Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to figuring out whether to run for a D1, D2, or D3 college?
As a former high school and college coach, this is a question I’ve heard and answered quite often. It’s a question that has to be looked at through several critical lenses…woah I sounded like my high school English teacher just then. You’ll spend a lot of time talking with family and counselors at school trying to figure out what the best options are for you. But it is ultimately something you have to choose for yourself. The things you’ll want to consider while making that decision can be boiled down to four aspects: education, atmosphere, finances and skill.
Here’s a little history for you: “student-athlete” was first used in 1964 by Walter Byers who was the first executive director of the NCAA. The term emphasized that being a student was the first and foremost important part of being a college athlete. As such, this should be for primary reason for picking a school regardless of the level you might run at. Does this school have the program or area you want to study? Is there a high graduation rate? How does your chosen program compare to other schools? Are the professors accessible and helpful? These are all things you should look into when picking a school. Do lots of research. College Scorecard is an amazing tool for looking at what schools have to offer in an easy to digest way. College visits are another incredible way to get to know a school better. On visits you can even drop in on a class to see what it’s all about.
You'll also want to get a sense of the team's atmosphere. All college athletes spend a significant amount of time with their coaches and teammates. Meeting with the coach(es) and staying a night on an official college visit will be pretty insightful into the vibe of the team. Imagine having to spend a six-hour track meet plus riding a bus with a group of people that you might have a hard time spending too much time with. Another reason college visits are great is it will give you a snapshot of the life of a collegiate athlete. Most division 1 and some division 2/3 programs can be pretty intensely structured. Multiple practices a day, long practices, lifting sessions, mandatory sports study halls, etc., all on top of classes and homework. Your day is pretty much full from the time you get up until the time you go to sleep. Some people love that and look for that. There's nothing wrong with that but it's not for everyone. Make sure you’re going to be part of a team that will allow you to be successful.
Don't forget, college is expensive! I know because I’m still paying off my college loans almost 10 years later. Part of your research has to be what it's going to cost you. In division 1 and 2 there are athletics scholarships available. These scholarships can be partial or in some cases, full. Men’s teams at division 1 and 2 respectively have 12.6 scholarships (the total number is based off of cross country and track combined) to deal out. That's a small number, which means schools are very selective about who they invest in. Then there’s whether the college is private vs. public, which can affect how much you will spend. Bottom-line is college is expensive and you want to make sure you and your family are making the right investment in your education.
Ahhhh skill. Since you're looking at division 1 schools you must be a pretty successful athlete. To be a collegiate athlete you do have to show some proficiency at your sport. Running is nice because you can easily look at times. You’re either fast or you’re not…or you’re a field athlete, so that ruins that analogy, but you know what I mean. A lot of young student-athletes and even more parents assume they are a standout athlete. Be realistic with yourself and your skill level. Look at the times people on the team are routinely running and getting into meets. The worst thing as a recruiter was having someone contact you, looking up their times and telling them they weren’t quite at the level to be competitive. You don’t want to crush anyone’s dreams (if you read one of my prior blogs I dealt with that from a coach in college) and it can be hard to determine if an athlete isn’t there yet but can become a standout. A great example is one of my co-workers goes to SU and was a decent runner on one of the best high school teams in the country *cough*Liverpool*cough* but he knew he wasn’t ready for division 1 running. He joined a running club at SU and is enjoying it pretty well.
Wow that was a lot of information. There's no easy answer when it comes to picking the perfect school. There are layers upon layers of information and feedback you’re going to have to sift through in order to make the right decision. Best of luck Kieran. Do LOTS of research and communicate to the schools you’re interested in at all the levels.