Question: My son is a high school junior who is finally realizing that it is important to get good grades. He also lives for hockey and wants to play at a Div. I school. His PSAT score was 1850. How do I find the best liberal arts school for my hockey nut/late- bloomer?
Many colleges have a fair amount of wiggle room when it comes to admitting recruited athletes, especially if their SAT scores are decent (and it sounds like your son's will be, given his PSAT results).
However, there is a quantum leap between being a high school stand-out in a sport and being good enough to catch a coach's eye, especially at the Div. 1 level.
Thus, the first thing that your "hockey nut" should do ... if he hasn't done so already ... is to ask his current coach if he is indeed a Div. 1-caliber player, and--if so--which Div. 1 colleges will be within his reach athletically. (In most sports, there is usually a pretty big range that separates the most competitive programs from those that are somewhat less so, even within Div. 1). The coach may also be able to recommend some specific colleges for your son to consider.
If there are former members of your son's team or hockey league who are currently playing in Div.1, how would your son compare his talents to theirs? Do any attend colleges that interest him and that he might want to visit and check out further?
A couple other places to start your search are:
Your son can select all of his preferences (size, location, majors, etc.) and then, under the "Sports & Activities" heading, he should highlight "Men's Ice Hockey" and then click on "Advanced Search: search by sport levels" to select Div. 1. He should also enter his academic information where's he's asked to do so, but do keep in mind that if a coach is really hot for him, there will be some leeway when it comes to grades & test scores, which means he could possibly get into a college that ordinarily takes only candidates with better GPA's, ranks, and tests. In particular, if your son's freshman and sophomore grades weren't so hot, but he's buckling down now, admission folks can be fairly forgiving when a coach is breathing down their necks and the applicant has what's known as a "rising record."
If the "Results" that your son gets from the search aren't broad enough, he can try the questionnaire again, broadening some of his preferences.
Note that even at the Div. 1 level there are, not surprisingly, some huge institutions (e.g., Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State) but also some rather small ones (e.g., St. Lawrence University, Colorado College, College of the Holy Cross) so, if you see your son in a small-school/liberal arts environment but he's still set on a Div. 1 program, they're not mutually exclusive.
Your son's guidance counselor may be able to suggest specific colleges as well, and you should also take advantage of the wisdom of other parents who have traveled this road (or rink?) before you by reading the posts--and posting your own questions--on College Confidential's athletics discussion forum and parents forum.
Once your son has compiled a list of colleges that interest him, he should visit their Web sites and look for "Recruit Me" forms (called by various names) on the athletic Web pages. He can also dig out the coach's e-mail address and contact him directly. In this initial contact, your son should include his hockey experience (and accolades) as well as his GPA, class rank (if he has one), and PSAT scores (or SAT's, when he gets them). Later on, it would be helpful to make a DVD that shows off your son's skills (some game clips and some practice clips). The DVD should be clear but it need not be snazzy (no music, titles, etc. required).
Good luck to you as you enter this maze! I hope you skate through it. ;-)
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