You know what it’s like. You’ve spent forever shopping only to end up with a few items you’re not even sure you want. You do that when you start off without knowing what you are looking for. It’s the same thing searching for a college baseball team. When you know what kind of team and school you are looking for, searching for a college is much less frustrating and time consuming. Try these five steps to find your team.
1. Decide what you’re looking for.
Your skill level, grades, and test scores will influence where you should apply, but you should also think about what you want out of your college experience. Once you’ve really thought about it and know what you want, that’s when you can use your priorities to narrow your search for teams and make the whole process more manageable. Before looking at specific schools, decide what characteristics about your future school are important to you (division, major/area of study, cost, location, campus size, diversity, close to home, etc.). Make a list of important characteristics, and then organize your list so the most important ones are on the top. Save your list; you’ll be using it later.
“I was looking for academics first, but then I would look at the rosters to see how many infielders were leaving in the next year. I was looking to go D1. I tried to shoot for that goal. I was looking for the best opportunity to play while keeping academics as my top priority.” – Justin Andrade, Infielder, UC Davis (2010-2011)
2. Take an objective look at yourself.
Academics and skill level will be the two criteria that determine the schools where you have a realistic chance of playing and getting admitted. For example, if your test scores and GPA are below average, playing for an Ivy League school may be a long shot. The NCAA has specific rules that describe the classes and GPA-level needed to play at each division. You can see those rules by clicking here. School admission websites and college search engines also have school-specific information. Keep in mind that minimum GPA and test scores may not mean much in highly competitive schools.
“The most important thing is to be objective with yourself. Look at the people you’re playing against and think, ‘Do I stand out?’ And if you do, don’t be pompous or arrogant about it, but ask your coach or someone you trust, ‘Do I have a chance if I keep working? If I keep doing what I’m doing and I grow into my body, do you think I can contribute somewhere?’’ – Active D1 Infielder, California
For help figuring out which baseball division matches your skill level, find someone you trust who can tell you objectively which division is appropriate for your skill level. Scouts and coaches are often able to help, but it is most important to find someone knowledgeable who will be honest and unbiased in their evaluation of your skills.
3. Match up your skills and academics with schools that meet your top criteria.
The next thing to ask yourself is whether or not the schools that meet your listed criteria are realistic given your grades, test scores, and an objective evaluation of your skill level. You need to be brutally honest here. It’s okay to have a dream school or two, and by no means are we telling you to give up on making your dream a reality. However, it is important that you have a backup plan and to be realistic about your chances for playing and getting admitted. Sometimes it is a matter of just readjusting your expectations or having a better understanding of what other options are available to you. There are plenty of great college baseball opportunities for players of all athletic and academic abilities. With this in mind, let’s see what we can do about making your list of characteristics match up with schools given academic and athletic constraints.
If your academics are holding you back, you have several options. If you have the time before you graduate, you could retake courses and tests or take summer school classes. If you don’t have enough time left to improve your academic record or test scores, you can lower your expectations and consider a school with easier admission requirements, or you can attend a community college. While the last option may not be appealing to you, many college-bound baseball players have taken that path and had tremendous success (ever heard of Albert Pujols?). By doing well at a community college, you have another chance at earning a scholarship, choosing from a wider selection of four-year schools, and the opportunity to transfer to any of the NCAA divisions.
If your athletic performance is limiting your options, then your options, again, will depend on what year you are. If you have started your college search a few years early, you still have time to get bigger, stronger, and more mature, and to seek additional coaching and playing opportunities. However, if you are graduating and haven’t had the playing opportunities or on-field success that you hoped, you may have to lower your expectations and look for a school with a level of baseball that fits your ability. There are plenty of coaches out there happy to give you a shot at playing college baseball, even if you were not a high school standout. The opportunity to keep playing will give you more time to mature as a player and work on areas of your game that are weak.
“I wanted to play D1 baseball my entire life. I didn’t even know any other level existed. When I wasn’t getting the D1 scholarship offers I thought I would, I had to change my expectations. I decided to go to a D3 school and try to transfer. It took some adjustments but I ended up loving school and baseball there and stayed 4 years. After college, I spent 2 seasons as an international pro in Belgium and Australia. Now that I am coaching at a D1 school, I realize that a lot of the same opportunities exist at smaller schools if you pursue them and make the most of your opportunities.” –Ethan Guevin, Pitcher, Carleton (2005-2009)
4. Get organized, and get the details!
By now, you may have already found several schools that match your criteria and interest you. If not, there are search engines that allow you to locate schools according to your specific characteristics. One that provides great information and allows you to search according to everything from location and cost to a particular division of baseball is a college search run by College Board, the same people who coordinate the SAT and ACT tests. You can create an account, save your results, see how you “match up” with the student body at a certain school, whether you are “on track” with requirements to attend a particular school, and many other great features. Get started finding schools by clicking here. You can use the list you made in step one to help you get started. If you don’t want to use an online tool, get a notebook or binder so you can keep all the detailed information together. Make sure to pick a couple of schools to be part of your back-up plan in case your first choice doesn’t work out.
“Even though this is all focused on baseball, you can’t get wrapped up in that. You’ve got to look past that. You gotta think about it. Is it going to be somewhere where I can do something with my degree? Am I going to build connections so that I can go further? What are my other aspirations besides getting to play college baseball? There is some point where, for most people, it does end. You have to be happy with where you’re at when that time comes.” –Active D1 Pitcher, California
5. Start contacting schools.
Once you have found schools that match the qualities you are looking for in a college and baseball playing experience, you are ready to begin contacting the schools and to start the recruiting process. The division and level of baseball played at each school on your list will dictate the best way to initiate first contact with the coaches and express your interest. For help on how to contact coaches and start the recruiting process, click here.
Remember, making a plan, knowing what matters to you, and being honest with yourself will make finding your team a whole lot easier.