Senior Journals: Recruiting Process in a Pandemic, by Stephen Schousen

Going through the recruiting process in a pandemic:

As some of you may know, I just verbally committed to run at Bucknell University! I’m so excited to start a new chapter of my academic/running journey, and I figured I’d share some tips and insights I gained going through this year’s very unorthodox recruiting process.

My recruiting process started at the beginning of my junior year of high school. Back then I was dead set on going to a big D1 program, but at my parents’ request I added a few smaller schools to the list. I’m really glad I did. 

I ended up realizing pretty quickly that, for me, a very large school didn’t make sense. First, at this point I have absolutely no clue what I want to do with the rest of my life, and a liberal arts education from a smaller school will give me much more opportunity to explore. I also value smaller class sizes. Above all, though, I loved the sense of home I felt on the smaller campuses that I visited. They felt accessible in a way that larger schools didn’t. 

I also learned pretty early that division wasn’t the sole determinant of a team’s strength. The first group of schools I put together included Pomona-Pitzer, which was last year’s D3 national champion. Needless to say, it could give many D1 schools a run for their money. Unfortunately, due to track not really being a money-making sport, some schools don’t put as much emphasis on it. We’ve seen this in the recent bout of cuts to D1 programs. I quickly realized that if I took on the “D1 only” mindset, I’d be taking quite a few good programs off the list.

Towards the end of the spring I got in contact with Coach Donner from Bucknell. After many emails, phone calls, and zoom meetings, I got the offer from Bucknell along with a deadline for the middle of October. I was pretty anxious about the deadline, as I didn’t really plan to make a decision that early. By the time I got in touch with Coach Donner, I had already been talking to other coaches for the better part of a year. 

As I learned more about different types of schools and teams, I made a list of the things that I really wanted in a program. For me, this list included a flexible coach whose philosophy I agreed with, an incredibly close team, and a conference in which I had a chance be competitive from the start. Bucknell ticked all of those boxes, with the addition of an absolutely beautiful campus and setting, as well as strong academics. I realized that there wasn’t much more I could want in a college, and there wasn’t really a point in waiting to make a decision. 

Looking back, I’d have to say my recruiting journey was a bit all over the place. I definitely didn’t expect to be where I am, but I couldn’t be happier with my choice. Leaving my team at McCaskey is going to be hard for sure, but I know I’m going to the best program for me. Best of luck as you go through the process yourself!