The Way I See It: Scholarship Tips

In this special edition of 'The Way I See It' (a repeat of a popular blog from last fall), Coach Carey shares his expertise to both parents and athletes regarding the right way to go about pursuing a college scholarship.

TRUTHS AND MYTHS ABOUT COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS:  How exciting it is when your son comes home in the spring of 10th grade with a letter from Penn State?  Mom is excited, Dad is bouncing off the walls, and the young man is on cloud nine. The next day in school the rumors are flying around that Johnny Drama just got a scholarship from PSU.  This scenario repeats itself time and time again across the country. 
It may be in 11th grade or early his senior year, but thousands of high school football players receive letters that basically promote the college and tell of their interest in the young man.  The more high profile the high school program, the more players on that team receive letters. What are these?? What do they mean? Should I fill out the questionnaire? Are they a scholarship offer?
The truth of the matter is they are just form letters…that’s all they are. The colleges send thousands of these letters out to players. The colleges get the names of athletes from high school head coach’s recommendations, opposing coach’s recommendations, scouting services or press accolades.  It is a way of introduction for many colleges and should be taken as just that. It’s a start….not an offer. In the spring of each season, high school coaches receive letters from colleges and scouting services that ask them to rate their players. The high school coach fills out these forms and actually puts down the level of college he thinks you will play. It could be D1, D1AA, D2, D3, JUCO or prep school. None of this takes into account the young man’s SENIOR YEAR…and a lot can happen with development that last year to change perception.
SOME FACTS:  There are 117 D1 teams that give out 85 full scholarship or rides for that team (break it down…approximately 21 rides a year). D1AA has 124 teams with 63 scholarships per team. D2 has 150 teams with 36 full scholarships on each team. With scholarships being renewed each year, this is a total of 23,157 over a four-year period. Sounds like a lot, but when you factor in the total amount of kids playing at the high school level across the country, GUESS WHAT?  It’s fewer than 5 % of the kids that get scholarships of some kind. Also, in D2, almost all these schools break them down into ¼ or ½ scholarships so they can stretch them and bring in many players. Obviously, this doesn’t make it impossible to reach your goal and receive a full scholarship, but there are many questions.
WHAT SHOULD I DO???  The first question everyone asks is, “Should I fill out the questionnaire that comes with the letter?”  At CB West, we would tell our kids to forget about the questionnaires. They were time consuming, and the colleges get all the info they need from calling your head coach. Coach Pettine or I would speak to these schools and relay info back to the kids.
As a parent, I experienced another angle that leads me to believe that it doesn’t hurt to fill out the questionnaire. My youngest daughter Jesse committed to a major D1 Big East school the summer before her senior year for basketball but had another major college come into the picture the last month before she committed. When I asked why they hadn’t been recruiting Jesse earlier, they stated “because we never received her questionnaire back and didn’t think she was interested.” 
Football and basketball are certainly different in their recruiting styles, but I don’t think it would hurt to fill out the questionnaires of the schools that interest your son. Just don’t get overwhelmed.
NEXT, PROMOTE YOURSELF!! The most obvious thing that hasn’t been stated is that you have to be a top level player with the physical status to be recruited by the scholarship schools. If you are… go to your coach. Tell him you want to play college football and ask him what his opinion is. Then, after your very good junior year, make a highlight film ( 7 minutes in length – no more !) in March, and have your coach or father mail them to the schools in April (schools that your coach agrees you could play for).
Continue to get bigger and faster going into the summer of your senior year. Ask your coach about going to a combine (athletes come together to run, jump, skills, etc.) in your area or attend the football camp of your favorite college. All of these could put you on the radar of a scholarship school.
HIGHLIGHT FILM: As stated above make this no more than 7 minutes with a cover that gives 1) name and address w/ phone number, 2) positions and jersey number, 3) high school name, 4) head coach’s name and phone number, 5) 40-yd time.
In the highlight film, group your plays in sections of offense, defense and then special teams (if any). Show as many facets of your game as possible. If you’re a skill guy…. show running with the ball, tough runs, speed runs, runs with great moves, different types of catches--possession catch, over the shoulder catch, catching in traffic, etc. Linemen….drive blocks, blocks on linebackers, blocking on the move (i.e. pulls, traps, screens), pass blocks. Defensively: beating blocks, all types of tackles, running to the ball, defending the pass, etc. I think you get the picture. Show yourself in as many athletic movements and plays as possible. Know that the college coach needs to see something that will catch his eye because he is looking at many high school prospects.
IN CLOSING: Be realistic in your ability and potential. As a high school player, be aware that the level of play at college is very high!  It’s the best of the best. It is time consuming – a fulltime job for players with skill work, lifting sessions, speed drills, conditioning, practice, film study, traveling, games, schoolwork, etc. With that being said, there is no time in your life more special than your college experience. Your father and yourself should talk to your high school coach and make a plan. THERE IS A LEVEL AND A SCHOOL FOR ALL WHO WANT TO PLAY IN COLLEGE. Set your dreams high, work to achieve them and then make a sound decision on where to attend college.

                                                     COACH CAREY