So They Wanna Play in College?

For many young adults in the US, athletics are the cornerstone of the high school experience. Daily practices and weekly games govern the calendar, and pep rallies on Fridays raise school spirit. Beyond that, student-athletes learn important life-lessons involving teamwork, time-management, and perseverance. Sports can also serve a source of motivation; many students report that sports are what keeps them in school. Many teens have played their sport for a number of years, and have invested countless hours honing their skills at the JV, Varsity, or even Club level. As parents, you may not be surprised when your teenager isn’t quite ready to hand in the soccer cleats and call it quits at the end of Senior year. In fact, it makes sense for them to continue playing the sport they love in college too, right? After all, there might be money on the line – your child could get recruited for a full-ride on a Div. I team.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s consider the many options.

First of all, it is important to consider that there are three main governing bodies of collegiate athletics – the NCAA, the NAIA, and the NJCAA. The NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, governs about 1200 schools. Athletic scholarships are only available for those on Division I and II. The NAIA, or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes, governs just over 60,000 students, and is mainly made up of private universities, which tend to be smaller in comparison with the NCAA. Finally, the NJCAA, or National Junior College Athletic Association is comprised of about 520 2-year community colleges.

When people think of collegiate athletics, they normally think of the NCAA, Division I. However, if you only fixate on this option for your son or daughter, you may find that you are limiting their options.  While it is true that most full-ride offers are granted from Div. I, it is also true that there is considerable competition to attain such a scholarship. Players are recruited from all over the nation – and the world. Also, Division I schools tend to be larger, more selective universities. Many of the universities at Division I include very large public universities, with large classes. If your child is not one who is able to advocate for him or herself, she may find herself lost in shuffle. Playing on scholarship for a Division I team is a tremendous commitment, tantamount to working a demanding full-time job, while still maintaining solid grades in college. A survey by the NCAA found that football required 43.3 hours per week; college baseball, 42.1 hours; men’s basketball, 39.2 hours; and women’s basketball, 37.6 hours (O’Shaughnessy).

The NCAA doesn’t end with Division I – there are excellent schools at Division II and III as well. In fact, some Division II schools do grant athletic scholarships – maybe not full-rides, but let’s keep in mind that full-ride scholarships are few and far between. According to Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a reporter with Moneywatch, only 2% of athletes earn athletic scholarships from the NCAA every year. For those who do, the awards can be “dinky”; the average scholarship is $11,000 per year. Finally, let’s consider Division III. While it is true that Div. III schools do not offer athletic scholarships, an astounding 75% of students will qualify for merit academic-based aid, or needs-based aid, not tied to their sport (NCAA Recruiting Facts).

Universities within the NAIA are certainly worth considering. Student athletes can earn scholarship money at the NAIA level Division I level, with an average of $6,000 per year (NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA: What’s the Difference?). Unlike some of the larger universities at the NCAA Div. I level, many schools in the NAIA are smaller, and they are private. Classes are likely to be smaller, and they are usually taught by professors.

Finally, NJCAA offers a great deal of flexibility for students. Classes at community colleges are often quite small, and there are many choices as far as programs of study, including trades. Unlike the NCAA and NAIA, there are no academic requirements for those entering community colleges. For those who failed to qualify academically for the NCAA or NAIA schools, the NJCAA can be a stepping stone; students can transfer to more competitive universities, depending upon their grades.

Eligibility Requirements for Student Athletes

Whether your student-athlete is playing at the Division I level on full scholarship, the Division II level of NAIA, or at the NJCAA level, there are eligibility requirements for all athletes. Generally speaking, eligibility for the NCAA, especially Division I, are the most stringent, hinging on course work (including 16 core courses), GPA, and test scores. Students must apply with the NCAA Eligibility Center, and send their test scores and official transcripts to the NCAA. Once an athlete is playing at the college level, academic requirements continue; students must maintain full-time status, and keep their grades up. The NAIA also requires a full slate of high school coursework, as well as GPA and standardized test score requirements. For more information, read the information on the links below carefully. As for the NJCAA, high school athletes must obtain a high school diploma prior to moving on the community college level, and once they are playing at a JC, they must take no less than 9 credit hours.

Because eligibility requirements change often, it is vital to have current information. Please visit the following links for the most up-to-date information regarding eligibility:



Think Best Fit First

With so many options to consider, how should families of student-athletes proceed? My advice is to look for best fit. When I say best fit, I don’t mean best coach, or team. After all, coaches come and go. Successes and rosters of teams do as well. Instead, go back to the drawing board and consider: what kind of student is your child? Would he do best at a large, competitive university, or a smaller one, where he is likely to form relationships with professors? Does your child know what she wants to major in? What is that program like at your prospective school – or is it even offered? Finally, how do your child’s grades and test scores match up with the rest of the student body? Even if there have been a flurry of emails from coaches, take them with a grain of salt. Often, coaches send out mass emails to many prospective students – without having any knowledge that the student has a shot at being admitted. If there is a large disparity between your child’s skills and those of other incoming freshman, that should be a red flag. While there are some cases in which star athletes are afforded a “bump” in terms of admissions, it is not the norm. As parent, it is vital to consider where your child will “fit” best – academically, socially, and perhaps lastly, athletically.



