Everything Youth Soccer Players and Parents Need to Know About College
For any parents of a youth soccer player, the specter of college looms ever larger as the child becomes a teenager and thoughts of scholarships become more pressing.
As the US Soccer system stands, most serious players are still more likely to go to college before trying their luck with a pro team in the MLS or another league.
It's a preparation for life, not just soccer.
So what do parents and students need to know about scoring the best college? What are the perils and pitfalls? What do parents - and soccer moms and dads in particular - need to know?
Here, Dr. Iris Berkley, founder of CollegeBound Academic Services, spells it out for Football.com.
For many families, the college process begins sometime during a student's junior year in high school.
But the truth is that preparation for college should begin long before then. It's never too early to begin exposing your child to the concept of college. Even if it is just conversations about your own college experience or scheduling a little extra time during family trips to stop and walk around college campuses along the way.
College can be many things - a learning experience, an opportunity to make lifelong friends, a time to learn how to do laundry - but at its core it is still school. Therefore, the most important aspect of any college applicant's profile is his academic record. Even with the plethora of extracurricular involvements available to high school students today, grades and test scores still reign supreme when it comes to college admissions.
There are exceptions to every rule, for example, test-optional colleges, but I will focus primarily on the college admissions process as it exists at most selective colleges and universities.
Coursework & GPA
A student's academic record, as reflected by his transcript, is the best place to start.
I am often asked by parents and students what a "good" GPA is. My response: it depends. It depends on the colleges your child is interested in and the courses he has taken.
For most selective to highly selective colleges in the U.S., admissions offices would like to see that a student has challenged himself academically by taking a demanding course load. This course load can include honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. Not all high schools offer the same courses, which is why admissions offices tend to focus on how a student performed within his particular context.
One way for colleges to determine how a student fared in comparison to his peers who had the same opportunities and resources, is class rank. Ask your child's guidance counselor if the high school reports class rank to colleges.
In addition to coursework and grades, standardized tests complete a college applicant's academic profile. Most colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT and there is a group of highly selective colleges that also require (or highly recommend) two to three SAT Subject Tests.
The best time to begin exploring and preparing for the SAT or ACT is during the summer prior to junior year. Exposure to the material, structure, and timing of these tests will greatly aid your child in achieving his goal score. I recommend students take the SAT or ACT for the first time during the fall of junior year, a second or third time during the spring of junior year and, if necessary, a last time during the fall of senior year.
SAT Subject Tests are slightly different in that they are offered in a variety of subjects such as Literature, Chemistry, Biology, U.S. History, and Mathematics. The best time to take these exams are at the end of each school year. For example, if a student takes World History as a sophomore, he should take the World History Subject Test in either May or June of that year when the material is fresh in his mind.
Aside from a student's academic profile, selective colleges will also take into consideration an applicant's extracurricular involvements.
On the whole colleges would rather see deep and long-term involvement in a few extracurricular activities that a student is passionate about rather than superficial involvement in a long list of clubs and organizations. It is about depth, not breadth.
Colleges are not necessarily looking for thousands of well-rounded students. Rather, they are looking to construct well-rounded freshman classes. This means that each college campus functions as a micro-society that needs its writers, artists, scientists, leaders, and athletes.
I encourage high school students to find their passions, their niche, and pursue those interests as far as they can.
For students seeking to play Division I, II, or III sports in college, there is an additional component to the college admissions process, which is the athletic recruiting process.
The recruiting process can begin at any time but truly begins in earnest sophomore and junior years. Students who want to play at the Division I or II level will need to register with the NCAA at the beginning of junior year in order to declare themselves eligible to play college athletics. The website to do so is www.ncaaclearinghouse.org.
By the end of junior year, students will need to send an ACT or SAT score directly from the testing agency to the NCAA, along with official transcripts from their respective high schools.
In addition, students will want to create a resume that contains their stats, honors/awards, academic data, and their high school coaches' contact information. A recruiting video is also important so that coaches can see a student-athlete's level of play. A player may want to consider attending a college's summer athletic camp. Camps can be a way for athletes to gain exposure as well as a way to see how they fair among other college athlete hopefuls.
