The recruiting landscape has experienced a shakeup over the last several years. From the advent of social media recruiting to junior year official visits to early signing periods, student-athletes are getting discovered sooner and committing to college programs well before high school graduation. Constant changes to the recruiting timeline often impacts when recruits should begin their process.
There are a lot of mistakes that a recruit can make, including simply not knowing when to begin the recruiting process. How late is too late? This ultimately depends on the sport, division level and the student-athlete’s academic and athletic ability. But as a general rule, the sooner you start the recruiting process, the more opportunities you will have.
Senior year is not too late to start the recruiting process, but opportunities available are slim due to the recruits that took advantage of starting the process at the beginning of high school. However, roster spots for seniors are still available at every college level. Even if a college program does everything it can to lock up its recruiting class early, coaching changes and de-commitments are commonplace. So, it’s important to keep in contact with college coaches if you are seriously interested in their team. If something comes up and a roster spot becomes available, you may have a shot at snagging it.
Besides last-minute offers, many late bloomers go the junior college route for a year to get accommodated with the commitment of being a student-athletes or because junior colleges are more affordable. For recruits that don’t have the grades they need to get into their target school, starting at a junior college is a great way to improve academics. Make sure to register for junior college as an NCAA qualifier, which allows you to stay academically eligible for Division I and Division II programs. Junior colleges give student-athletes the chance to also have more time to decide on what they may be looking for in a four-year university.
Schools running out of scholarship money does not have to be the end of the road. If you are truly passionate about attending your dream school, there could be a possibility to walk on the team. Preferred walk-ons are guaranteed roster spots and can earn playing time and scholarships down the line. In addition, coaches often invite recruited and unrecruited walk-ons to campus to try out for a spot on the team.
Team sports tend to begin the recruiting process earlier than individual sports. D1 coaches want to leverage commitments from elite prospects to attract other top recruits. Softball, volleyball and lacrosse are especially known for their early recruiting practices, with coaches and scouts often evaluating athletes as young as seventh or eighth grade.
Late bloomers exist in every sport, but they are especially prevalent in individual sports like swimming and track and field. Many college coaches wait to offer scholarships until a prospect achieves a certain time or distance. As their bodies grow and develop, it’s common for runners and swimmers to set personal records and land scholarships during their senior year. So, recruits that are a part of an individual sport have a little more time with the recruiting process.
Even if you get a late jump on the recruiting process, a strong GPA and impressive standardized test scores can give you an edge over comparable student-athletes. Even if you got decent marks as a junior, scoring a few points higher could attract more coaches and help you secure more scholarship money. Need to retake your test? Register for upcoming SAT and ACT dates.