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What Should High School Athletes Look for When Choosing Their College

Feb 29, 2008
As a former college sports coach i was often amazed at how little research some student-athletes did when it came to selecting their school. College can be some of the best years of your life and if you get it wrong they can also provide you with some bad experiences.

I know that most athletes are controlled by the "money factor" when it comes to choosing schools but you should still understand the various types of schools on offer and which one is best for you.

If you are thinking about playing a sport in college then you will need to complete some thorough research into the various types of colleges available to you. Below you will find some of your options.

The normal term for obtaining a bachelor's degree at a U.S. college or university is four years in length. Some students can finish in less than four years and some may take longer. Some students want to fast track their degrees by taking summer school classes.

When you are pursuing a bachelor's degree you will first participate in the schools' required classes during your freshmen year and then will likely be required to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year. In order to graduate you will be required to study a certain number of hours and complete several other school criteria such as obtaining cultural credits. Check your school as these will vary.

When you graduate you will likely be awarded one of the following two most common degrees in a Bachelor of Science Degree or a Bachelor of Arts Degree. At a community college you will receive an Associates Degree.

You will attend one of the following types of schools when trying to obtain a Bachelors Degree. All vary in their structure, cost and requirements. Therefore it is important to understand their differences when selecting your school.

It often comes down to a personal preference when choosing your school. Various factors such as location, costs, size of the school, its sports programs, facilities, reputation, friends will all play a role in your decision making process.

The first thing to know about private schools is that they are likely to be more expensive than other schools. Costs can often go past the $25,000 mark which is just out of reach for many students and parents. The private schools are not controlled by government agencies as are public schools. As a result they receive less financial support in the form of government funding. Private universities are structured differently in the way that they are run by private groups and also supported through private funds.

Public Schools are governed and subsidized by the state they are located in and often have the word "state" in their name. For example, North Carolina State University or Florida State University. These public schools are often more popular with in-state residents as they provide a lot of financial assistance and are a lot cheaper than their private school alternative.

If you are an out-of-state student then you will pay higher fees as your taxes have not contributed to that particular states funding. However, it may still be a cheaper alternative than attending a private school in your state. Many of the state schools have great academic reputations and sporting programs so follow your list when selecting a school.

Religious Affiliated Schools - in the U.S. system of equal rights and your right to choose; you can still decide attend one of these religious affiliated schools and still maintain your right to be of a different religion. Although some schools will require you to attend some of their religious programs for cultural credits. These schools are often privately funded so that they do not have to be governed by the state and can still make their own independent choices about how the school exists.

Liberal Arts Schools strive to provide students with a broad education that aims to develop all aspects of a person and expose them to a wide variety of topics, life experiences and social experiences. They are trying to develop a "well-rounded" student by having them participate is a wide range of classes. Along with the specific classes in your major you are also likely to take classes that can range from history, religion, music, arts and geography to name a few.

Most liberal arts colleges will be smaller private schools where the majority of students (often over 75 %) live on campus. One major benefit is that you will find yourself in a class of less than 40 students which has obvious benefits. The teacher is more likely to know your name and be there to assist you on a more personal level.

Community Colleges award a student an associates degree or technical degree. These institutions are often two years and are sometimes referred to as Junior Colleges. You will hear about many athletes attending a junior college prior to attending a four year school. This is also a good way to prepare yourself and then transfer to for a four year program. Community colleges have increased in popularity due to their ability to work with students busy schedules and needs.

Ivy Leagues Schools are well known for their high academic standards and are very difficult to get into. Only a small percentage of applicants will be accepted into an Ivy League school and you will find that each college and university will set their own admissions criteria so look into each school individually and you will see which ones you have more of a chance of getting into. Go for the schools that put more emphasis on the areas that you are strong in.

Some of the Ivy League schools include: Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Brown, Penn and Dartmouth.

Diversity in College - Many colleges will strive to be schools that value diversity amongst its student population. Colleges aim for a balance between males and females as well as students from a variety of different backgrounds including ethnic, religious, sexual, racial and international identities.

A college campus will be comprised of many diverse groups and most schools strive to achieve a balance when selecting students.

You will find that many of the athletes are from different countries. Most of these athletes are only able to pay for the costs of college because they receive aid in the form of an athletic scholarship.

Whether you are an International athlete or a local athlete in the USA; there are many factors that you will need to take into account before selecting your college. Most often this will be dictated by where you are able to get enough scholarship money to help pay for the high costs of college. Some of the key factors you need to look at include location of the school, the costs, availability of financial aid, weather, size of school, do they have your field of study, quality of facilities, do they have a dedicated tennis coach or just a part-time coach.

You will also want to check out the standard of players currently on the team, budget given to the tennis team, housing facilities, the campus, graduation rates and reputation of both the athletic department and the college.

As an athlete you would love to get a lot of "Free" money from the school in the form of grants and scholarships to help pay for the costs of going to college. However, you can fill the gap by applying for one of the many federal loans or even looking into private loans.

There are many options when it comes to paying for college so don't let money get in the way of playing a sport in college. This is just one key points to ask the financial aid office at your potential college of choice.
About the Author
David Horne is co-founder of the College Help Guide. To learn more about financial aid, admissions, the SAT Test, planning and going to college in the USA you should visit College Help Guide
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