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College-bound Juniors: An action plan for you and your parents

 

By Lisa Lavelle

Connecting with the right college can seem daunting and intimidating. With 5,800 universities and thousands collegiate soccer programs, selecting the one that’s right for you can be like hunting for a needle in a haystack.

For juniors in high school, here are a few things to keep you on track and help you personalize your college recruiting efforts.

First things first -- while summer is fast approaching, now is a great time to meet with your high school guidance counselor. Obtain a copy of your high school transcript and make sure you are academically on track with core courses, especially if you plan to play for an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I or II program.

There are 16 core courses that you are required to take and pass –- to learn more about core courses visit: NCAA.org and the NCAA Eligibility Center. If you have not registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center, now is a great time to review the requirements to register -- and how your high school guidance counselor can help you.

With a better understanding of your courses and high school transcript, start with these simple steps:

For Students
To Do:
1. Create a list of 8-10 states you think you want to live in for 4 to 5 years. 
2. Think about what you want to study in college. 
3. Create a list of at least 15-20 colleges. (Make sure they are in the states on your list and offer your program of study). 
4. Contact colleges to request information and applications for admission. 
5. Ask about financial aid, admission requirements, and deadlines. 
6. Decide whether you are going to apply under a particular college’s early decision or early action program. Be sure to learn about the program deadlines and requirements. 
7. Update your personal player resume with current grades, test scores, references and events. 
8. Use the FAFSA4CASTER financial aid estimator, and compare the results to the actual costs at the colleges to which you will apply. 
9. To supplement any aid FAFSA4CASTER estimates you might receive, be sure to apply for scholarships. Your goal is to minimize the amount of loan funds you borrow. 
10. Create an essay that is uniquely you and solves a problem in the world. 

For Parents
To Do:
1. Take a look at your financial situation, and be sure you’re on the right track to pay for college. 
2. Talk to your child about the schools he or she is considering. 
3. Ask why those schools appeal to your child, and help him or her clarify goals and priorities. 
4. Attend college fairs with your child, but don’t take over the conversation with the college representatives. Remember: Just listen, and let your child do the talking. 5. Take your child to visit college campuses, preferably when classes are in session. 
6. Make sure your child is looking into or already has applied for scholarships. 
7. Ask your employer whether scholarships are available for employees’ children. 

While 87% of all parents say a college education is the most important promise they will make to their child -- going into debt should not be part of the equation.

Paying for College:

Each college will have a “Net Price Calculator” to help you get a better feel for the cost and scholarships you might be entitled to. To make this easy, use the U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator that includes every college and university.

Remember, each college will have a list of scholarships available at their particular college/university -- usually these are posted on the school website, however, ask the Financial Aid and Admission office to help you. When it comes to scholarships, some are offered directly by the university and others are offered by generous alumni or businesses that believe in the vision, mission and values of the college.

The key to being awarded these scholarships is following the application submission rules and deadlines. It’s better to apply early and always keep a list of scholarships you are applying for so you can send thank you notes.

Check your local newspaper and search the web, as well. Many scholarships are posted as news and information. For example, recently North Texas Ford Motor Company/Dealerships posted a scholarship notice saying they were going to award $400,000 in scholarships -- so check your local auto dealerships and banks and other companies. Search the web for company-sponsored scholarships and you'll find all kinds information, free of charge. Also investigate scholarship funds offered by organizations such as the Girls Scouts of America

The next time you are at the grocery story, look at all the products on the shelves and you might be surprised to find brands that offer funds to help make paying for college affordable.

When it comes to college sports, remember that soccer is a non-revenue sport and “full-ride” scholarships are few. When begin to narrow your college focus, you might find that a program with a less stellar record offers a better chance for that full ride. And remember your grades, test scores and simply asking the college to meet you in the middle can often be the best path to financial aid.

Simply said, seek and you shall find.

FURTHER READING:College-bound Seniors: A checklist for an exciting and busy time

(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to www.TheSportSource.com, whose College Finder MATCHFIT can also be contacted toll free at 866.829.2606.)