If there is one takeaway from our Program Spotlight series it’s that the college coaches we’ve talked to emphasize the importance of finding the right fit when choosing a school. This goes far beyond what division the school is, or how big it is.
Considering all aspects of being a student-athlete such as a school location, athletic program, academics, and size will set up a player for a great overall college experience.
Choosing a college is a very individual-specific thing. Players may have different goals from one another both on and off the field. They may have different preferences in terms of school size or location. It is important players focus on what is best for them and avoid the influence of others.
Campuses come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large and entangled throughout a big city, while others have less than 1,000 students and are located in rural areas. Everyone has a different preference on this and many high school students don’t even know which they prefer until they start going on college visits, but it’s definitely a factor to consider.
As mentioned college campuses are found in all types of locations, such as big cities, suburbs, and rural locations. Some schools are located throughout a city in various buildings, while others have a standalone campus.
Different campuses can have a totally different feel from one another. If possible, taking visits to schools of different sizes and locations is the best way to narrow down a list of potential schools of interest.
Proximity to Hometown
Again, this comes down to personal preference. Some players may want to go to college in a different part of the country to try something new, while others may prefer to stay close to their hometown, family, or friends. There is no right or wrong here, it is just a matter of prioritizing.
The weather is often an overlooked factor, especially for college baseball players. If a player plans on attending a northern school, they better be ready for a good part of the season to be played in 30-degree weather!
Weather also impacts the offseason. Northern schools are forced to practice indoors for much of the school year, while southern schools have the opportunity to practice outside on the field year-round.
The first thought for most players is they want to play at the highest level possible, Division I. Although it’s great to set high goals, there is actually much more that should be considered than just the level of athletics a school competes at.
Level of Competition
Competition in college baseball is not defined only by the division. There are many differences as well as overlaps between NCAA D1, D2, and D3. There are also NAIA and JUCO baseball programs to consider. Players should look at the conferences, records, and if possible, go watch a game to get a better idea of the level of competition of a certain school. There are many D2, D3, NAIA, and JUCO teams that could compete with D1 schools, so don’t be quick to write off schools at any level.
Facilities vary between schools and state-of-the-art, as well as outdated facilities can be found at every level. In general, larger schools tend to have better facilities, but it is definitely on a school-by-school basis. If facilities are really important to a player, a campus video or attending a prospect camp is a great way to get an inside look.
Arguably one of the most important factors players should consider when choosing a college baseball program. Every coach is different and has a different style and personality. Coaches are very skilled in managing players of all personalities, but ultimately they are looking for players that fit into their program. Players should have the same mindset when evaluating a program. Being apart of a college baseball program means a player will be spending a lot of time with their teammates and coaches. Practices, games, road trips, etc. take up a lot of time, and it is important to be around people that are bought into the same system.
Resources to Student-Athletes
Another important question for players to consider when looking at schools is what types of resources are available for student-athletes. Many athletic departments have academic support in the form of counselors, tutors, and academic advisors. Players should include this as part of their research when learning about potential schools.
Finding the right school academically is equally if not more important than athletically. The reality is most college athletes do not go on to play professionally, and their education will be part of the next step in their lives. Finding a school that has interesting programs and opportunities for players will not only provide a good college experience but also set themselves up well for the future.
Programs & Majors
Information about the academic offerings are easily found on a schools website. If a player knows what they want to study in college, it makes this search a little easier. However if they don’t know, which most incoming college freshmen don’t, its worth considering a school with many options. Certain schools specialize in academic disciplines such as business or engineering and may have limited options outside of those majors. However, most liberal arts schools have a wide range of areas to study, and might be a better fit for players who need extra time to find their interests.
Different schools and every division of athletics have certain academic eligibility requirements to participate in athletics. There are high school academic standards that must be met by incoming freshmen, and college academic requirements for current collegiate student-athletes. The best way to navigate this is for players to work with their high school guidance counselors to make sure they are meeting the requirements and are on track for eligibility and acceptance into the schools they are interested in.
As discussed in our article about the difference between NCAA D1, D2, and D3, athletic scholarships vary between divisions and even vary between schools in the same division. The same applies to academic financial aid. This is another area high school guidance counselors can be a great help. Working with them can help find a school that is the right fit for a student and their family financially.
The student population of a school is not always a direct correlation to the division the school is in. The student population is a big influence on the campus life experience though. A public university of 50,000 students vs. a private school of less than 1,000 will have a very different feel. Some players will desire the former, while others the latter, many players’ preferences will fall somewhere in between. It is important to be aware of this when looking into college baseball programs. While much of a players time will be spent with their teammates, the size of school will also have a big impact on their everyday life on campus. Visiting schools of different sizes is the best way for players to get a feel for the differences and narrow down what they prefer.