The stories are out there: Eighth, ninth, and tenth-grade soccer players verbally commit to full-ride soccer scholarships. Families with older soccer athletes start to wonder, “Am I too late? Are all of the college roster spots already gone?”
Early college commitments are exciting, and they get a lot of attention in social media, but those early college commitments are usually for NCAA Division 1 powerhouse programs, and they are not the only soccer scholarships available.
Division 1 soccer makes up 23.8% of all 4-year college soccer programs in America.* Of those D1 programs, very few make such early offers to PSAs (Prospective Student Athletes). The bottom line is that a VERY small percentage of college soccer roster spots are offered to eighth, ninth, and tenth grade high school students. Even juniors and seniors in high school still have time to achieve the dream of a college soccer offer.
CLICK HERE to see the guide for freshman and sophomore years.
Here is a guide for the junior year of high school soccer:
Junior year is notoriously the most difficult of all the high school years. Be sure your high school guidance counselor knows of your plans to play college soccer! Your counselor can assist in making sure you are taking all of the correct classes so you’re ready for NCAA Eligibility. Many high-level student athletes choose to lessen their academic rigor by taking a few classes at online virtual high schools (like NUVHS or Halstrom). If you know you won’t be majoring in a foreign language in college, for example, but you still need to finish a year of high school foreign language, an online course may be a way to finish that requirement, maintain a high GPA, and keep up your rigorous soccer training schedule. This can be done during the school year or over a summer break. Be sure your high school will accept the class towards graduation requirements, and be sure the class(es) you choose are NCAA-approved.
If you haven’t yet, you’ll be taking the ACT and/or the SAT for the first time. Ask your guidance counselor and teachers if they think you would be better served by taking the ACT or the SAT — the answer is different for each student. You may decide to focus on one, or you may decide to take both. Either way, be sure to have your scores automatically sent to the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Signing up for a test prep course is also a good idea. Kranse.com is an online SAT prep video-based, self-paced system that is perfect for elite athletes with jam-packed schedules. College coaches want to recruit players who can qualify for academic aid with their GPA and test scores, so academic improvement can pay off in your recruiting journey.
During your junior year, you should be playing in a soccer league that offers strong competition. If you have a game coming up against a big rival, or if you are playing a big showcase tournament, be sure you email coaches to invite them to come watch you play. Include a link to your highlight video, and tell the coach why you specifically like his/her college and the soccer program. Tell your club coaches which colleges are high on your interest list so your coach can reach out to those schools on your behalf.
Getting extra workouts in the gym is also a good idea during your junior year. There are multiple benefits to extra workouts: 1) you’ll see the improvement in your soccer with added strength 2) you’ll be more prepared for the high demands of college soccer, when you’ll be in the gym or on the soccer field six days a week. Be sure to communicate with your club coach and make sure your gym routine compliments your soccer training.
Registering for the NCAA Eligibility Center (previously known as the “Clearinghouse”) is a task for your junior year. Go to ElgibilityCenter.org to start the process. If you think a smaller school might be a good fit for you, register for the NAIA Eligibility Center at PlayNAIA.com.
NCAA rules that college coaches must follow are confusing and constantly changing. Here is an overview of the rules that coaches must follow for soccer recruiting:
- D1: As of September 1 OF YOUR JUNIOR YEAR, NCAA Division 1 coaches can call you and email you. You may have gotten generic camp invite emails, but now coaches can begin sending personal emails and calling you. Be sure you reply to any emails you receive! Official visits are not allowed at Division 1 schools during your junior year, but you are allowed to visit colleges and meet with the coaches during your visit.
- D2: As of June 15 BEFORE YOUR JUNIOR YEAR, NCAA Division 2 coaches are allowed to call and email you. Division 2 coaches are also allowed to bring you to the school for an official visit as of the same date. An official visit is a campus visit where the school pays for all or some of your transportation, lodging, and meals. At a Division 2 school, the coach could also arrange for you to train with the team during your visit.
- D3: ONCE YOU HAVE FINISHED YOUR SOPHOMORE YEAR, NCAA Division 3 coaches can call and email you personally, and as of January 1 of your JUNIOR YEAR, official visits to Division 3 schools are allowed.
All of these rules can be found in the NCAA Guide for the College Bound Student Athlete HERE.
Recruiting for the NAIA has been described as the “Wild Wild West.” There are rules governing NAIA soccer recruiting, but they are much more relaxed than NCAA rules. If you are interested in an NAIA soccer program, contact that coach!
Be sure to visit as many colleges as you can during school breaks and long weekends. There is no substitute for walking the campus in person to see how you feel about that school. Also, try to attend ID camps at schools that are high on your interest list. Many coaches offer 1-day camps that are affordable.
Enjoy the journey, keep improving, and you will end up right where you are meant to be.
* 4-year college soccer programs as of 2014, from scholarshipstats.com:
Men’s NCAA D1 programs: 203
Men’s NCAA D2 programs: 204
Men’s NCAA D3 programs: 410
Men’s NAIA programs: 193
TOTAL: 1010 4-year Men’s soccer programs
Women’s NCAA D1 programs: 328
Women’s NCAA D2 programs: 255
Women’s NCAA D3 programs: 437
Women’s NAIA programs: 197
TOTAL: 1217 4-year Women’s soccer programs