Fall 2020 College Admissions and Student-Athletes

Football player standing alone on the tunnel into a stadium
July 21, 2020

As we discussed in Part I, college admissions this fall will look VERY different than what students like you were expecting. In this article, we’ll look at advice for upcoming seniors who are student-athletes.

To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting college recruitment  – and what student-athletes like you can do in these trying times – I reached out to Steve Britschgi, founder and president of Advocates for Athletes (A4A). From standardized test preparation to skills videos, A4A offers a variety of services custom-tailored to each student-athlete’s needs.

Note: Some answers have been edited/condensed for clarity. 

Thomas: What questions do you hear most these days from current and potential clients? ​

Steve: By far, the two most common questions I hear daily are ‘Do you think there will be summer AAU competition, showcases, or college camps?’ and ‘Do you think there will be fall high school sports?’ My answer is that it’s all speculation at this point, so you just have to make sure that you are ready to go when your sport does open up. Use this extra time to work even harder to get ahead of the competition. So many things you can do, the simplest of which are pushups and sit-ups. There are also so many creative ways to keep in shape, get stronger, faster. At A4A, we are setting written goals for our athletes to work on turning any weaknesses into strengths at this time.

T: This fall, it’s likely that some schools and districts will remain closed while others open up again. How do you think recruiters will try to give student-athletes who can’t yet play competitively a fair shot at recruitment? ​

S: Hard to say! That’s the million-dollar question right now. Without being able to watch an athlete play, it’s hard to recruit them. How do you give them a fair shot? It’s tough unless they have credibility from the year before or the coaches already know who they are. Coaches cannot recruit on just a resume. They have to know what they are getting, especially if scholarship dollars are involved. And, again, it will make it that much more difficult If there is no summer competition or camps to watch athletes perform (which I believe there will not be).

So, how will recruiters give a fair shot? Not sure, but if you present yourself the right way and do all the right things, you will make the recruiters’ job easier. Combination of film, resume, reputable references, character of the athlete, passion for the sport, GPA, work ethic, interview, past stats and their height, weight, strength, speed as it pertains to the athlete’s sport. That’s where the creativity comes in.

T: It seems that college coaches (like the students and families that you serve) are still trying to figure everything out. One suggestion I’ve seen is that student-athletes record themselves. What advice would you give to a student-athlete who wants to create a video but plays a team sport? After all, it’s not safe right now for teammates to meet up.

S: Do it!! Film a workout; film yourself doing drills that pertain to your position. If you are a pitcher, film a bullpen. If you are a QB, show your arm and footwork. If you are a lineman, show your strength and get off the line. If you are a basketball player, show your array of shots, form, footwork, dribbling, hops, etc. If you need to get your dad or brother or sister to help, do it! But look good in the video and go all out. First impressions last forever so make it a good one. Then send with a well-written letter/email and film that looks good. Keep it to 3 minutes and make sure it can be seen, not grainy…clear! 

Biggest mistake that an aspiring athlete to make is to sit back and wait…wait for what?? Have to be proactive and then have to be persistent. BUT make sure you are being honest with your ability and send to schools in NCAA, NAIA, NCCAA divisions that you have a true shot playing in/at.

T: Have you heard anything from your high school and college contacts regarding keeping players and spectators safe in the coming months? Even if nothing’s 100% decided, I think readers would like to know what ideas are being proposed.

S: It is still too early at this point to speculate but I have heard ideas about no fans at games, keeping them 6ft apart in line, 6ft apart in the stands, mandatory masks, letting a certain number of people in attendance, regulating the inflow and outflow. I am sure that going forward, that will be a huge topic of discussion for all levels of sporting events. 

But players are a different story. How do you keep them safe? I do not know! Take football players, for example. Twenty-two guys on the same field at the same time, a foot apart on the line of scrimmage, sweating, spitting, and tackling. I have not heard any ways to change the game to make these athletes safer. I don’t know how they can. This is all new for all of us, so I am sure we are going to be hearing a lot of different ideas in the very near future. Safety over money is and should be the number one concern.

This from NCAA President Mark Emmert: “All of the Division I commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus,” Emmert said. “That doesn’t mean it has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. So, if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”

T: Finally, COVID has brought uncertainty to nearly every economic sector. Have you seen an impact, and even if not, are you considering tweaking your business model (e.g., offering new or modified services)? I ask as it relates to what clients might encounter in the next 1-2 years. ​ 

S: A4A has seen a slight impact as some families are understandably needing to tighten their belts and watching their money closer. Most see engaging in A4A as an investment, though. Our fee is very reasonable, and the return on investment, say a scholarship worth $80,000, is a pretty darn good return on the fee they pay.

No plans to change our model. We started working with out-of-state athletes a few years back so we were forced to go with FaceTime and Zoom meetings. You see, we meet with these student-athletes for about an hour a meeting, setting goals, creating a plan, researching schools, writing emails, etc. Who would have known that was the way we would be meeting with all of our athletes today…..via video. That has worked out very well for us.  

However, every athlete is different, so we can create a personalized plan based on who they are and what their needs are. We continue to listen and adapt as necessary. That’s what keeps what we are doing fresh with each new client.

Final Thoughts

Student-athletes applying to college this fall certainly have plenty of challenges when it comes to the admission process. However, there are still numerous ways that they can network with – and most importantly, impress — college recruiters and coaches. If you are a high school student-athlete, I recommend that you visit the A4A website and learn more about their excellent services.

Finally, to all the student-athletes out there, keep honing your skills and try your best to stay healthy as possible.

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