Finding the “right” Soccer Program actually means finding the “right” school. more than that.  You must look for academic, social and soccer fit.  All three must be a part of the decision.

An number of factors need to be taken into account when selecting a college such as:

1. Local vs. Away-From-Home

Unofficial campus visits are great opportunities to talk to the students, sit-in on an academic class of interest, tour the campus and city and spend more than a couple of days.

While location is important, so is distance from home… how far from home you want to be just might be as important. For some going to college is a chance to explore a different part of the country. For other students and their parents having dinner with their family once a week may also be important.

2. Cost/Financial Aid

When parents say “Study and get good grades it will mean something…” they arere actually right! The cost of a college education is approximately $125,000 and in some cases it exceeds $200,000. While this seems expensive and almost out of reach to some families, cost should not be the only reason you and your family pass on a certain college or university. While cost is a top consideration that most parents think about when the topic of paying for college comes up, remember not all colleges cost the same.

There are different types of financial aid programs at different schools and with many scholarships available, paying for college can be easier than you might think. Your grades may be worth money, your community service may be worth money, and your athletic ability may be worth money. In addition, where your parents work just might have scholarship dollars to give. Half the battle is doing the research, applying and meeting deadlines.

All schools are now required to provide a “cost calculator” or “net price calculator” which can be helpful in getting a preliminary read of the cost of attending (the same generally found under financial aid support sites).

Remember, there are separate costs for tuition, room and board, and travel to and from during breaks, parent visits, etc.

3. Size

Colleges come in all sizes, from a school in like Hartwick College (NY) that enrolls 2,500 students to schools like Ohio State, which can enroll 50,000 or more. Which one is better? Well, that depends on you and what you want. If you grew up in a small town and went to a small high school or in a large city and attended a high school with a senior class of 3,000 only you can choose which best fits your goals. Whether you grew up in a city or a rural area you will need to consider factors like student-teacher ratio and if you want to be a person or a number. Ask yourself, if you like being places where everybody knows you, or do you like the anonymity of a crowd? Once you evaluate your goals, then making a clear and concise choice will be easy.

4. “Type” of school

All colleges are not the same. Some have large graduate programs and devote much of their time and resources to research while others are small Liberal Arts schools with various programs of study offered. Some schools have a specialty in one specific area, like Colorado School of Mines which specializes in math and engineering, Southern Methodist University which offers Business and Law programs or Florida International University which offers business with a focus on hospitality. Others schools might be best known for giving students a broad education. Other factors include whether a school is single sex or coed, if it has a religious affiliation, if it s a public or private school? Some colleges are historically black, other schools have co-op programs where you earn money while going to school, and other schools offer large evening and part-time programs.

5. Area of Academic Interest

If you know what field you want to go into after college, it’s important to make sure you go to a college which offers courses that support your desired profession. Most schools will ask that you  declare your major by the end of your second year or midway through your junior year. Many students do not know what they want to study when entering freshman year of college; having options is important.

Some schools require students to take classes in a wide variety of subjects during their Freshman and Sophomore years. These schools are great for students who either want a well-rounded education or are trying to figure out what area to focus on. Other schools let students just dive in to their chosen majors without a lot of other requirements. These schools are great for focused students who know what they want to do and don’t want to spend their time in classes that won’t help them in their major.

6. Athletics

If you are being recruited by a particular school, you still need to follow the above guidelines. If you are not an athlete and are not being recruited, these guidelines may still improve your chances of getting admitted to your choice of schools. Are you a sports fan? The sound of a marching band and the sight of a football uniform just might make the difference. At some schools, sports are the order of the day, the main social activity on most students’ calendars.

Identifying Soccer Programs

1. Have a realistic understanding of what kind of soccer player you are today. What kind of player can/will you be when you graduate from high school?

2. Identify your skills.

3. What are your strengths?

4. What is the style of play of the schools on your list? Are you compatible? What kind of players are the coaching staff looking for?

5. What kind of contribution can you make as a freshman? What kind of player can/will you be by your sophomore or junior year of college?

6. How important is it for you to play right away?

7. How important is playing time? What’s more important to you, the level of the team or the amount of playing time you get? Are you satisfied being a role/practice player or do you want to be a starting player?

8. What is the personality of the coach? Does your personality fit among the coaching staff, current players, fellow recruits?

9. What are the soccer facilities like? How much support does the program get from the athletic department?

10. What kind of “development” and training support is there? What is the size of the coaching staff? Does the program have dedicated trainers, weight training staff or does the head coach do it all?

11. What kind of academic support is provided for soccer players?

12. Do people come out to watch the soccer games? What is the soccer environment at the school? Is it just parents and friends at games are does the local soccer community come and watch?

A)    Identify up to 15-20 colleges that match with you answers to the questions above. You can always eliminate schools from the list. We recommend starting with as many as 20 schools your sophomore year and reduce the list to 5-10 by the end of your junior year.

B)    By the end of your junior year, you should be pretty clear on your list of identified schools.

C)    Identify colleges that meet your academic, lifestyle and soccer needs. How many colleges match your criteria?  Do you need to add more criteria to reduce your list or eliminate criteria to expand your options? You can start your list as early as your freshman year of high school. Every 6 months, revisit the list and criteria.

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