5 Ways School Counselors Can Help Student-Athletes Achieve their College Dreams

Having been a college coach for 14 years at the NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA levels, I know firsthand the challenges in managing 25-35 student-athletes and the struggle in trying to meet everyone’s academic, athletic and social needs. When it comes to academic guidance, the American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of one school counselor for every 250 students. Unfortunately, in many school districts across the country, these ratios are even more than doubled this recommended ratio. I have even heard of some high schools where one school counselor had over 400 hundred students in their caseload. So how on earth can a school counselor serve so many students’ academic, emotional, and mental needs, let alone prepare them for college?

I believe guiding teens is like peeling back an onion. There are so many layers to pull back and fully understand their individual needs in all facets of their lives to guide them in the right direction. High school counselors often get bad reviews and I often feel for those school counselors, as they really are in a lose-lose situation when being expected to serve so many! How on earth do they get past the second layer of that onion?

And what about the student-athletes? They have many more needs. Yes, those are sometimes filled by teammates, coaches, administrators, and parents. However, what about the academic side? Many of them want to play in college. They need to be educated on the college recruiting process. To relieve this demand on school personnel, I often do seminars for high school families, coaches, and counselors . (For more information on booking us for this next school year to come to your high school or club/travel team, email us at info@lookingforafullride.com.)

I just did a recruiting educational session for the Florida School Counselors Association, I wanted to help provide some help to school counselors. If you are a school counselor, please pass this on to your colleagues. If you are a parent or a coach, will you please share this with the school counselors that interact with your student-athletes.

Here are a few tips for how school counselors can help student-athletes start planning for college:

1. Strategically plan with the student-athletes to choose the correct CORE COURSES to be eligible to play college athletics.

During their freshman and sophomore years, help them in planning to take the right core courses that are needed for being eligible to play at all levels. Do not assume because they are on track to graduate from high school, that they are automatically eligible for intercollegiate athletics. Since there are some variances across the governing bodies of the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA, help them to keep their options open by using the NCAA Division I and Division II Guides as they plan out their courses for high school.

There have been many cases of students with 4.0+ GPAs who were deemed ineligible at the college level because they did not take the proper coursework in high school. Be proactive early in their high school career so they do not get themselves in a bad situation that can only be resolved by sitting a year or with summer school.

2. Help student-athletes to remain focused on the fact that ALL of their high school grades do matter.

I often hear so many families think that college coaches can get a talented kid into a college just based on their athletic talent and by “pulling a few strings”. While this practice happened a lot twenty to thirty years ago, today it is a very rare situation and not even always possible as their eligibility is regulated by the governing body like the NCAA, and not the individual college.

If a college coach invites you to be a part of their program, they do not want you having to sit out due to academic issues. With the NCAA, students can be labeled as a non-qualifier or partial qualifier if they are not fully eligible. A partial-qualifier may participate in practice, but not in competitions or travel with the team. Non-qualifiers have even more restrictions.

School counselors should guide and direct student-athletes early on in their high school careers of the importance of aiming high with their core courses GPAs. Remind them that they need to take academics seriously as college coaches do not want to have to worry about if a student-athlete can be accepted into the college. A kind reminder to them that college coaches have many student-athletes across the country to choose from and they want to position themselves in the best way possible academically.

3. Encourage the student-athletes to register to take their first college tests by the fall of their junior year.

Encourage them to take their first ACT and/or SAT tests as early as the end of their sophomore year or early in their junior year if they’ve had the proper coursework, (especially for math). Also, advise the student-athlete to take each test multiple times. Most colleges now “superscore”, meaning they take the best sub-scores from various tests to make the best possible combined score for deciding college acceptance and merit scholarships.
Wondering if college coaches want you to take the ACT or SAT? Read our recent blog!

