University sports in the United States is the only system that combines sport and competition with university studies; equally and without sacrificing one or the other. College soccer in the United States provides tremendous opportunities to work with top coaches, be part of a competitive setup and improve your skills. Moreover, student-athletes will earn a degree in their chosen field of interest that will prove invaluable immediately after graduating and throughout their lives.
In the US collegiate system, you are a student first and second an athlete, thus the name student-athlete. By this definition and expectations, student-athletes are required to keep their high standards when it comes to academics and be held accountable to be able to participate in collegiate sports. An athlete’s class schedule and curriculum are designed to support student-athlete development. In addition, to help in the classroom and on the field, student-athletes are given support and opportunities by the various other aspects of the University they attend, not only during their four years of study but also after.
One of the main attractions of attending a US University as a student-athlete is the possibility of securing academic and athletic scholarships that contribute toward a student-athletes ability to attend a University in the United States. With more than 1,500 universities with soccer programs in the United States, this certainly presents an attractive and beneficial option for aspiring student-athletes to pursue their studies while playing a sport they love. These universities belong to the following United States Collegiate divisions: NCAA Divisions I, II, III, NAIA, and NJCAA. All of these levels present different aspects and benefits depending on which a potential student-athlete selects the University level.
What are the benefits of a US college athletic program?
Being a collegiate athlete has many benefits. Attending college in the US as a student-athlete allows you to continue playing the sport you love and helps prepare an individual for the real world. In many conversations and interviews, the majority of former college athletes say that being part of a team helped prepare them for life after college. For reference, a well-known university such as Harvard University offers 20 different Division 1 sports, 27 intramural sports, and 57 club sports. Nearly 80 percent of Harvard students are involved in some athletics.
This shows that many highly acclaimed institutions give high value to sports and student-athletes, recognizing the invaluable contribution of sport to individuals and the university as a whole. An internal University report found that college acceptance rates for highly academically qualified athletes are roughly 83 percent. Non-athletes with similar qualifications see an acceptance rate of 16 percent.
Benefits of US College Soccer Program.
1. Future employers look for intangibles Future employers look for those who go above and beyond, have gone the extra mile, and are willing to work hard to chase their dreams. Participating in a college sport, balancing your time between the hours of practice and games, and staying on top of your academics show a student’s work ethic and commitment. Speaking with former and current college athletes, it is clear that they learn leadership skills and develop teamwork skills and time management skills. All these skills helped prepare them for the “real” working world. These skills cannot be taught but must be experienced and developed by being part of a team and student-athlete. It is no coincidence that many organizations and companies look to hire former student-athletes because of these invaluable intangibles learned by being a student-athlete.
“College athletes learn leadership, confidence, discipline, effective time management, and teamwork through their sports.” – A hiring manager.
2. Admission advantages (SAT, GPA) To gain admission into a US college, many factors are considered, such as the SATs, ACTs, and your high school GPA, for example. Every college has different SAT, ACT, and GPA limits, as well as admission policies but all of them, give an advantage to student-athletes. This shows that universities really appreciate the student-athlete's exceptional skill sets and what they bring to the University because it can raise the reputation of the University, and therefore, they highly regard it in their admission process. To this aspect, individuals recruited by coaches at top-tier schools typically scored 200 points lower on the SAT than the average admitted applicant. This also applies to GPA and other standardized tests.
3. Life lessons can be learned Former college athletes testify to the fact that they have learned a lot of life lessons due to their experiences. Among many aspects of benefits, teamwork, work ethic, time management, respect, and discipline are the many things they have learned while being a student-athlete. College athletes are continuously put in situations where they have to learn and adapt quickly. While playing a college sport is a big commitment, there is no better place to learn the skills of selflessness and leadership than as a student-athlete, earning a degree and playing a sport, you love.
4. Relationships and networking Building and maintaining relationships is an essential skill that athletes learn. Being a student-athlete automatically allows an individual to build an extensive network of contacts and develop meaningful relationships, both beneficial and an opportunity to help others. These relationships continue long after your four years of playing. Your relationships with your teammates, coaches, administrative staff, and professors are paramount to your success long after leaving college and sport. However, these are precisely the people you will develop deep relationships with; people you invite to your wedding, references on your resume, and help with getting job opportunities. You never know; one of them may even offer you a job!
