UC Davis Athletics
Student-Athlete Guidance Services

Last Updated: December 5 , 2003

Selecting a college where I can be a student-athlete

I'm just beginning to think about colleges.
Where do I start if I want to be a student-athlete?

Choosing a college is a difficult decision. For many high school students the options may seem endless and somewhat confusing. For students who hope to be college athletes, the choices may seem even more complex. The Student-Athlete Guidance Services office at UC Davis encourages you to approach this process with a positive attitude--the goal, after all, is finding a school at which you will be happy and successful both academically and athletically.

If you want to be a college student-athlete, you need to research schools and athletic programs. Ask your high school guidance counselor and current coaches for assistance. Take an honest look at your athletic ability as you consider different schools. Are you talented enough athletically to compete at an NCAA Division I program? Would you prefer being a star in an NCAA Division II, Division III, or NAIA program rather than a reserve who rarely competes at a Division I school? Which school gives you the best chance to balance your athletic goals with your academic and career goals? If you are not recruited but hope to compete at a specific school, ask the coach if they have room on the team for "walk-on" or nonrecruited student-athletes as well as the criteria you might need to meet (specific times, distances, etc.) to make the team.

The NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete at


can answer questions about recruiting rules and the recruiting process. This is a valuable resource for students, parents, high school coaches, and high school counselors.

Academic information and athletic information about colleges and universities can be found on the internet. Information about UC Davis (including admissions, majors, finances, etc.) can be reached at:


How do I contact a college coach?

Students who are thinking about becoming a college student-athlete at UC Davis often contact the head coach or the position coach of the sport(s) they are interested in. Some students call or e-mail coaches; you should refer to the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete for information on NCAA rules related to telephone contacts. A letter of introduction to the coach can also give you the chance to highlight specific information about your athletic and academic accomplishments. See the staff section of the main UCD athletic department web site for the names of the head coaches here. The mailing address for all head coaches at UC Davis is:

(Name of head coach/sport)
Intercollegiate Athletics
264 Hickey Gym
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616

Some prospective student-athletes pay to register with scouting services. This can be an effective way to get your name seen by a broad range of coaches. However, you do not need to do this--particularly if you have pinpointed some of the schools you'd like to attend. With a little effort, you can put together a packet to "market" yourself to college coaches. Some of the most important information to provide to coaches:
  • a typed letter of introduction which includes your full name, current address and social security number; this also should indicate when you will start college (for example, fall 2004)
  • an unofficial copy of your high school transcript
  • a list of classes you are currently taking (if they don't appear on your transcript)
  • PSAT scores
  • SAT or ACT scores (or projected date of when you will take the test)
  • SAT II scores (note that UC Davis requires three SAT II scores--you must take the tests in English writing, Math level IC or IIC, and a third test in anything other than mathematics)
  • information on your athletic accomplishments including best events and/or specific times

Other optional information that prospective student-athletes sometimes send to coaches:

  • videotape of an athletic performance (unedited)--this may be especially helpful for coaches to evaluate student-athletes in team sports
  • a resume or biography that includes academic and athletic awards
  • personal and family information
  • newspaper clippings about you and your athletic accomplishments

It'll be a couple years before I apply to college. What could I be doing right now?

Younger student-athletes sometimes wonder if there is anything they can do to help them be successful in college. While your high school and club coaches can help you become a better athlete, remember that you can only participate in college athletics if you are academically eligible. Many college coaches will seriously evaluate your ability to succeed as a student at their college or university before they recruit you. The better prepared you are academically, the more options you will have when it is time to select a college.

The Student-Athlete Guidance Services office at UC Davis offers the following ten suggestions to younger student-athletes:
  1. View high school as your chance to prepare for college. The harder you work in high school, the easier college will be.
  2. Take the hardest schedule you can in grades 9-12. Don't make the mistake of taking an "easy" senior year.
  3. Register for high school electives in academic classes (rather than woodshop, home ec, crafts, etc.).
  4. Take advanced placement (AP) classes in high school if they're available and take the AP
    exams to earn college credit.
  5. If your school district gives you the option, take college classes while still in high school.
  6. Do volunteer work.
  7. Learn to study effectively in a place without distractions like music or TV. In college, you will find that it is not how much you study, but how well you study that helps you succeed.
  8. Get in the habit of completing your homework before it's due. Learn to manage your time.
  9. Practice being organized--use a calendar or academic planner. Set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
  10. Ask for help. If you are struggling with academic or personal issues, talk to an adult you can trust.

Coaches are starting to recruit me and/or I'm starting to contact schools that I'm interested in. What questions should I be asking?

Although every student's needs are different, you may want to develop a list of questions that you ask a coach or athletic academic advisor at each college that you are considering, as well as some that you ask yourself. The Student-Athlete Guidance Services office at UC Davis suggests a few things to ask as you explore different colleges:
  1. When should I apply to your school? Is there a separate deadline for student-athletes? Will I be disadvantaged if I apply after the regular deadline?
  2. Does your school have a major in my area of interest?
  3. What are the GPA/volunteer/specific course requirements to get into that major?
  4. Are there other majors that seem attractive to me in case I change my major?
  5. If I don't know what I want to major in, who will help me decide?
  6. How much does it cost to go to school there?
  7. If the school is out of state, do they have reciprocity with my home state?
  8. What academic counseling or athletic academic advising services are available to student-athletes? Do the advisors work mostly with football and basketball student-athletes?
  9. Are there tutors available to me if I am a good student (as opposed to only available to student-athletes who are failing classes)?
  10. Do I have to pay for any of the tutoring services? Are there limits on how much tutoring I can receive?
  11. Are there any registration privileges for student-athletes (for example, registering early)?
  12. What kinds of computers are used on campus? Are there any special computer facilities reserved for student-athletes? If so, what hours are they open? Are there any laptop computers that travel with the teams? If I don't feel comfortable using computers, who can help me?
  13. What provisions are made for student-athletes who are traveling? If I miss an exam while traveling and competing on the road, what happens?
  14. Who can answer my questions about financial aid? Is there a financial aid contact person specifically for student-athletes?
  15. What does the study group (or study table or evening study) program for student-athletes consist of? How many nights per week am I expected to attend?
  16. If I am a student with a learning disability, what services are available to me?
  17. If I am an honors student, what programs and scholarships are available to me?
  18. If I am a student of color, what programs/scholarships/services are available to me?
  19. How large are the classes at this school? Are they taught by professors or graduate students?
  20. Do athletes on the team like the school?
  21. Do I like the location of the school?
  22. What opportunities are available to me in the community around the school (internships, volunteer work, potential jobs after graduation)?
  23. What is the academic atmosphere of the school? Can I find the right balance of athletics and academics for me at this school?
  24. Ask each person you interact with at the school (coach, athletic advisor, student-athletes) to tell you three things they especially like about the school and three things they especially dislike. What adjectives would they use to describe the school?
  25. Ask each person you interact with at the school to describe how they think student-athletes are viewed at that school. Do professors stereotype student-athletes as being less capable academically?
  26. And perhaps most importantly, do I feel I could be happy at this school for the next 3-5 years?