The first place to start is by asking yourself where you stand amongst other athletes in your sport. Are you provincially or nationally recognized? To be recruited to a US school, you must be competing at an elite level. Ask your coach what your chances of receiving an athletic scholarship might be and which unique qualities you bring to your team. Once you have an honest evaluation about where you stand as an athlete, you will better know which schools and teams would be a good fit. Do your research and check out university and college rosters to see where the majority of their players are from and if they will be graduating players in your position. Your chances of being recruited are better if the school recruits heavily outside of their home state and if the team has a need for your specific position.
The best way for an international student to get recruited is to start early. Make sure you are playing for the most competitive team in your area, and if possible, pursue any areas within your sport that allow you the possibility of provincial or national recognition or will allow you to compete in US tournaments or showcases.
Put together a package starting in your Grade 9 or Grade 10 year with a player profile. A player profile should include academic information, a recommendation letter from your coach, and a schedule of upcoming games or tournaments. Make sure you update it on a regular basis with the most relevant information and send it to the coaches of the schools that you are interested in. One of the biggest misconceptions is that if you are a great athlete, the coaches will come to you. You have to do the work! I remember e-mailing coaches sometimes once a week to get on their radar. It is a lot of leg work, but the end result is worth it. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the NCAA recruiting rules before you get started.
Once you are in the trenches of the recruitment process, make sure you keep track of communications with coaches and that you are quick to respond to all calls and e-mails. Keep coaches informed of improved test scores, tournaments coming up, and ask questions. It is important to have open and honest communication with university coaches. Ask the coach specific questions about the team, athletic program and the school. It is important to remember that you will be at the college or university for four years, so you should make sure to inform yourself about what life on campus is about in addition to the sport's component. I have met a lot of athletes that for various reasons have quit their sport while at college, and all of them are incredibly happy that they chose a school for the academics and experience rather than solely the athletics.
One of the most important things for student-athletes to remember is that the STUDENT part comes first! Keep your grades up. Starting in Grade 9, every mark from every class matters for admissions purposes in the US. A coach will not be able to help you gain admission if you do not have the grades. Do not overestimate the weight that being recruited has in the admissions process. Because most US schools require the SAT or the ACT, even for foreign athletes, make sure you start to study for these tests in Grades 10 and 11. Taking an official prep course is the best way to prepare fully to take both standardized tests. Remember that your score on the SAT / ACT is one of the biggest determining factors in the US admissions process.
As you enter into your Grade 12 year, you should have a solid idea where you stand with coaches. Take official visits to familiarize yourself with the various aspects of the school, meet members of the team, and get a feel for what it would be like to be a student at the school. While I was being recruited, I had my heart set on one specific school. However, after my official visits, I was completely sold on an entirely different school. The official visits gave me insight into campus life, the team dynamic, and how the players responded to the coach. Be honest with coaches after each visit, and remember, nothing is final until you sign the National Letter of Intent and are officially accepted to the college or university.
One of the most important things to remember during the recruitment process is to ask questions when you need help. Your parents, teachers, coaches, and school counselors are great resources to help you through the process. Never forget that all of the hard work you are putting in will help you to achieve your goals. So enjoy it and good luck!
Emily Tracy is a consultant at Options Solution, an educational consulting company in Vancouver, B.C. She played NCAA Division I soccer for four years at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, pursuing a Government and International Relations degree. She received her Masters in Teaching from the University of Southern California.