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Making a Decision

Some athletes are quick in deciding which college program they most desire and are fortunate when the recruiting process works out favorably for them to attend that institution.  For other athletes, the decision-making process of where to spend their years in college could be complicated.  They may have received similar scholarship offers from multiple colleges that are equally favored.  Alternatively, they may have received vastly disparate offers, where the college that provided the best financial package may not be the one that promises the best quality of life experience for them, the greatest opportunity to advance athletically, or the optimal educational advantage.  This section is designed to help those athletes devise a method to make the all-important decision of where to attend college.

If you are still left with multiple colleges to choose from and no clear preference, you might want to utilize a quantitative approach in the form of an algorithm to further narrow your choices. For the algorithm, you'll choose factors that are important to your selection of a college, and assign numerical values to those factors that represent their level for each institution that you're considering.  I provide an example of such an algorithm using a sample of five factors involving the affordability of college, the convenience of seeing family, the quality of education, and the possibilities for athletic success.  For a full analysis, using 10 to 15 factors would ensure that one factor does not carry too much weight. 

















In the example, five colleges are being considered with scores ranging from a low value of 22 to a high value of 40, out of a maximum of 50 points. Based on the total values, it is easy to eliminate College #5 with the low score of 22, driven by its far proximity to home and lack of promise for athletic development.  Meanwhile, other colleges with a higher total score have the same strengths as College #5.


The algorithm highlights Colleges #2 and #4 as the top contenders.  However, while College #2 has the highest score, significantly it is by far the most expensive.  The low placement of College #4 in its conference championship drove down its score. The algorithm helps you zero in on the weaknesses of the colleges and seek explanations that may ultimately increase the value of the college.  For instance, it's possible that the low conference championship placement was an uncharacteristic lapse in performance, given the higher placements in two prior years.  Given that explanation, it's conceivable that College #4 could be chosen over College #5.

In certain situations, when a college has a low score in the algorithm based on a particular factor, it might be possible to add a missing feature to optimize the college's appeal. For example, if a state university is offering a good financial package and an ivy league university isn’t offering any financial relief, a strategy could be to obtain an early read for admittance to the honor’s college at the state institution to elevate the value of its degree.


Similarly, if a top choice track and field program presents a scholarship offer that is lower than that of other programs, an approach could be to make an appeal to the coach to improve the offer. In your appeal, detail your interest in and potential value to the team, as well as the disadvantage you'll suffer from attending that college instead of the ones with a lower net cost. Your case could be particularly compelling if at least one of the other colleges with more favorable financial packages are in the same conference.  It's possible that the coach could be highly motivated to keep you from going to a conference rival.  You have nothing to lose by trying to negotiate a more favorable financial aid package. 

In conjunction with the use of the algorithm, you might want to prioritize the features that are most important to you based on sound reasoning, and eliminate some of the colleges from your list that do not possess those features.  For instance, if you believe that having access to both an indoor track and an outdoor track is of paramount importance to providing you with a quality experience for training and racing, then eliminate the colleges that don’t have one or both tracks, even though their total scores might be high.  Similarly, if you believe that obtaining the highest quality academic experience is of utmost importance to providing you the best post-athletic career opportunity, then eliminate the college that is least competitive academically.

Tips to Make a College Work for You

  • Negotiate your financial package using the scholarship offers other colleges presented you

  • Renegotiate your scholarship offer based on improved performances over the recruiting period

  • Find out if the university's athletic department works with athletes to help them monetize their NIL

  • Find out if there are opportunities for you to work with other event groups to maximize your training

  • Get a pre-read for a university's honors college to optimize educational opportunities

The Finale

When you finally settle on a college, whether it’s quick or protracted, the next step is to call the coach to give a verbal commitment to attend the college and to express gratitude.  Now the coach knows what’s left budget wise.  Next, you should immediately contact the other coaches who have invested time and resources in making the case for you to become a member on their team.  For the institutions to which you took official visits, you should call those coaches and speak to them directly.  For other coaches, you may send an email.  Thank the coaches for their interest and let them know that you made a verbal commitment to attend another college.  Now they could reallocate that scholarship to someone else.  It’s important to express gratitude and always be courteous, as the process sometimes get murky in the end and you want to keep all of your options available.  The coach’s offer and your verbal commitment don’t become binding until you enter into a contract with the institution by signing the NCAA’s National Letter of Intent, which doesn’t happen before mid-November of senior year.   

As can be seen, the DI track and field recruiting process is very involved.  In the end, recruits often feel very emotional.  It’s common that recruits feel guilty for disappointing the coaches they turned down and second guess their decision, wondering if it’s the right one.  Recruits should know that college coaches, as part of their job, hand out at least as many rejections in the recruiting process as they receive.  What the coaches want is for recruits to not string them along, but to inform them of their decision to go elsewhere as soon as it’s made so that they could refocus their attention on other recruits.  Also, it should be calming for recruits to know that they are only legally committed to the college for one year.  If the first-year experience isn’t favorable, they could transfer to another college.  The NCAA has rules and regulations for transferring as a DI athlete, and it has created a portal to facilitate transferring.  


On the flip side, most recruits feel relieved to have completed the process and are excited to start their new journey. It's finally time to celebrate the phenomenal achievement of securing a spot on a track and field team at a DI institution!  Many recruits have Letter of Intent signing ceremonies at their high school, where it’s common for prior and current coaches who contributed to their success along the way to show up to congratulate them.  College coaches aren’t allowed to attend these signing ceremonies.

Now you've been given all the steps, resources, and tips to make the recruiting process enriching. I wish you the best of luck in selecting a college program and would gladly answer any questions you may have via the 'Reach out to Me' tool!

Other Steps

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