Publicizing the Recruiting Process Empowers Student Athletes


Photo by: Courtney Marnocha

NHS senior Quinn Marnocha signs her National Letter of Intent to play collegiate softball at South Dakota State University.

Drew Gentile, Student of Journalism

For high schoolers with intentions to play collegiate sports, the recruiting process is intimidating, but one they must encounter. The process, however, has many aspects that are not uncovered until experiencing it first hand. As someone who has a supreme interest in collegiate athletics, sharing only information about offers and commitments is inadequate. With that information alone, fans are satisfied and make their predictions. The choice of school for student athletes, however, is one that will change the entire outlook of their lives. Because of a college commitment having the chance to change one’s life, three aspects of the recruiting process exist that every student-athlete should be prepared to explore when deciding on a school.

Because high school kids are the ones making these recruiting decisions, and given the possible effects, if one decision can be made easier, this should be the one. 

Level of Collegiate Athletics

The first thing all student-athletes should know when contemplating where to further their education is the levels of collegiate athletics. FieldLevel does a good job differentiating these levels and their subdivisions. Two overarching categories fit all collegiate athletics — four-year institutions or two-year institutions. Two branches of collegiate athletics associate with four-year institutions. The first association is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is broken down into divisions: Division I, Division II and Division III. The other association is the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which is an association comparable in size to NCAA Division II, but consists of more private schools and holds fewer regulations than the NCAA. The most common association for athletics at a two-year institution is the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), which contains community, state and junior college athletics. The NJCAA also has divisions I, II and III. The Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), which consists of 36 community colleges, is another association where high school students can partake in collegiate athletics. Finally,California Community Colleges Athletic Association (CCCAA), which comprises 108 community colleges across California, is an option. A major factor of deciding what level of athletics is right for individuals is the education they desire, whether that be four or two years. Past the desired duration of schooling, factors such as size of school, location and financial support play major roles in the recruiting process. 


Scholarships are a crucial aspect of the recruitment process and have the ability to change the trajectory of someone’s athletic career. While certain student athlete’s view scholarships as a luxury and a way to save money down the road, there are student-athletes whose family needs the scholarships to aid the cost of attending college. This is why it is important to publicize scholarship opportunities. Given that collegiate athletics are associated with educational institutions, it is important to know that all universities offering collegiate athletics uphold the values of Title IX. To adhere to the guidelines of Title IX, universities distribute the same amount of scholarships to women as they do to men. The major effect of Title IX is that football, a sport only offered collegiately for men, has significantly larger teams than other sports and therefore receives significantly more scholarships. With that, there are less scholarships available for men outside of football than there are for women. Regardless, there are still many opportunities for student athletes to receive financial aid. Jason Smith of USA Today High School Sports does a great job of describing the levels of collegiate sports and the scholarships within those levels. The NCAA is the association that has the most collegiate athletes, but its scholarship opportunities vary by division. In the NCAA’s Division I, many athletes earn full-ride scholarships, which covers all college-related expenses. Some athletes in this division, however, will be on partial scholarships. In the NCAA’s Division II, a limited amount of full ride-scholarships exist; thus most athletes are on partial scholarships. For athletes at NCAA Division III universities, athletic scholarships are not offered. NCAA Division III universities, however, often are able to assist the cost of college for their athletes with a variety of academic scholarships. The other four-year academic association, the NAIA, is comparable with NCAA Division II. Many athletes at this level receive partial scholarships, with few full-ride scholarships being awarded. The scholarship distribution for the NJCAA is parallel to that of the NCAA. Overall, the scholarship distribution is different amongst different associations and divisions within the associations. As student athletes and their family sit in different places financially, it is important for student-athletes to know about possibilities for scholarships before entering the recruiting process.

Campus Visits

Possibly the most important part of the recruiting process for future collegiate athletes is campus visits. When committing to a school, student athletes are not only committing to play a sport, they are committing to an education system and most importantly, a temporary home. Jayden Sheppard, senior on the NHS wrestling team, had this to say about visiting campuses: “The part of recruitment I valued the most was the visits because as I visited different campuses. I was able to narrow down my list of possible schools as being on campus is the only way to know if I could see myself living there.” According to Fred Bastie of USA Today High School Sports, two different categories of campus visits exist. The two types of campus visits are official and unofficial visits. The major difference between the two are the financial aspect and the quantity. Official visits are completely paid for by the university. This often includes the price of transportation, a hotel room or other form of lodging and entertainment for the weekend for the athlete and two parents or guardians. Entertainment typically contains some sort of school event. Each official visit can last up to 48 hours. The only downside to official visits is there is a limit. Each athlete can take up to five official visits. Unofficial visits, however, have no limit. Student athletes can take as many unofficial visits as they would like. The freedom of quantity gives unofficial visits high upside as student athletes can see as many campuses as they would like. Unfortunately, unofficial visits are not funded by universities and are paid for by student athletes and their families, which means they are more helpful to some families than others depending on financial situation. It is important for student athletes to know the difference between official and unofficial visits. More importantly, it is important for student athletes to seize the opportunity to visit campuses as they need to see their possible home and get to know their prospective teammates. “If you do not have an idea of what a team is like, being recruited by that school is pointless. You need to make sure you are comfortable with each school’s athletes and their actions,” Sheppard said. His insight as someone who has experienced the process highlights how significant campus visits are. 

NHS has seen four of its seniors sign their National Letters of Intent with NCAA Division I or II institutions, while many others prepare for collegiate sports in one of the other levels. Senior Ryan Foucault will dive at Northern Michigan University.  Senior Cal Klesmit will play basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and senior Quinn Marnocha will play softball at South Dakota State University. Senior Jayden Sheppard is one of the NHS students preparing to add their names to the list of NHS collegiate sports signees (Read a 300-Word Story about Sheppard here).

The choice of a college for both sports and education is one that can affect an individual’s life drastically. The choice is also one that can be altered positively or negatively depending on their experience going through the recruiting process. The best way for the recruiting process to go smoothly is for the student-athlete to enter smoothly and well prepared. Parents and high school coaches can only help student athletes navigate the process to a certain extent, which is why that the recruiting process as a whole needs to be more publicized, especially the levels of collegiate sports, scholarship opportunities and campus visits. With better publicity of the process,  the amount of high school students that make a college decision they eventually regret, can be minimized.