Student- athletes should not be shy when marketing themselves to college coaches. In fact, students should be the ones to make the first contact with colleges coaches, not parents. My advice is to be aggressive, yet friendly and considerate.
A Special Note for Soccer Moms & Dads
For soccer moms and dads, I recommend the following:
· Begin the recruiting process by compiling a list of colleges that your child is interested in playing for and attending (a longer list is better to start). Make sure these are colleges your child would be happy to attend even if they couldn't play soccer. Unfortunately, injuries do occur and it's important to know your child would continue to thrive even if they couldn't play for a period of time.
· Research college soccer teams. Go to each team's website and review its current roster. For example, if your child is 5'7 but the team's lineup is almost exclusively made up of players over 6 feet tall, then it is likely an indication that that team may not be a fit. I also recommend researching your child's position. If the college team already has several young players who play your child's position, then that coach may not be interested in recruiting additional prospects.
· If your child has the opportunity to visit a college/team, encourage him to speak to current players about their experience. My advice: don't ask the star player. Ask those who don't get a lot of playing time if they are enjoying their experience and if they would make the same decision again.
· Once you have a solid list of colleges, fill out each college team's athletic recruiting questionnaire, which can be found through each college's athletic website. This is how college coaches become aware of prospective student-athletes.
After a student has spent several years taking challenging courses, preparing for standardized tests, and involving himself in causes close to his heart, and communicating with college coaches, it is time to see the college application process through to completion.
A good time to start the application process is during the summer before senior year. Summer is a great time to put together or update a resume as well as brainstorm and write college essays. College applications are completed and submitted online. Some colleges have their own individualized applications while others subscribe to the Common Application (www.commonapp.org) or the Universal College Application (www.universalcollegeapp.com).
It should be noted that a new type of college application is currently in the works called the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success and it is supported by colleges such as Stanford, Duke, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and Yale University. The Coalition application is slated to go live in Summer 2016. For more details and information visit www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org.
Each college is different so it is best to check with the individual schools your child is applying to. Most college applications are due in the fall or winter of senior year. Admissions decisions start rolling in anywhere from six weeks after the application's submission to six months. It simply depends on the college and its admissions policy.
All seniors have until May 1st to make their final college selection (unless accepted under Early Decision). To be on the safe side, your child should commit to a college before May 1st and also inform the other colleges he was accepted to that he will not be attending in the fall.
If approached correctly, the college process can be a time of great self-reflection and growth for these young adults who are about to step out into the world for the first time.
While the process may, at times, seem overwhelming, keep in mind that there truly is a right college fit for every student.
About Dr. Iris Berkley
Dr. Iris Berkley received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Irvine, a Certificate in College Counseling from U.C.L.A., and M.A. and Ph.D Degrees in Education at the University of California, Riverside, where she was awarded a Graduate Division Fellowship by the Graduate School of Education.
From 2001-2005, Dr. Berkley worked for The Princeton Review as a Premier Tutor (billed out at the company's highest rate) and essay grader for the SAT, ACT, GRE, and MCAT exams. Dr. Berkley has had extensive experience reading admissions essays and personal statements as well as conducting doctoral level research on the admissions process.
She is the author of several published pieces, including, "Who am I? A Discourse Analysis of the College Admission Essay," and "Bakhtinian Theory, Narratives, and the SAT Essay." She is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and the Western Association of College Admission Counseling (WACAC).
Dr. Berkley founded CollegeBound Academic Services in 2005 has worked with countless families as a college counselor and educational consultant. Dr. Berkley also works with adults applying to graduate programs ranging from MBA, to medical school (M.D. and D.O), dental school, veterinary school, pharmacy school, law school, MRED (Master of Real Estate Development), as well as other masters and doctoral degrees.
CollegeBound's central office is located in Newport Beach, California. For more information on CollegeBound or Dr. Berkley, please email us at email@example.com or call us (949) 413-2422.