If you are a rising junior prospect, summer is a great time to launch your college search in earnest. Between attending showcases, camps and tournaments and sending your profile information, highlight links and general inquiries to college coaches, you should be well on your way. This upcoming school year will provide the perfect time to take advantage of Junior Days.
Junior Days offer college coaches a dynamic and effective way to attract prospects and their families to campus for the "dime tour." But trust me, there's more to Junior Days than a simple tour! For college coaches, these unofficial visits [families are responsible for travel costs] present opportunities to impress their top junior prospects with recruiting-specific meetings, insides looks at athletic facilities, attendance at home football games and overnight stays with team members. And rest assured, Junior Days are well within NCAA rules.
Several years ago, college coaches used Junior Days as a means of introducing young prospects to their institutions. Fast forward to the present. For top junior prospects, the "dating" phase of recruiting has been in progress for some time, so getting an invitation to attend a Junior Day could very well be a signal that the coach plans to make a strong commitment.
College recruiting has advanced to a point where a large percentage of blue chip athletes receive early verbal offers of athletic scholarships, admission support and walk-on opportunities. The key word is "early." Timelines have leapt forward, and families who do not develop and execute college recruiting strategies in a timely fashion may find themselves lagging behind the pack.
Exception: early commitments are usually not made by D-III schools or select, non-scholarship institutions—for example, Ivy and Patriot League colleges and highly-regarded independents—where coaches are usually not in a position to make firm offers until junior year grades are in, along with a round or two of standardized test scores.
Prospect strategy around Junior Days has also shifted a bit. Recruits should not only check out several colleges and universities, they should maximize the amount of information they collect. NCAA rules are strict regarding contact with coaches; but if you can view the college campus as a haven of recruiting—where you can meet with coaches and discuss virtually anything about their institution and sports program—you will be taking advantage of a great opportunity without violating any rules.
Unofficial visits give you the chance to have valuable one-on-one time with coaches. You can spend time with the team and possibly meet with an Admissions Department adviser. Junior Day is a one-stop shop.
For athletes, the college search entails a myriad of tactics and organizational and management skills, along with a keen sense of determination to effectively connect with college coaches. Junior Day is used by college coaches to narrow down their recruiting lists and bring their "A" group prospects to campus. Prospects and families who strive to develop meaningful relationships with college coaches and take full advantage of Junior Days will improve their chances of finding the right match and achieving a successful outcome.
Tom Kovic is the founder and president of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises families and prospective student-athletes in developing and executing personal plans for the college search. Kovic has delivered nearly 300 presentations and seminars to more than 3,500 participants. He is the author of Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide to college athletics recruiting, and he is a regular contributor to numerous educational and sports publications.
Prior to founding his own company, Kovic coached gymnastics at The University of Pennsylvania. He has coached 34 individual Ivy League Champions, three ECAC athletes of the year and more than 160 NCAA Academic All-Americans. He was named ECAC Coach of the Year twice.
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