So you want to be a USA collegiate athlete? Here are some things you should know about the sports governing body, the NCAA!
There are three main governing bodies or athletic associations that deal with college sport in the States; the NCAA, NJCAA and NAIA. This blog will focus on the NCAA and what you need to know about getting into an NCAA university.
What is the NCAA?
NCAA stands for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and it is an organization that facilitates the majority of colleges sports in the United States.
How many universities are in the NCAA?
The NCAA currently has 1123 colleges and universities under their governance in the US. There are 347 schools in DI, 309 in DII and 442 in DIII.
What do the different divisions mean?
Among the thousand-plus universities, the NCAA is divided among three divisions, very simply know as DI, DII and DIII. There are different levels of athletic requirements for each of the divisions.
DI is the highest standard, and to participate in your sport for a DI school, you need permission (clearance) from the NCAA governing body. DI schools also have the largest budget for athletics and offer the most amount of scholarships.
DII athletics also compete at an extremely high level, and students are given a lot of support in their academic lives as well as athletic. A majority of DII athletes compete on some level of scholarship.
DIII is the only division that does not offer athletic scholarships, but students are often granted academic or need-based scholarships.
Are DI universities better than DII and DII?
Not necessarily. Universities are placed into divisions based on size, budget and athletic prowess. Large universities, with big budgets, are generally DI while smaller colleges compete in DII and DIII. Do not be confused; a universities athletic division is not a measure of their academic ranking. There are many world class DIII colleges, for example, the world-renowned MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), is a DIII university.
What do you need to do to get into a NCAA university?
As mentioned above, the NCAA has a high standard of athletic excellence. Take a look here to see the NCAA requirements for the different sports for each division.
Aside from wanting to get the best performance possible from their athletes, the NCAA is hugely invested in having well-rounded students, and so there are several important academic requirements that NCAA universities ask of athletic hopefuls before they can be accepted into any programs.
Firstly, make sure you begin preparing for the SAT or ACT well in advance so that you have enough time to study and retake the test if need be. There are a lot of great resources online to help you ace it.
Secondly, make sure that your school subject choices match up to NCAA subject requirements. Refer to this blog post that will help you identify if you’re on the right track with school subjects.
The NCAA is regarded as one of the greatest athletic bodies in the world, and they have a lot to offer athletes in terms of opportunity, exposure and excellence.
The picture above is an unfortunate headline published on TimesLive earlier this month. It describes a terrible case of a man taking advantage of several families’ belief in the potential of their children.
Below is Aspire Atlantic’s guarantee. We don’t promise to make our clients stars, but we can assure you that we work tirelessly to ensure that our clients are placed with colleges that are an ideal fit for them.
In the meantime, scams are still happening out there, so we have put together a list of a things to look out for when seeking help with applying to universities overseas:
If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is
Be very careful of people or companies offering you the world. Legitimate recruitment agencies do not offer promises of fame, riches or success. Do not give anyone money who has given specific flattery regarding your potential, but does not offer a specific road map to achieving your goals.
Private bank accounts
Speaking of giving money - anyone who claims to be recruiter, but then asks for money to be deposited in a private or personal bank account is probably not authentic. Recruiters are rarely lone agents, so if someone claims to be a recruiter but does not have the backing of a recruitment agency (with an official bank account), then it is probably best if you walk away.
Transparency with application process
Before anyone gets your money, make sure you know the details of the entire recruitment, registration and application processes. Scammers will often be vague about dates, and will not know or want to share logistical details with you. Legitimate businesses will make you a part of the entire process, and not just contact you when fees are involved. It is part of the fun to be in on everything, and you should always have access to online usernames and passwords that concern your applications.
Only work with recognised and established businesses
As previously mentioned, it is probably best to not work through anyone who does not have the backing of an established recruitment agency. Do your research and Google the business that you are considering. Reputable recruitment agencies should have an active online presence and an established reputation within the industry.
If you decide you want to work with a recruiter, it is important as you are doing your research to reach out to people who have worked with the company in the past. The agency should be able to give you access to testimonials from previous clients so that you can see if they are the right fit for your needs.
Yes, you read that right! Do you want to get tutored by a current Ivy League student? We at Aspire Atlantic are committed to offering you the best support possible as you make the difficult transition from high school to university. You (and your parents) have a lot of important decisions to make and things to get done, and while we can take care of the logistics of overseas university applications, the academics are still up to you.
