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Thursday, March 24, 2016

For rising sophomores, summer is time jump start college search

By Lisa Lavelle

With summer coming soon -- the good news, students and student-athletes will be going on vacation getting a much needed break from school and other activities. Others will spend the summer working, and some will be attending summer school or taking online-college courses to stay on track or get ahead.

The great news, those transitioning from grade 9 to 10 have accomplished a great deal on and off the field, so congratulations!

So after the vacation and summer classes or part-time jobs, the last thing kids and parents are interested in right now is preparing for and paying for college.

For many, college admissions or selecting one school over another seem a few years out. But it’s never too early to start planning. With the national student-loan debt exceeding $1.2 trillion, most families are wondering how can they afford it and how much debt will their child be saddled with once they graduate from college.

Here are a few things to consider before you choose a particular college or university:

First, examine what courses your child is taking in school right now. For those families considering, AP (Advance Placement), IB (International Baccalaureate) and Honors Courses they are, in fact, very different from one another.

All are great ways to challenge your teen and they look awesome on college applications, but there are a few important distinctions you should be aware of before deciding to enroll your child in these courses.

The differences between AP, IB and Honors classes

The main difference between AP, IB and Honors classes has to do with college credit. Basically, if you enroll your teen in an AP/IB course, they have the chance to receive college credit. However, honors courses do not provide college credit.

Sounds easy enough right? Take a high school course, and receive college credit? Seems like everyone would want to do that? The truth is it’s not that simple.

In order to receive college credit for an AP or IB course, your teen must study for and pass the exam, and receive a score of 3 or higher out of 5 and, most colleges require at least 4.

If your child is willing to put in the extra effort and study for the AP/IB exam, they should go for it!

Remember, if your child is busy with sports or just not into it, honors courses are the way to go and it looks great on the student profile/application.

Which brings us back to why many families will put off the college search till their child is in grade 11 or 12. Often families and students will take a “wait & see” approach trying to figure out which college coaches will be calling or recruiting them. Nothing is worse that hoping the phone will ring with your dream college on the other end and the call not come.

The fact is college recruiting is just like getting a job. You need to be talented, qualified and equally important if not more -- and you got to apply. Meaning you need to tell your story, let the coach know you are interested not only in playing for their program -- you are interested in going to their college as a student too.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of being recruited to your dream school: Make sure your grades are in order and you are taking courses that show your learning style and abilities. Every college is looking for the brightest and best on and off the field.

Don’t be lured into spending hundreds of dollars on a “recruiting service” thinking the coach will find you. The fact is, college coaches are not searching websites looking for prospects, they actually want to hear from you.

Get a jump start

Create a list of colleges that appeal to you -- and do a little homework. Visit their website, look at the admissions criteria, programs of study and if possible make an appointment and take a campus tour. Unofficial campus visit usually take about two to three hours and the information you gain from the visit is incredible. If the college is one you really like --contact the coach and let them know you will be on campus and see if they will spare 15 minutes or so to visit with you.

If they offer a college ID camps, this is a perfect opportunity to get noticed! Let the coach know you will be attending the camp -- and you look forward to their feedback on your skills and qualifications -- remember you want to make the team and become a top prospect.

All too often, kids and parents believe because they play for a certain club or organization with a well-known name, college coaches will flock to their games and be offered “full-ride” sports scholarships by leading Division I college coaches.

Sadly, that’s not how it works. If you really want to see where you fit, you need to be honest with your skills and qualification. Check out the team roster, size yourself up and go see games at all levels -- look at the speed of play and your position -- then ask yourself -- could I add value, depth and dimension to the team and program?

National Signing Day was February 3, 2016. Did you know there are still hundreds of college coaches looking for players to fill their rosters? You bet and many of them still have money to give to the right student-athlete.

I wanted to bring this to your attention for a couple of reasons. First, while you might be a fantastic soccer player if you do not meet the National Collegiate Athletic Association academic rules for eligibility, you probably won’t be recruited by an NCAA Division I or II program.

While there are lots of other college options out there, most assume if it’s not NCAA it can’t be that good. Which brings me to the second reason -- your AP or IB exam score will allow the college to tell you how many credits you will receive and that my friend just saved you money.

Being actively recruited requires a few simple things on your part. First, make sure you are on track academically and if possible earning college credits. Secondly, if you don’t take your own recruiting seriously, why should a college coach?

Tell your story

Now is a great time to create a personal resume. It should be a one-page document that outlines your college and career objective, includes your name, address, phone, email address, academic, athletic and community accomplishments -- and if possible include your photo.

Ask your current team coach to provide you a letter of recommendation that speaks of your athletic abilities. Next ask one of your teachers to write you a letter of recommendation that speaks of your academic -- your studies and you as a member of the class.

College readiness starts in grade 9 and, for those who are prepared, success is yours for the taking. For parents, I know your days are hectic, however, if you can spare 15 minutes, before school is out, meet with your child’s guidance counselor.

This way you can start planning and choosing academic course for your child to take when school returns to session.

As mentioned before, it will be helpful to begin exploring colleges either in person or online. As a family, this can be a great shared experience and beneficial to everyone.

Remember, it’s not about that particular college, it’s about exploring what a college campus is all about and what it can offer you the student-athlete.

From the library to the commissary to the arts department and athletics, the more you know about a college campus the more comfortable you will be with the process.

FURTHER READING:
College-bound Seniors: A checklist for an exciting and busy time
College-bound Juniors: An action plan for you and your parents

(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.)