recruiting you, know so.  Thanking them for their time and interest is not only the right thing to do; you may find they are willing to keep the door and line of communication open should things change for you in the future.
Tip #12
  • Be sure to update your player profile on a regular basis to reflect any changes that may have happened recently.
  • These should include your most recent GPA, SAT and ACT scores if applicable, AP or Honors courses, volunteer work, jobs, accolades both academic and athletic, coaches information (both high school and club), club affiliation and level of play.