Applying for college as an athlete is a little bit different than regular applicants, but that doesn’t mean it has to be more difficult. Below are some tips on how to pick the right school and make the team without getting overwhelmed.

Research Teams

Before you take any other step, do some thorough research on the type of college you’d like to attend. A large part of this decision may fall on which Division you’d most like to try out for. For example, if you want to play for a Division I or II team, look into the requirements for making the team and staying on. For Division I and II colleges you need to register and qualify with NCAA Eligibility. If you are aiming for Division I or II colleges, have a couple of Division III/NAIA/junior colleges in mind as backup, as the latter are extremely competitive.

While Division I and II colleges are more expensive, they often offer generous scholarships, so take this into consideration before you give up on your dream college. But if you plan to pay out of pocket with student loans as a supplement, you may want to choose a college that is more affordable to avoid huge student loan payments upon graduating. And even if your college doesn’t provide their own substantial merit scholarships, there are plenty of outside scholarships that will pay your way.

What Do You Want to Study?

I know, this is the most intimidating question for a college applicant. But even if your college’s sports team is a significant priority in your decision, you shouldn’t skimp on the quality of education you’ll receive while you attend. Not everyone who plays college sports will go on to become a professional player, after all, so finding a school with a great program in your area of interest is just as important as making a team. And if you’re undecided upon entering school, that’s completely okay! Simply narrow down your strongest subjects and base your decision on the best reviews for those areas.

Where’s It Located?

Where you go to school can have a big impact on your support system, especially if you want your family and friends to attend home games. If this isn’t a huge priority, then it’s safe to say that you can move farther away. And with streaming services, your loved ones can catch your game on the go.

Also, look into the surrounding location of your university. If it’s a big city, prepare of public transit as your main mode of transportation. If it’s a small town, there probably won’t be as much excitement, but you might prefer the quiet over the disturbance of city noise. Finally, decide whether or not you plan to stay in a campus dorm, or if you prefer an apartment nearby. Many colleges require their freshmen to stay on campus for the first year or two, so this could answer that question quite simply for you.

Rank Your Top Universities

While you are researching this information, put colleges of interest in a spreadsheet. Within the spreadsheet, indicate the defining factors of each one. This will help you weigh the pros and cons of each college and which will be the best fit for you.

After you have narrowed down the list, do some research on the athletic teams you want to play for, factoring in their records over the last four or five years. Watch some recent games and look up their current players so you can get a feel for the team before trying out and committing. This will provide you with some great talking points once you meet and greet with the team coaches, and it will definitely make you stand out amongst the other candidates.

Make Contact

Speaking of coaches, before you reach out to them, create an athletic resume that you can submit to all of them. Be sure to include your weight, height, and current position on your high school team. Additionally, let them know how long you’ve been playing, how you’ve contributed to your team’s current record, and your personal skills and accomplishments. They’ll also want to see how you’ve done academically, so include your GPA, test scores, and extracurriculars as well.

Contacting coaches can be done through phone, email, or even in person. But no matter which method you choose, always speak to them professionally and with confidence. In the initial outreach, tell them a little about yourself and what makes you interested in them. On top of your athletic resume and grades, you can also submit some videos of your games to give them a better idea of your performance.

As long as you’re respectful and enthusiastic about the opportunity of playing on a college team, you’re bound to get a good response. Applying to college is stressful enough without the pressure of making a team, so don’t make it any harder on yourself by allowing panic to set in. You know you’ve put in the hard work, now you’ve just got to prove it. If you need any help throughout the process, Student Coaching Services is here to guide you. Good luck!

Ryan Bridges is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Hi Quality Tutorials. He regularly produces content for a variety of higher education blogs, discussing how to apply to college and survive while you’re there.