NCAA Recruiting Facts. NCAA. July, 2016.

NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA: What’s the Difference? United Sports, USA. 1 Oct. 2015.

O’Shaughnessy, Lynn. “8 Things You Should Know about Sports Scholarships.”  Moneywatch. 20 Sept. 2012.

Consider the Gap Year

Consider the Gap Year

Increasingly, students are opting to take a gap year between high school and college (American Gap Association). The gap year, if approached in a structured way with specific goals, can provide students with wonderful opportunities. Internships, study abroad, and cultural experiences can provide students with tremendous personal growth. Parents, if you are concerned that colleges will perceive the gap year as a waste of time, or even worse – that taking a year off will prove detrimental in the admissions game, fear not. Even the most elite colleges support structured, meaningful gap year experiences. The article “Time out or Burn Out,” provides a perspective from Harvard University: “Harvard’s daily student newspaper, The Crimson, reported that students who had taken a year off found the experience ‘so valuable that they would advise all Harvard students to consider it.’”

A gap year isn’t for every student, that is true. However, there are some students who fit the profile for a gap year more than others. In one category, there are the high achievers. As “Time out or Burn Out” points out, students are put under tremendous pressure, often from pre-school on: “The pace of the day and the year allows little time simply “to be a kid”—or, it seems, to develop into a complete human being.” The gap year will not be a panacea to such pressures, but it can provide some welcome relief, for at least a period of time. For those of you with “type A” high-achieving students, it is likely that your child’s academic path will be long. Those pursuing medical degrees or doctoral programs, for example, should clearly consider taking a break while it is possible to do so. After all, one cannot take a break in the middle of Residency.

A gap year can be an excellent choice for students who lack maturity and practical world experience. We have all heard of young adults who enter college without even knowing how to cook a meal for themselves, take public transportation across town, or do laundry.  Imagine the personal growth for such a student, after spending a year, say, teaching English in Peru. Marie Schwartz, CEO and President of TeenLife, references the AGA survey, in which “more than 90 percent of 600 gap students…said their time off from school increased confidence, maturity, communication skills, or the ability to get along with people with backgrounds different from their own.” Those who do embark on gap years fair better in college than their counterparts; they are more confident, more mature, and they know themselves better as a result (American Gap Association). Unfortunately, too many college freshmen enter the university system as anxious young adults – they are unsure of what to study, and feel overwhelmed about the prospect of spending precious time and money while not having any plan for a degree or career.

Parents, there are some practical issues to consider in terms of the gap year. Students should most likely apply to colleges before taking their time off, and communicate to their university of choice that they will be attending one calendar year later. Also, it is vital to check on any scholarships, to ensure eligibility at a later date.

When Choosing a College Major, Consider the Arts

Timothy Aubrey’s article from The New York Times, “Don’t Panic, Liberal Arts Majors. The Tech World Wants You,” may be heartening to those heading off to college, and to their parents. The article was prompted by two books:  Anders’ You Can Do Anything and Stross’ A Practical Education.  Worried parents may make threats: “If you major in Art, Theatre, or anything similar to it, I’m not paying for your education.”  Aubrey’s article may give them a new perspective. A liberal arts degree may come in handy, according to Anders and Stross, in fields such as human resources, project management, fund-raising, design, market research, branding, and more.  Why, you might ask, would a Liberal Arts degree be beneficial? “one must be able to communicate effectively, read subtle social and emotional cues, make persuasive arguments, adapt quickly to fluid environments, [and] interpret new forms of information.” In short, when college is on the horizon and students begin thinking about the best career pathway for them, they should look beyond what may seem pragmatic. Being able to reason, write clearly, and discuss great literature is prized.

College Consulting in Portland, Oregon

College on the Horizon, LLC, seeks to guide students and families as they embark on the college admissions process.  After all, there is a lot you may be considering. Which college or university is the right fit for me – academically, socially, and personally? How will I meet all of the deadlines, and submit applications and essays that allow me to put my best foot forward? How can I improve on standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT? What scholarships might be available to me? And, while guidance counselors at local high schools are amazing sources of information, their office hours are limited. College on the Horizon seeks to provide help when you need it – like on weekends , evenings, and when school is out of session. Whether you live in Portland, or the surrounding area – Lake Oswego, Beaverton, West Linn, Vancouver, Oregon City, Aloha, Gladstone, or Milwaukie, we are available to meet your needs at a time and location that works for you.

Affirmative Action at Ivy League Colleges

The article from The New York Times, “Affirmative Action Has a New Focus – Asian Americans,” certainly brings up some interesting issues. The article can be found here, in case you didn’t catch it:

Essentially, Asian Americans – even those with the highest of grades and test scores – are facing denial from the most prestigious colleges. Whether it be Yale, Princeton, U Penn, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, or Duke, Asian Americans are facing tougher admissions standards than their peers from other ethnic groups. While we can applaud such schools for seeking more diversity on their campuses, it comes at a high price. According to the New York Times, a Princeton study revealed that Asian Americans have to score “130 points higher on the SAT than whites to have the same chance at admission to private colleges, a difference some have called ‘the Asian tax’ (Hartocollis and Saul). Is this fair? Universities should adopt policies that support more diversity on college campuses, but it should not come in the form of discrimination against Asian American students. The case will likely be heard by the Supreme Court at some point. It remains to be seen if their position differs from their findings with the University of Texas last year.

