Navigating the College Recruitment Process

As the class of 2022 winds down their recruitment, its a good time to provide feedback to the class of 2023 as they prepare to begin the college search and recruitment process. Some of our class of 2022 athletes have provided advice on how best to navigate through this process.

Editors note: We have underlined key concepts from each athletes advice in order to help you, the class of 2023 athlete, create your own college checklist. Additionally, we include information learned from previous XC and track and field recruits for you and your parents to consider.

Mia Boardman, Cumberland Valley – Committed to Wake Forest University

One of the biggest words of advice I have to give to 2023 athletes, is to be open. It’s important to be open to programs in every division and conference, as that doesn’t define a track program. There is talent everywhere, whether it be with the coaches or the athletes. If you count out a school because of it’s division or what conference it’s in, you could be missing out on an amazing opportunity that may not be found elsewhere. It’s also important to be open to trying new events in college! A coach might tell you they want to see you running the 1600 and the 800 at their school, when you’ve only ever ran the 800. If you’re being recruited by a school, that means the coach has done some research into you as an athlete, hearing things like that means they see potential in you and want to hone in on it. 

Annika Ermold, Governor Mifflin – Committed to Penn State University

Hi everyone, I know I have not written something in a while, and that’s because I have been super busy with both track and school. Since I have some free time, I wanted to share four key things to look for when choosing a school for the next four years. I want to be able to help future collegiate athletes feel confident in their decision making, so if these four tips can be followed, the decision making process will be much easier.

1.Location – Location is a very important part of deciding where to go to college. It is best to figure out whether you want to be closer to home, somewhere in the middle, or somewhere completely far away. Once you decide on a certain region, you can put all of your attention into schools in that certain area to find what is your best fit. One really good question to ask yourself could be, “Am I alright with being really far away from home for extended periods of time?”

2.Level of Competition – This is a huge area too, because some might want to go D1, while others might choose D3, and both are perfectly fine options. Going D1 though means your schedule will be a lot busier because of the commitment you are making to excel in your sport. The lower levels usually are more flexible, so sports will not consume as much time at the college level for D2 and lower. To figure out what level might be best for you, consider a couple of things. One, see how your times/distances compare to people at all levels, then you can figure out where your best fit could be athletically. Also, figure out your future dreams and goals (for example, do you want to go postcollegiate, do you want to be an all-american, or are you just looking to continue your sport for four more years?) These key tips can help you to decide what level of competition might be the best for you.

3.MajorYou are going to college to get an education, so looking for a major is something that should be at the top of your list. It is perfectly fine to go in undecided and not know what you want to study, but make sure you look at colleges with a variety of majors, then you have lots of options to choose from. If you know what you want to study/major in, awesome! Start looking at schools that are highly ranked for your major and consider them to possibly be good fits. Even if you know what you want to major in, make sure the schools you look at have different options too just in case you want to change your major at all for some reason.

4.Team – This is a huge factor as well, since you will be spending a lot of time with your teammates (practice, meets, outside activities, etc). Make sure when you visit a certain school that you feel comfortable around the team and figure out if you can see yourself fitting into the team dynamic.

I believe if you use these four tips in the college search/recruiting process, you will find your perfect fit and place to call home for the next four years. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to message me on my socials and we can chat!



Alex Holbrook, Exeter Township – Committed to the University of Pittsburgh

Hi everyone, my name Alex Holbrook and I have recently committed to the University of Pittsburgh to major in marketing and continue my track and cross country career. The recruiting process is definitely stressful, but well worth it. The first step I took was developing a list of schools that I was interested in and emailing the coaches my times, goals, and my grades. I recommend reaching out to college coaches as early as possible and building relationships with them. Building relationships is an important factor as they want to make sure that you will be a good fit for their team. For example, wish the coaches luck before meets and congratulate them on their successes. Follow them on social media as it shows that you are really interested and that you are following their progress. Also, let them know how your training and competitions are going. It will help you become closer to the coach and really get to know each other. Possibly one of the most important things is keeping your social media clean. Coaches want people who are going to represent the school in a positive way and posting negative things will throw up some major red flags to them. The last thing that I recommend is searching for schools that you believe will make you the best runner you can be. Do not limit your options because you do not love a particular conference or division the school is in. There are plenty of D3 and D2 schools that could beat D1 schools pretty easily. Focus on finding the school that fits your needs, not what necessarily looks most impressive to other people.

