Student Athletes and their parents should be aware of the proliferation of schools being created in order to serve student athletes specifically. Often, but not always, these programs are satellite programs of other larger colleges, but have little to do with the actual program you will attend aside from using the college’s structure and system already in place to enroll students. These programs often use borrowed or rented facilities to conduct their sports activities and housing.
Here are some questions to ask:
- Where will I be living? Sometimes the schools rent hotel rooms. Often the housing may look more legitimate, but the ability for them to house you depends on your ability to pay, because the school themselves cannot afford to rent the facilities up front.
- Where will I be attending class? Schools such as these often use rented K-12 private schools for the classrooms. If the school does not have a building of its own with a staff of some kind, it is likely that the coach is basically operating the school with or without support from a larger institution.
- How is school conducted? If there are no options for in-person learning, that should be a red flag that there is no academic support available at your location.
- What are the financial arrangements? You should be able to get a clear idea of what FASFA covers and what your out of pocket expenses are. If they automatically assume you are willing to take out a loan, even a student loan, they may be trying to sell something as more affordable than it is. Take a step back and demand to know all the costs. Legitimate colleges are experienced at providing this information in a clear and concise format.
- Is there a sense of urgency? Coaches will make it seem like their program is filling up fast, and you need to get an athletic fee deposit in right away. If the college needs your money that bad to purchase equipment, how do you think the rest of the year is going to go? In order to get your money quick, coaches may offer to take money over Cashapp, Zelle, or other payment processors. You shouldn’t be sending any money to anyone other than the school.
- Are they offering me an athletic scholarship? D1 colleges are able to offer Athletic Scholarships, but other schools cannot. They may offer you academic scholarships (which is why grades are important) or other need-based type scholarships in order to get you into their program and make school affordable for you. But if someone says they will offer you a scholarship for athletics, a red flag should go up.
- Am I being asked to work out? Coaches often invite large numbers of candidates to come work out to “show their stuff” to receive an offer. Few if any who attend do not receive an “offer”, which doesn’t mean a scholarship. If you need to pay to attend this, be alerted to a potential problem. These workouts are often conducted at nice facilities or parks rented for the day, and might not reflect the conditions you will be actually practicing in.
- Am I being coached on how to apply for financial aid? Coaches are well-versed in the financial aid system, and will often ask you to apply for aid for the summer or semester preceding the one you will be attending. This is a way for them to start getting funding earlier. While they know the system they are walking you through, try asking more in-depth questions about the process, and you might find that they know little about the overall process.
- Have I seen any documentation from the institution? Legitimate schools have process, procedures, branding opportunities, and documentation from the institution that they will provide when you are accepted.
- Is the school I am looking at accredited? There are good reasons to seek out a school that is accredited. If your school is not accredited, that may reflect on the value of your degree to employers or other institutions. Many times, a coach will convince you to go to their school just so that you can get exposure, and that your academics and degree don’t matter. It is a sure thing that if the school looking at you is legitimate, they will be interested in your academics, and if the courses you have been taking are from a non-accredited school, the credits will probably not transfer.
The Colleges & Degrees website has useful information about why accreditation is important.
To see if the school you are considering is accredited, visit the organization that accredits schools in that school’s region. These are the main accrediting organizations.:
NEASC | New England Association of Schools and Colleges
MSCHE | Middle States Commission on Higher Education
SACS | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
NCA | North Central Association
WASC | Western Association of Schools and Colleges
NWCCU | Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Didn’t see your school? Here are some other resources:
The US Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs maintains a database of accredited schools.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation also maintains a list of accredited schools programs, and accrediting organizations.
Do your research and check out your school! Pickup the Ball will work with any young person entering college that needs assistance understanding their financial aid or other college information to assist you in making an informed decision. Simply contact us and let us know how we can help.