5. Scholarship Among the most apparent advantages of playing college soccer, scholarships in the form of a sports scholarship or academic scholarship (with the understanding that you will play a sport for the University) are of utmost attraction and significance. A powerful incentive that pushes many students to engage in college sports is knowing that their school fees (partial or complete) are paid. However, scholarships are just the tip of the iceberg when choosing to attend University as a student-athlete. There are many other advantages and incentives that will assist a student-athlete in the form of additional help and assistance that can be given to a prospective student.
6. Help and guidance in settling in a foreign country Being a student-athlete is challenging and demanding. The fact that many student-athletes are also international students adds to that complication. Yale University has published a survey where 45% of Chinese students said they had symptoms of depression, and 29% of pupils said they had anxiety symptoms. The survey also found that more than 60% of the students said that they have psychological problems in the United States. Most parents overestimate the child's psychological bearing capacity. However, knowing that you will be part of a team before committing and choosing a university already alleviates some anxiety in this aspect. Coaches, teammates, administrators, professors, and other new students all add to the fact that a student-athletes support system is powerful. Having a rigid and set schedule for student-athletes allows them to settle in and adjust to the new culture quickly. Taking into account when we addressed the importance of relationships, this is another incentive for student-athletes to combine all of these and equip themselves with the tools to be successful.
7. Healthy lifestyle Being a student-athlete lends itself to leading a healthy lifestyle. It keeps an individual fit and healthy not only physically but mentally, which is of the same importance as the body.
8. Pro career chance Last but not least, playing at a United States collegiate level is a pathway in itself to a professional career in your chosen sport. There are many pathways in the United States to a pro career. Like any other pathway, there is no clear path but rather a combination of many factors. Some athletes jump right into a professional team, while others may work in their chosen career while pursuing a development path to a professional career. For sure, if a student-athlete gets a chance to play at a US collegiate level, the opportunities to make it professional are available in many ways. There are many student-athletes whose dreams came true and, with hard, consistent work, got selected by a professional club while acquiring a university degree. MLS and ULS clubs (pro and semi-pro soccer clubs) scout and sign talented student-athletes every year.
A good example would be Jack Harrison from England, who moved to US preparatory High school and played at a local football academy during his high school years. He was awarded a full scholarship to play at Wake Forest University. After only his first year of university, he joined New York City FC to become a professional player. In the winter of 2017, Jack received his first international cap with the England U21s. On Jan 30th, 2018, Jack was sold to Manchester City and now plays in English Premier League with Leeds United.
Another excellent student-athlete example is Yujie Zhao, born in Shanghai in 1999. In 2018, she got accepted into Florida State University and played soccer on their division 1 team. While she studied hard, she still had time to play at the highest US college level and on the Chinese national team.
How to prepare students for US college soccer
The development and focus begin by allowing children to discover their interests and love of a sport. Through this, we can uncover the child’s talent in specific sports. Until age 10, children must be exposed to different sports to find out their interests and passion. A student between 10 and 14 should choose a sport to focus on and practice it 2, 3, or a maximum of four times a week, depending on their interest, level, and personal goals.
During this time, exposure to other sports will assist in fitness as well. If the chosen sport is soccer, then age 14 is an excellent age to pursue it seriously, and the athlete should practice 3, 4, or 5 times a week, including competitive matches. At the same time, students must start to learn English (unless the student’s mother language is English) as early as possible to ensure an advantage in the SATs and the academic language of the United States, which is English. Joining a private high school where English would be a given, and an immersion experience would be helpful and advantageous.
The student-athlete path is not for everyone, only for those
students who love their sport and have strong willpower
and determination to get through difficulties and obstacles.
College and career planning are already a challenge. Add to that, the mystery and challenges of sport can be daunting. The recruiting process is not as simple as shooting an email to a university coach but rather a time-tested technique requiring support and background help from experienced coaches, clubs, schools, and NAKASA-SAM'S partners.
If you are interested in becoming a student-athlete, don't hesitate to contact us; we can help plan your future education through a personalized assessment.