If you’re lucky enough to be recruited to play college football, you will face a tough challenge when it comes to deciding where to attend college. It was hard to define which of the following categories I would deem as most important, because each player’s situation is unique. However, with additional wisdom from our TWQBR coaching staff, we hope to provide some important insights to help make your decision more clear.
Although most athletes are drawn to staying closer to home, there are opportunities that often present themselves at a greater distance. While it certainly is worth taking into consideration whether your family can come to watch you play regularly, it is worth noting that unlike most college students who will only know a handful of people, you will have the benefit of inheriting a 100+ teammates along with a full coaching and support staff to help ease the transition. They will have gone through the same situation and be able to provide tremendous support.
The short term and long term cost of going to college can be substantial. With very few players getting full-ride scholarships, players need to take into consideration any partial aid they may receive. At the D2 and FCS levels, that may be a percentage of the tuition. At the D3 and NAIA levels, there may be a variety of financial aide surrounding academic performance and other factors. Regardless, when comparing your options, take into account all financial considerations from travel home, to the cost of student loan interest in the long term.
Degree Program & Ongoing Opportunities
While your academic interests may change, do not forgo your initial passion if a college does not provide it. For example, engineering is a popular field of study. However, many schools do not offer it as one of their programs. They may offer complimentary programs in math or science and try to spin that to add appeal. . Remember that your academics need to take priority in your decision to set you up for your career after football. Additionally, if multiple schools offer your program, inquire about internships, alumni networking and job placement after graduation. Those extra opportunities may be extremely valuable.
This may be one of the most unpredictable aspects of your decision. In addition to the tremendous pressure to have a winning program, many coaches are looking to advance their career which may mean they are only at one program for a couple of years. Another thing that will take some further inquiry is how the coach is when he is not recruiting. You may need to connect with players on the roster and inquire about the coach’s demeanor in the film room, at practice and on gameday’s.
Every player wants to be on the field as much as possible. A coach can provide insights into when they see you playing, but you’ll need to decide how well your strengths will fit on the team. As much as you want to have confidence in what you can accomplish, it is important to recognize that you’re going into a program of players that all felt the same way when they were recruited. Regardless of the division, the players had successful high school careers and have now been part of year round strength and conditioning program and higher level coaching. The point being, you’ll need to be ready to compete for playing time. Playing your first season should not be an immediate concern, but figuring out how you can be a part of the long term success will be critical.
We’re fortunate to have a staff that features current college players and coaches. I asked them for their insights and here is what they had to say:
“Narrow your search based on your heavy interests: football, major, size, location. Then visit those schools, feel them out. Gut feeling is big. Choose a school that if football was taken away from you, you’d still be able to stay there for all of your years.”
Chase Vogler – Offensive Coordinator, UW Stout & D2 National Championship QB, UM-Duluth
“Make sure to talk with people, coaches, players and students alike. Ask the hard questions, how many do you have on your roster, how many do you plan on bringing in, what do you see as my role in your program, how do you help your players develop on and off the field. Everyone’s brochure looks good, everyone has great social media, everyone has their “pitch”- gotta dig deeper.”
Eric Treske – Offensive Coordinator, Lakeland University
“Getting in front of people and visiting schools is the best tool. Nothing is going to give you a more accurate representation of what a school will be like from a football, academic and social aspect than actually going to that school and seeing it for yourself.”
Trevor Tillett – QB, Concordia – St. Paul
“If you know your intended major, make sure to go with a school that has your major. Don’t change it just because you want to go to a particular school that has good athletics.”
Matt Williquette – DB, UW – LaCrosse
“Don’t just make the decision based on football alone. Make sure it’s a good fit socially and academically as well.”
Dez Morse – WR, Lakeland University
As stated in the beginning, each situation is so unique. Much like the evaluation process for coaches can be very tedious and more subjective, deciding on where you want to play can feel the same way. It is important to evaluate a variety of factors and make your decision based on what will be best for you in long run.