Fortunately, we have recruited some extra talent to assist you in often-tricky academic waters. Your success is important to us, and so while you’re working on your final year or two of high school, we would love to help make your lives just a little more manageable. Remember that you don’t have to navigate this process alone - we want to offer you the very best support structures to help you succeed. Allow us to introduce them to you:
Guy Waterhouse - Princeton University
Sarah Jearey (SJ) - University of Cape Town
Please feel free to contact Tamryn at tamryn@aspireatlantic if you would like to be put in touch with our coaches.
But aside from offering opportunities that South African universities might not have the capacity for, you might be wondering what would really be different about applying to study in the US? There are a couple of points to go over, so take a break from the books and have a read.
Choices, Choices, Choices!
Despite the options being some of the best in the world, there are relatively few universities in South Africa to choose from. Comparatively, the US offers thousands of universities, and each offers different specializations and experiences. With so many options to choose from, we firmly believe there is a perfect fit for everyone - we want to give you the opportunity to study what you want, where you want.
Emphasis on Diversity
While South African universities do have certain institutional systems in place that encourage diversity on campus, American universities value diversity because a higher percentage of foreign students actually makes the university more attractive for American students. Many universities in the US are located in areas where there is a large primary demographic, and so having diversity in the form of international students boosts the university’s reputation.
When applying to universities in South Africa, if you have good high school marks your chances of getting accepted to university are extremely high. South African admissions officials don’t really care who you are or what you’ve accomplished, as long as your grades are gold. In the US however, the more competitive universities require an essay to help distinguish between otherwise equally promising applicants. They really want to see who you are, so when writing your essay and other response questions for your application - let your personality shine!
To all of you writing exams - study hard and get plenty of sleep for the final stretch. We’re so proud of all of you and consider ourselves privileged to play a small part in your academic careers.
Here is our list of strategies to increase your chances of getting in to an Ivy League university:
Study like you’ve never studied before
One way that the Ivy’s weed out candidates is by eliminating those who have not excelled academically. If you are aspiring to study at an Ivy League university, your marks need to be impressive. Find a tutor, ask your teachers for extra credit assignments, and make sure you get plenty of sleep (or at least some sleep. High school is hard).
Prepare well for the SAT
Some of you will have taken the NBT and if not, you will be familiar with the concept of standardized testing. Don’t underestimate the SAT though - there are helpful study guides online, and you should spend some time doing several SAT practice tests before the main event so that you are familiar with the way that the questions are asked. SAT questions are designed to trick you, and you’ll need to practice to feel comfortable with them.
Think about your extracurricular activities
Because there are thousands of students who are applying with extremely high marks, one of the things that admissions officers look for are impressive extracurricular activities. Things like volunteering, part-time work, or interesting hobbies are all things that you should include in your application and will provide you with potential material for your admissions essays.
Speaking of the essay
Aside from your marks and the SAT, your essays are one of the most critical parts of your
application. Spend a lot of time on these, and don’t just put your CV in essay form. Rather, think about what you’re passionate about, and remember that you don’t have to have “change the world” dreams to make your essay appealing. All the reader wants to see is that you’re passionate about impacting whatever niche you choose to study in. If you’re stuck coming up with ideas, email us! We have a team member on hand who can help you conceptualise your ideas and edit your essays to perfection.
Testing and the NCAA: If necessary, retake the SAT or ACT. Create yourself a profile on the NCAA website and check if you have taken all the correct courses. The admissions testing policy for colleges vary, with some requiring the SAT and ACT optional section. To be safe, you should always do the optional test sections.
Resumé: You want to constantly be updating your resume. This is handy when filling out applications and preparing for admissions interviews.
Apply: Create a profile on the Common Application website and fill out the application carefully. Ask your parents or school counsellor to look over your essays critically. The essays are one of the most important parts of the application and will be the admission officer's opportunity to differentiate you from the other applicants. We also are able to provide you with first-rate essay guidance, so feel free to reach out and ask us for more information.
Scholarships: Check with each university for financial aid eligibility requirements, as well as application deadlines as they do vary. Speak to the sports coaches and see what scholarships they may be able to provide you with.
Choose your College: Tally all of your college acceptances, analyse the various factors that may sway your decision such as cost, scholarships, degree choice, college rank, athletic division and then confidently make your choice by sending in your deposit.
Make sure you explore leaderships pursuits that interest you but at the same time will add value to your resume. For example: Organise a fundraiser for the Soweto Golf Club.
Ask two teachers and your coach to write your letters of recommendation. You should provide them with a list of your academic, sports and community service achievements which will help them write better letters.
The SAT and ACT scores matter, so talk with your school counsellor about which one to take. We recommend taking the SAT in Grade 11 and again in grade 12. If you want to study a STEM degree, the SAT Subject Tests are recommended.