4. Help student-athletes to prioritize choosing a college with “The Broken Leg Test”.

Help the student-athlete understand important factors about choosing a college beyond athletics. Encourage them to read our blog, “The Broken Leg Test”. It is imperative that they think through academic majors, the size of the college, location from home, social setting, city versus rural college campus, and overall internship and career opportunities. Help them determine what would be a great fit for them financially and not rely on being in the small percentage who receive athletic scholarships.

School counselors should also encourage the student-athlete to do unofficial visits to local colleges during their freshman and sophomore years. This allows student-athletes to get a baseline perspective of types of colleges they would want by taking a campus tour, meeting with admission staff, and meeting current students. This is imperative to understand key factors as they start trying to speak with college coaches and spending money traveling to summer or ID camps. Want to learn more about how to decide about attending a sports camp? Read our blog.

Too often families wait until the junior or senior year to start looking at colleges. If you are a student-athlete, this is often too late and the college coaches have already picked their recruits. The earlier you start to research and explore college options, the better off it will be for more opportunities.

5. Encourage the student-athletes to take initiative in their own athletic recruiting marketing.

Looking for a Full Ride? by: Coach Renee LopezIt is highly recommended that student-athletes market themselves to college coaches. Too often families think it is the high school athletic director, high school coach or travel/club coach’s responsibility to contact college coaches about a specific athlete. In interviewing over 65 college coaches and athletic directors for my book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide, college coaches had an overwhelming response regarding initial contact. The majority said they really want to hear from the student-athlete (not the parent) of their interest early in their high school career.

While a coach or athletic director could provide a follow-up email or phone call supporting the student-athlete, the college coaches were very clear from almost all of my interviews. They wanted the student-athlete to be sending emails with player profile information, video-links, and upcoming schedules. If you would like to learn more about marketing yourself to a college coach, get our FREE Special Report; Strategies To Emailing A College Coach by going to www.lookingforafullride.com.

School counselors can be a very valuable asset for student-athletes. They can often help the teens think about other school options they may not even know exist that would provide a quality education for their career. It is important that school counselors stress the need for student-athletes start in their freshman and sophomore years in researching colleges if they want to continue playing in college. Being a college student-athlete, places an additional ‘layer to the onion’ to discover the right overall fit for the student-athlete. I highly recommend school counselors discuss the process early and often with high school student-athletes.

If I can ever be of assistance, please feel free to email me at info@lookingforafullride.com and also join our FREE school counselors recruiting Facebook group.

Would you like her to do individual consulting with your family to get an insider’s perspective?
Email info@lookingforafullride.com for more details.

Did you know Coach Renee Lopez can come to your school or sports organization?

Email info@lookingforafullride.com for more details.

Coach Renee Lopez

Looking for a Full Ride? by: Coach Renee Lopez

As a 17 year coaching veteran, Coach Renee Lopez is a recruiting expert for high school student-athletes. She uses her NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA Head Coaching experience to help families navigate the recruiting process to be identified by college coaches and help them find the right “fit” for playing at the next level. She has produced 3 All-Americans, over 30 All-Conference athletes and Her teams have been honored with awards for team academic accomplishments, sportsmanship, and sports ministry. In addition, Coach Renee Lopez has been named Coach of the Year by her peers.

She presents recruiting seminars across the country, has recently been featured in USA Weekly, with the National Alliance for Youth Sports, on SiriusXM Radio and ESPN Radio. She is the author of the book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide where she has interviewed over 65 college recruiters across all sports and college levels. In addition, she runs 9 Facebook groups to help facilitate conversations on college recruiting education, coaching education, leadership development, and sports ministry. She is also a certified speaker, trainer and coach for the John Maxwell Team, Jon Gordon Company, 3Dimensional Coaching, and the Positive Coaching Alliance.

She also does private consulting for student-athletes and their families to help in understanding the often daunting process of recruiting. (See one family’s testimonial.) If you are looking for help in the college recruiting process, please email Coach Renee Lopez at info@lookingforafullride.com.