Hope McKenney, Mechanicsburg – Committed to Penn State University

After going through the recruiting process the last few years, the most important takeaway that I learned was to look at each college as a whole, rather than just their running program. While finding a perfect connection to a team is extremely important, so is finding the right fit in the school itself. I found that by writing down what I was looking for in a school, then seeing which teams overlapped with that, I was able to best narrow down my search. I looked at school size, location, weather, majors, class sizes, and academic rigor to make sure that the school fit what I was looking for. In other words, the most crucial advice that I can give is to find a college that you would go to if you were to not be on their athletic teams

Once narrowing your search using these criteria, reach out to the coaches! While I did sign up for NCSA to help me with this, I do not think that an online recruiting website is necessary. When you reach out, share your academic successes and personality, along with your athletic achievements. Being the right fit for their team goes beyond your PRs and finishes. 

Never be afraid to ask questions either! You are picking the college and program that you want to spend the next four years at, so it is vital to learn as much as you can about it. You can ask these questions to the coaches, current members of the team, and other students at the school. Social media can be a great tool as well, where you can easily connect with coaches and possible teammates. Overall, as I navigated my college search, I learned to find the perfect fit in all aspects of the college, to reach out and ask questions, and to use social media to make connections. The recruiting process brought me to my dream school and I can’t wait to be a Nittany Lion!

From the Editor

Here are some other key learnings that are worth sharing:

– Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Here, coaches can find your contact information and check in on your grades

– Make your social media accounts easy to find by including your name, school, and graduation year

– Take your SATs

– Start visiting schools early

– Start connecting with college coaches during your junior year. Email them and fill out the schools online recruitment questionnaire. Do not wait for a college coach to reach out to you if you have interest in their program.

– Try to participate in junior days. This is a great opportunity to get to know the coaches and athletes without having to use an “official visit.” Remember, you only have 5 official visits. These are the visits where the schools can pay for the the athletes transportation to and from campus, provide lodging, and pay for meals.

– The earlier you apply and are accepted the more likely you are to receive academic aid. The later you apply the less likely the school will have academic money remaining to give out. This said, understand each schools academic aid requirements. Some schools will give automotive awards based on GPA and SAT. Some schools make it very transparent, others do not. Reach out to the enrollment and/or scholarship office early.

– Public education in Pennsylvania is very expensive comparative to schools in other states and especially in the south. Some public schools charge in state tuition for all students – a few Michigan schools fall into this category. Public schools in the south can have very aggressive out of state academic awards that may make them a cheaper option than in state public schools.

– Be aware that the NCAA granted all athletes in college 1 extra year of eligibility due to the COVID pandemic. This means there can be less roster spots for incoming student athletes (likely to be felt more at the division 1 level than at division 2 or 3). This will likely impact student athletes through the class of 2024 (maybe even 2025). Typically, there are less roster spots for men than there are for women. Because of this extra year of eligibility, the sooner you are able to commit, the better.

– Scholarship maximums for XC/Track and Field are as follows:

Division 1: Men – 12.6; Women – 18.0

Division 2: Men – 12.6; Women – 12.6

Division 3: Men and Women – 0

NAIA: Men and Women – 5

NJCAA: Men and Women – 10

Some schools do not provide/budget for the full allotment of scholarships the NCAA allows. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that schools have nowhere near the maximum number of scholarships they are permitted to offer.

– Key questions to ask the coach(es):

What is your training philosophy

How many spots for athletes in my event area do you have space for in my class

What time do you practice

Do you have mandatory study hall

Do you provide tutors (complimentary or at a cost)

Do you have athlete housing

Do you provide equipment (shoes, spikes, other training apparel)

Do you provide complimentary meals and/or after practice refueling foods/drinks

Who travels to away meets

Do you prioritize class registration for athletes

When do you have breaks from training that athletes could return home if wanted. This could be particularly important for athletes competing in XC, indoor, and outdoor track and field.

How do you prefer to receive updates/communication – texts, emails, calls