How to Identify a Best-Fit College
By Coach Ted Gleason
As a parent of a junior golfer you might be planning or hoping that your child will someday have the opportunity to play college golf, maybe even earn a scholarship. Representing a school, carrying a team bag and being a student-athlete in college is a wonderful experience. With so many different colleges and golf programs to choose from, you may wonder, “How do we find that ‘best fit’ college for our son/daughter?”
First and foremost it is a PROCESS, and the earlier you can start the better. This process will include learning about the various junior tours to compete on, having the correct support team in place (appropriate instructors, etc.), understanding the NCAA eligibility rules (www.eligibilitycenter.org), becoming familiar with the vast array of colleges and golf programs available, knowing what college coaches are looking for, and ensuring that your child is truly enjoying all aspects of junior golf. Throughout this experience your child should be proactive and take ownership of the aforementioned process.
Many junior golfers nowadays start competing in tournaments as early as 6 or 7 years old. While this is a valuable experience for them, the college recruiting process “officially” begins when your child enters 9th grade. At that time they become, as deemed by the NCAA, a Prospective Student-Athlete (PSA) and all NCAA rules apply. Additionally, once they begin high school, their academic record is considered for college admission and for NCAA eligibility purposes. It is important to emphasize that academics DO make a difference to college golf coaches and with better grades come more college options.
Becoming aware of college programs for some can begin as early as 9th grade. A simple way of doing this is taking your child on college campuses whenever possible. Having the opportunity for them to see various campuses, sizes of schools, surrounding areas, and observe the students walking to and from class is a great way for them to ‘kick the tires’ (it is best to go while classes are in session). Obviously in 9th grade they may not know what they are looking for, however they are exposing themselves to the ‘college world’ and the sooner they can do this the more comfortable they will be down the road in developing the necessary criteria to identify their best-fit.
Another suggestion is for them to attend a college golf tournament in your area. Seeing the players with their team bags and uniforms, being able to watch the coaches interact with their teams, observing the caliber of play and better understanding what a college tournament looks and feels like is an invaluable experience. To find a tournament near you this fall or next spring, go to your local university’s athletic website and look up the golf team’s tournament schedule or visit www.golfstat.com for a complete listing of college golf tournaments.
Identifying a best-fit college(s) will depend largely on your child’s ‘profile’ both academically and golf-wise. The academic profile would consist of your child’s core GPA, SAT/ACT scores and, in some cases, their class rank. The golf profile consists of their tournament resume, scores, and finishes. The Ping American Golf Guide (www.collegegolf.com) is the most effective means to compare your profile with that of the hundreds of colleges throughout the country. This website is a must have for all junior golfers navigating the college process and will provide an efficient snapshot of the academic and golf standards of every college in the country and also offers additional features that will assist you in identifying potential best-fit possibilities.
As you will also discover on the aforementioned website there are hundreds of options to play college golf and receive a quality education. Certainly the most well known are the Division I schools; however, do not overlook the wonderful opportunities that can be found in Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior Colleges. If the goal is to PLAY college golf, then finding a university/golf program where your child can play in the starting five, travel to tournaments, balance both golf and academics effectively should be the goal.
Another resource that you will find beneficial and informative throughout your college process is Junior Golf Scoreboard (www.njgs.com). This site provides a comprehensive listing of junior golf tournaments, results, college signings, junior rankings and pertinent information for any junior golfer with ambitions to play college golf.
Once campus visits have been made, a few college tournaments attended, schools researched on-line, a tournament resume built, and an academic profile established, then a preliminary list of best-fit schools can be developed. Coaches then can be sent an introductory letter with significant tournament results, upcoming competitive schedule and a swing/short game video. Follow up visits to campuses to meet with interested coaches, learn more about their team, academics, facilities and golf program would assist in narrowing down the list of best-fit colleges.
Determining a best-fit college is a PROCESS. This experience requires your child to be proactive, research schools and programs, participate in a variety of golfing experiences at the junior level and maintain a solid academic profile. For this process to be successful it must start with a love for golf, a commitment to academics, and a passion to excel when the opportunities arise.
Enjoy the journey!
Coach Ted Gleason
President & Founder
Road To College Golf