Okay friends, if your family is anything like ours, a lot of time goes into plotting and planning your children’s future. This is especially true when you begin to think about your kid’s college education. We have three kids, and sometimes the prospect of sending three kids to college terrifies me. The easy decisions to conquer include, what will they major in, or which schools should we be looking into. The harder question to answer just so also happens to be the elephant in the room, “how are we going to pay for college for three people”? Tuition, room plus board, books, and fees on average can cost $39,880 for four years of education (Average Tuition Costs). Wait. What?! So, you’re telling me on top of feeding, clothing, and keeping our kids alive for 18 years we must pay about $140,000 to send all 3 of them to school? That’s depressing. 

What if college was free….

I would love to say we were the type of people who had a Gerber College Savings account (Gerber College Savings) the first day our children were born, but we procrastinated. Our oldest daughter is now 11 years old, leaving us with just seven years before the first financial slaughter will take place. While we have put a significant portion of this cost to work in educational investment accounts, wouldn’t it be great not to have to pay for school at all? Imagine a world where colleges think your baby is just as impressive as you do. What if we lived in a world where your efforts as a parent are rewarded by colleges allowing your precious baby to attend the institution of their choice for free!  

$2.9 Billion in Scholarships awarded each year.

Well, I am here to tell you that this imaginary world does, in fact, exist because that is how I obtained my degree. Just in case you’ve missed it, I am talking about college athletic scholarships. I can almost guarantee you that most of the kids that you see on your tv for the NCAA Basketball Tournament or in the NCAA Gymnastics Championships don’t pay a dime for the education that they are receiving. Athletes that excel in sports can go to college for FREE!! 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association better known as the NCAA permits universities and colleges to distribute more than 2.9 scholarship dollars to the almost 150,000 student-athletes every year. The NCAA creates and governs the rules for the 1,117 Universities and colleges that it represents and there is a precise way that your kids need to qualify for the fortune behind the coveted spots on these teams. Scholarships can be awarded across 40 different male and female sports and in many different positions. I don’t know about you, but I am planning on getting my kids some of this free education. Having been a heavily recruited athlete myself, I know the process will walk you through the proper way to get your child an NCAA scholarship. By no means is this the only way to get your child into school, but it is a traditional way that has served many people.

Get your kids on a team….

Being on the team may seem like an obvious step, but without throwing out any shade, some people miss this one. When your kids are young, it’s a great idea to let them try a variety of sports and activities. When I was young, I did track, ballet, tap, jazz, martial arts, gymnastics, soccer, and basketball. I eventually settled on track and field, which has probably been one of the best decisions of my life. You don’t know what is inside of your kids until you let them give it a try.

Please resist the urge to push your child into a sport just because you like the sound of it. For instance, let’s say for some reason you like rhythmic gymnastics and invest all your child’s efforts in that sport. In this imaginary scenario even if they are so good, they get an Olympic gold medal at age 16, when they graduate from high school in 2 years, without other aid, you will be stuck paying for their education because rhythmic gymnastics is not an NCAA sport.   Let your child experiment with different scholarship sports (NCAA Sports) and gravitate to what they are naturally good at and what they enjoy.

Winning is important

Once you find your child’s fit create a nurturing environment to help them to develop the best that they possibly can. As a disclaimer, I am not an “everyone gets a ribbon” type of parent. I am not going to sit here and tell you all that is only important is that they have fun. Try to find a team or training program that is known for producing winners; winners with great attitudes but winner none-the-less.  Fun is part of it, but winning matters. Earning a scholarship is a competitive business and only the ones on the top will get the prize. (Remember the award we are talking about is a free school).

Time to Showoff

By the time high school arrives most families know which sport would produce the best chances of earning recruitment. Help your little athlete earn a spot-on great varsity teams that have a record of sending kids to college.   Recruiters pay very close attention to high school and AAU sports, so participation is crucial.

Outstanding performances during any year in high school can put you on a recruiter’s radar. Tailor your training to peak your performances at championships and invitationals so that you can stand out among other athletes. Beginning my sophomore year in high school, I started receiving questionnaires from colleges. They were interested in knowing my height, weight, GPA and all events I participated in. No matter if I was immediately interested in those schools or not, I competed in each interest form. It put me on the coach’s radar, and it left me open to more opportunities in the future.

Make a list of schools that you are interested in attending.

 Junior year is by far the most critical year for recruited athletes. This is because this is the first year that coaches are legally allowed to talk to your child. Know that coaches are going to award scholarships according to the needs of their teams. It’s great if your child in is like NCAA Men’s Basketball standout Zion Williamson because recruiters will be knocking down your door but if not, a little more effort on your part may be required.

Your work will first begin with making a list.  Make yourself aware of which schools will be losing athletes to graduation and transfers in your child’s specialty. This increases your child odds of filling those position. It’s also essential to see if the schools that you are interested in having your students desired major. Not every school has every major so make sure to do your research. Playing sports is a significant part of it but obtaining a degree in your child’s desired field in the real prize.  Start your list with many schools that fit your criteria to give your child as many options as possible. Depending on your child’s ability it may also make sense to include both division I and division II schools.

Contact the coaches

Once you’ve got your list of schools, locate the names, email addresses and phone numbers of the team coaches. Start your communication with an email introduction that identifies your child’s positions and stats. If possible, include quality highlight videos. Be sure to also include transcripts, GPA and standardized test scores. Make to sure respond to each coach that responds to you in a timely manner. If for some reason you don’t hear back from the coach give them a call about two weeks after the first email. Please be careful not to be a stalker. Don’t call repeatedly and then hang up. It’s 2019, and they do have caller ID, and this type of persistence may adversely affect your child’s scholarship efforts. Instead work on a steady flow of communication, carefully and respectfully spaced out.

Know the rules

There are precise rules that must be followed to ensure your student is eligible to participate in intercollegiate sports. It is your job to make sure that you know the rules. The NCAA clearing establishes recruiting terms detaining when coaches can contact, evaluate, and take a commitment from your child. There are rules surrounding when your child can visit campuses, as well as when they can sign a national letter of intent. It’s important to know that a coach must adhere to a recruiting calendar which includes quiet and dead periods making it impermissible for coaches even to contact you. Make sure you take time to go to the NCAA website and familiarize yourself with these rules. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be next scandalous story splashed across the headlines for breaking the rules. (NCAA Recruiting)

Don’t Give Up

If your child ends up graduating un-recruited, don’t give up. I know tons of people who walked onto college teams and ended up earning college scholarships later down the road. Walk-ons students can tryout for a college team with the opportunity to earn a spot on the team even if they are not recruited. The great opportunity here is that these students still received the same coaching, resources, and support at recruited athletes. Chances of developing into the type of athlete that the coach needs are high. Communication with the coach will allow the student to know exactly what needs to be done to earn a scholarship. This will provide your child with another chance.

Hope you enjoyed this blog.

Am I missing anything? How are you preparing for your children’s education? Comment below.

Mommi Chaunte