For junior golfers, finding the best college to attend is one of the most important and difficult decisions he or she will ever face. It is a choice that will shape their future like no other. Their athletic, professional and social lives hinge on piecing together a puzzle of questions and options that ultimately lead to a successful and happy life. Such an important step deserves careful consideration, dedicated effort and enough time to create the ideal opportunity. This is a deeply personal choice as unique as the young athlete who must make it and is much more than the sum of a list of items on a piece of paper. But guidelines are a good place to begin the journey, so here are some questions that we hope will help make the process easier.
1) Am I a good fit for the team and can I contribute?
The most important aspect of a career in college athletics is what you can contribute to making the team a success. Your homework should include evaluating the current team both in regard to statistics and intangibles. Look at team size, the players and their scoring averages, rankings and recent accomplishments. Next, evaluate where you are now with your game and what it would take to be a starter on your chosen team. Would you eventually be one of the five team members who travel to compete in tournaments?
When the time comes that you feel you are ready to contact a coach about your interest in their team, you should be able to make a strong case for why you are a great choice for them relative to where the team is now and what they want to achieve. Show your knowledge of the program and of your own abilities. This sort of maturity and self-awareness is a strong selling point for experienced coaches. Be realistic and don’t oversell yourself but, by the same token, do be confident that you can deliver if given the opportunity. The bottom line here is simply go where you will get to play.
2) Will the school I choose give me a strong academic foundation for a professional career beyond competitive golf?
Golf serves two purposes for most juniors hoping to play in college. First is the goal of playing professionally after graduation and second as a vehicle to gaining a quality academic degree that will provide great options for life beyond the golf course. In light of this, the academic quality of the chosen school is of utmost importance.
What courses of study and programs does the school offer and how do they rank compared to similar institutions? Does the school have adequate academic resources available to help the student succeed? A college education is much like competitive golf in that it requires a great deal of discipline and self-determination on the part of the student. Coupled with the added requirements of athletic pursuits, day-to-day life can become difficult at times when trying to balance these challenges. So, if the student encounters difficulties in the classroom, how well does the athletic program coordinate with their academic peers to ensure the student gets the critical assistance they need to stay on track?
Other factors to consider include class size and overall size of the institution. The sheer scale of some schools can be overwhelming at first and some students perform much better in smaller classes with regular teacher interaction.
3) How much scholarship support can the school provide?
Most golf programs provide student-athletes with partial scholarships. This being the case, the total cost of getting through to graduation is a significant factor for the hopeful athlete. Families should carefully compare options available for your preferred schools to determine the best, most realistic options. A 40 percent scholarship to a smaller school might be more manageable financially than a 50 percent golf scholarship to a more expensive school. The latter might be a much better fit academically, though, and would thus be well worth the difference. The same is often true in reverse and the smaller school might reveal itself to be both more affordable and a superior academic performer in the student’s chosen field of study. Diligent research here can pay tremendous dividends in the long run.
4) Does this school have the methodology and resources to help me move on to the professional level?
If your primary goal is to strengthen your game enough to move into professional competition after graduation, have you found the program that can do the most to help you get there? Evaluate the team’s stature, their facilities, athletic budget and tournament schedule. Do they play in a competitive conference? How have alumni fared on the professional circuits? Does the coach’s teaching style and personality fit my learning style? Compatibility here can make or break your long term hopes. The right coach at the right time has given many successful professionals the boost they needed to realize their full potential.
Remember that professional golfers emerge from schools both big and small. Quality is independent of size in most cases.
5) Is the school’s location a bonus or a potential drawback?
This factor in the school equation is usually the least significant and the most subjective based on the student’s personal preferences.
Is the campus located in the heart of a large urban area or tucked away in rural spot miles from any major city? Are security issues a problem? Are there extremes in climate that might be too uncomfortable? How easily can the student travel to and from home?
Attending a school in a location that is new and unusual could be a great opportunity for personal growth or a severe hindrance if the student finds it too difficult. This is a great intangible and in person visits become important as you near a final decision. The school’s strengths in the other factors under consideration weigh heavily in comparison to location when finding the best balance. The right school might be across the street or across the continent.
As you study the details of each school that initially sparks your interest, you will come to realize that there is seldom one “perfect” choice for junior golfers hoping to play in the collegiate ranks. A bit of thoughtful research will help find the best combination of the factors that are most important to you and enable you to create your own unique “best fit” for your student-athlete.
The experience of attending an elite golf boarding school is much like a college program and will dramatically increase both the chance of playing college golf and the quality of schools available. 92% of IJGA graduates have gone on to play golf at some of the finest institutions in the world. Click Here >> to request more information about IJGA and our world-class junior golf instructional programs and college placement services. Your future begins here.