Building your college list:
Once you have received your test scores, convert your high school marks to a GPA and start researching college requirements. Once you have a list of colleges that you are eligible to attend, narrow this list down to schools that have your top 3 desired degree fields. For assistance, you can speak with one of our agents, or there are many apps to aid your research.
From May to September USA colleges go on summer vacation. This is the ideal time to visit Universities. To do a college campus tour go to their website and contact the admissions offices to book a tour. During the tour make sure to talk with your guide and have a list of questions to ask during the info session. This will give you a good feel for the school, and don't forget to send a thank you email.
Be sure to clean up your Facebook, Instagram and other social media profiles. College coaches and admissions officers will review the content, and if deemed to be inappropriate, offers and scholarships will be rescinded.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the grade 12's to do list next week.
Check your Planning:
Look at the NCAA website and make sure you are compliant with the core subjects required by them. Ensure your marks are constantly improving, colleges look at grade progression.
Did your academic performance improve over your high school career or did you start to slack off?
Don't be shy to ask for help. Teachers and coaches are there to help and will appreciate your efforts to improve. Make sure your schedule is balanced. Are you following your calendar, if not, you may be overtaxing yourself, and it is bound to be counter-productive! A balanced schedule is an invaluable tool in time management.
Put together a Resumé (Summarised CV):
Write down your sports and academic achievements, your hobbies, work experience, community service and extracurricular activities. You also want to provide contactable references with numbers and email addresses.
Begin filming all your sporting events. Video footage is one of the primary ways USA College coaches will see you perform. Having a good highlights package will be invaluable during the recruitment process.
Make the most of your Holiday's:
Students who work, volunteer, play sports or take online classes are in a league of their own. Find an activity that builds on your interests, and you will be head and shoulders above your peers.
Make sure to read next weeks list for Grade 11's.
Subject Choices: Seek advice from teachers and councillors on which subjects need to be taken for the degree you are interested in. Athletes who want to study and play sport in the USA need to be aware of the NCAA subject requirements, making bad choices here can derail a college career. Academics are important in grade 9, as USA colleges don't just look at your grade 11 and 12 marks but they look at your GPA from grade 9 to 12.
Get into the habit of having a schedule: Most students have smartphones. Use the calendar on your devices to set daily reminders where homework, sports, reading and relaxation times are scheduled.
Reading: College application essays often ask students who their favourite authors are and what publications they are interested in. We advise students to read books, newspapers, magazines and blogs. Choose what engages you and remember to look up unfamiliar words. When done, write a short summary and describe how you felt and why you felt that way.
Get involved: Stanford University recently came out to South Africa and gave a talk at Crawford College in Sandton. One of the biggest parts of admission into Stanford was not the marks but the student's involvement outside of the classroom. Top colleges are not looking for top academics only; they want to see students developing their talents and interests outside the classroom. You need to have 5 area's of involvement, here is an example: U15-A soccer team, 83% academic average, 25 hours of community services per year, a member of the school play and writer for the school blog. Your high school extracurricular activities may be the detail that catches your dream college's eye.
Make sure to look out for our Grade 10's 'To Do List' on Friday.
Aspire Atlantic recently took 12 high school soccer players to the Future 500 Soccer Camp in Philadelphia, USA. What we discovered, is that soccer in the USA is growing at a rapid rate and that college soccer is now a massive attraction for players from all over the world.
The tour was a unique experience for the boys. They got a first-hand taste of what life would be like as a college athlete. They were not put up in hotels; rather they stayed at the Eastern University dorms. The camp was four days of non-stop soccer and educational seminars, which is similar to university preseason and the camp councillors were all Student-Athletes who gave their insight into the life of a college athlete.
The most impressive part of the camp was the coaches interaction with players. At standard recruiting events, the boys will play, and coaches will watch. This was not the case. The coaches were tasked with training and preparing the players for their games, and they would even make substitutions. This unique experience is unlike any other I’ve seen, and the exposure is invaluable.
Players normally want coaches to approach them about recruiting opportunities. The truth is coaches are busy; they have thousands of potential players and for a coach to approach you, you will have to be exceptional. The best way for a player to be scouted is to approach the coach, introduce yourself and make a good impression; however, nerves get in the way and players are too shy. At the Future 500 ID Camp, coaches had hands on interaction with the players, allowing the boys to build a relationship with them, before starting the recruitment conversation.
Our boys have had fantastic responses from colleges. But the biggest lesson the players learnt was how to be more of an international player. They now understand how they need to play to study at the collegiate level. In the next 24 months, Aspire Atlantic and Alan Marcus will be working to develop a programme to coach soccer players in a manner that will enable them to compete globally. The game of soccer is changing, and we do not want to be left behind.