St. Mary’s College Tour

I toured St. Mary’s College in mid-July, and was impressed with the beauty of the campus, with its manicured garden-like walkways and Spanish Renaissance buildings. Some colleges feature a mish-mash of buildings, but at St. Mary’s it’s all about polished uniformity.

Speaking of the campus highlights – the workout facilities were enormous and amazing, complete with a climbing wall. And for those too intimidated to work out next to Div. 1 athletes, don’t worry. They have their own gym. Swimmers and sun bathers will enjoy the outdoor pool, which is stunning.

The tour guide was a very exuberant student who gushed about her love for the college. Founded by the Lasallian Brothers, a Catholic order, St. Mary’s is known for its community atmosphere. Classes are capped at 25 students, there is free tutoring in all subject areas, and each student is set up with two personal Advisors. The most popular majors are psychology, business, and communications. Students take four Seminar Classes in fall and in spring. During the month of January, or “Jan Term,” they take only one course – usually something a bit unconventional. During “Jan Term,” students are encouraged to take their course off campus. Our tour guide will be heading to Rome for the month, and because scholarships cover on average 75% of students Jan Term courses, she will only pay $500 to study in Rome. Other courses and destinations for Jan Term include Sundance, Yosemite, among hundreds of other options.

The locale of St. Mary’s is a bit off the beaten track.  While “only” 23 miles east of San Francisco, I can tell you from experience, taking BART to SF from that area takes no less than 40 minutes – more like an hour, door to door. Students who wish to arrange internships will need to arrange their schedules accordingly. Nearby Morago and Lafayette are quaint, if not upscale towns. While some websites, such as claim that the social life at St. Mary’s is a bit too quiet, our tour guide informed us that when NCAA Basketball season arrives, it’s live. St. Mary’s biggest rival is Gonzaga, and students turn out for games in big numbers.

While I did not stay for the financial aid seminar, I have heard that there are quite a few merit-based scholarships available to students upon applying.

Unfortunately, we did not tour a dorm room, so I cannot vouch for the size of the dorms, but our guide informed us that the dorms provide a lot of social interaction. Apparently, there is some competition too – similar to the houses in Harry Potter. Speaking of Harry Potter, check out the Hogwarts-like eating hall. It comes complete with long wooden communal tables, and old-time chandeliers.

Finally, a random note: each student at St. Mary’s is eligible for twelve mental health appointments, included in tuition. Oh, and students petitioned to see Katy Perry when she came to Oakland – tickets and transportation were covered.

Campus Tour of University of San Francisco

It was a foggy morning when I made my visit to the University of San Francisco – even though it was in mid-July. Located near the Haight-Ashbury district right smack in the middle of San Francisco, USF’s location couldn’t be better. After walking up the enormous stairs that separate the main campus from the secondary campus, I was awake. The tour featured a presentation from a chief Admissions Officer, and he disseminated a lot of information. Some quick facts: USF is a Jesuit university with 6,474 undergrads. The most popular majors include nursing, psychology, finance, business, communication, and biology. The acceptance rate is pretty lenient, with 60% of applicants getting in. That is, unless you apply for the Nursing Program – then, the rate of acceptance plummets to around 30%. Housing is guaranteed only for freshmen, and half of the sophomores who requested dorms landed them. However, USF’s Housing Department apparently takes care of helping students find apartments in the area.

Location, location, location. One of USF’s advertising banners, placed cleverly near the iconic staircase touts, “Our after-school program is Silicon Valley.” For those interested in tech, it’s a dream. For those in other majors, it’s also a dream. Students recently interned with Google, TESLA Motors, Dolby Laboratories, Oracle, Smithsonian Museum, Kaiser Permanente, and more. The Admissions Officer claimed that each student is pushed to have not one, but three internships. Apparently, many Bay Area companies contact USF directly, so students don’t have to necessarily seek out internships. The companies are calling the school directly. Finally, if pragmatism is your thing, then you will probably appreciate the fact that USF’s Career Center is amazing. They line students up with internships and jobs, and students can utilize the Career Center for up to five years after graduating! It seems that one of the goals of the university is to guide students towards a career path – which is why students are assigned two Advisors. In fact, if a student fails to meet with the Advisor, a hold is placed on their account. Sounds like they are serious about getting people out the door in four years and into fulfilling careers!

One feature of the tour was taking a peek at a dorm room. Students can opt for singles, doubles, or triples. We saw a triple, and the room seemed sizeable enough. The tour guide warned our group that other neighboring universities might not show anyone their dorms – which should raise a red flag that they may be tiny. Speaking of dorms, some have the view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Talk about a multimillion dollar dorm view!