What Kind of Conference is Right For You

I once asked a parent whose daughter was a terrific goalkeeper where she was thinking about attending college. He told me three schools — an Ivy League in an urban area, a top-ranked ACC university out in the middle of nowhere, and a mid-size urban-based Patriot League college that excelled in very specific majors.

I thought to myself, wow, they’ve either done a nice job and cast a broad net or they have no idea what to do. This family was looking at three totally distinct schools catering to three very different kinds of athletes, which made me realize many parents are not honest about who their kids are.

Why is this a big deal?  Because if you don’t know what kind of school is best for you, you won’t know the timing or the steps you need to take.

Follow these rules of thumb when planning your school selection.

  1. You want to go to a Power 5 Conference.

These Power 5s are the ACC, the SEC, the Big 10, the Big 12, and the PAC 12. They get the best athletes and they get them the soonest. They’re looking at who is on the national team, at national training centers, or attending regional ID camps. These kids are getting discovered in 8th and 9th grade.

If you’re looking at a Power 5 school as a junior, it’s probably too late. There is an exception. If another athlete decommits, there’s an opening. But that’s not a strategy. That’s a needle in a haystack.

2. You want to go to an Ivy League

The Ivy Leagues are HIGHLY academic, even as D1s (and they’re all D1s). They can’t and won’t make a move on you unless you have a 1300 SAT. Do you know how to prepare for that? This is one of those times when I recommend studying for the test. Unfortunately, if you’re a junior and you’ve not taken the SAT yet, or your numbers aren’t as high as they need to be, you’re probably out of luck. You may get a second chance that an academic school takes a look at you if you KILL it on the retest of the SAT, but if you’re still debating whether you can raise your scores, then your pecking order doesn’t start with the Ivies. But at least you’ve done the legwork to know that.

3. You want to go to a Patriot League school

College sports teams are like pack animals — the big dogs eat first; the middle dogs eat second; and the little dogs eat last. In other words, the big schools get their kids signed earliest, the mid-majors and Ivy Leagues go second, and the D3s eat last. And the schools know it
Fortunately, the Patriot League and other D3s are an excellent fit for a lot of student athletes. You’re probably not going to get the college money you hope for, but parents and kids should have been targeting these schools from the get-go will be in front when it comes time for the schools to locate extra money. And as we’ve said,
But keep in mind: if it’s spring two years before your athlete’s graduation, the schools left looking at you are mid-majors and D3s. After the summer, it’s just the D3s. Maybe there will be a decommit, but again, that’s not a plan.
So, let’s get back to managing your criteria. Interested in an SEC school? If you’re from another region, there’s a place for you with the right athletics. Want to make it into a Power 5, make sure you’re stats are up to par, you’re playing on a great league, you’ve followed our checklist for making contact, and you are following the physical regimen to stay healthy.
Here’s the final word: If you don’t identify your dream list of schools, you can’t figure out which fit most of your criteria. Follow the steps. Create your top, second, and third tier. If you’ve done your homework, both in terms of planning and schoolwork, you’re in good shape to end up at one of your top tier schools, regardless of the division or league. If you do all the work and your dream school doesn’t work out, you are in a great position to end up somewhere that will provide you a rewarding college experience.