Navigating the College Athletics Recruitment Process

An aerial photo of the Meredith Athletic Field and Track Complex

Are you interested in continuing your sport participation in college? If so, understanding a few things about the college athletics recruiting process will help you reach your goal.


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is divided into three divisions, and the recruiting process is defined differently whether it’s Division I, II, or III. High school student-athletes should understand the basics of each process to know how to proceed. Prospects may also choose to participate within other athletics organizations such as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA), and a host of other options that meet their academic, financial, and athletic interests.

College and university coaches within all associations and divisions recruit student-athletes to join their athletic programs, and your participation in the process differs with each institution. This blog post will center on NCAA Division III athletics.

Division III

The NCAA Division III incorporates athletics as an integral part of the student-athlete’s overall educational experience. The DIII philosophy statement helps define the specific characteristics of the largest division within the NCAA. Two major components of Division III programs include a focus on the student-athlete experience rather than the fan experience. And student-athletes compete for the love of the sport without obligation of an athletics scholarship.

So what’s next?

If you know you are interested in competing at the collegiate level you should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Student-athletes interested in NCAA Division I and II must register, but Division III or undecided recruits may create a free profile. Once registered, you are assigned an NCAA ID that will serve as a resource with dates and other information important to the recruiting process.


The recruiting timeline is another key feature in the decision-making process for prospects and coaches. Coaches from each division must follow a specific timeline when making contact with prospects. Division III coaches may not make in-person, off-campus contact with high school prospects until the completion of the sophomore year. Electronic communications may begin earlier but must remain private between coach and prospect. Other rules regarding social media limit the type of communication from coaches and allow the prospect to maintain control of her recruiting process.

Beginning May 1 of your senior year, communication may be transitioned to a public domain once the college receives a financial deposit for enrollment. Coaches must adhere to the strict rules outlined by the NCAA. Learn more about the recruiting timeline.

Get noticed

College coaches attend tournaments, showcases, meets, and other athletic events to watch prospects and find potential athletes for their teams. If a coach reaches out to you, explore the option. Research the college or university. Speak with high school counselors about the school. And learn more about the sports program and coach. Meredith currently fields nine varsity athletic programs and will add field hockey in 2020-21.

If you are not contacted directly by a coach at a college or university that interests you, reach out to her/him. Complete an online prospect form offered by the school. Email the coach and share your interest in learning more about the program. Share your high school or club competition schedule to find a way to play in front of the coach. (Athletics Director Jackie Myers shares other tips on how to get noticed by DIII coaches.)

Even more important than the sports program, learn about the academics. Does the school have a major of interest to you? What are the college’s specialties? Do they have a signature program, such as Meredith’s StrongPoints, which will give you an edge as a graduate? What does life as a student look like on campus? Does the location – close to home, in a large city, out of state – appeal to you? Connect with the college’s admissions team to learn about open houses, campus tours, and other ways to explore the institution. At Meredith, prospective student-athletes have the opportunity to meet with a coach during their campus visit.

Control your recruiting process, be curious, and follow your heart to the best college or university suited for your lifelong goals.

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