11-1-16 GET A HEAD START ON YOUR FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION!
This is another reminder that if you haven't done so, 2017 grad parents really need to start working on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or "FAFSA" now if you are hoping to get financial aid beyond athletic money. If you think you might qualify for academic aid, diversity based aid, geographic diversity based aid, work study, loans, need-based grants, merit awards, and so on, be sure to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible and have it sent to the appropriate colleges. Once you have submitted your FAFSA, you can go back in and make all of your changes up until March 2nd. So I suggest parents submit their FAFSA ASAP, then re-submit before March 2nd if necessary. Also, you might want to check with the colleges you're applying to or attending to see if they have any additional financial aid requirements beyond the FAFSA.
Here's a link to the FAFSA web page where all your questions will be answered! http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
NOTE 1: Canadian students need to consult the financial aid office at any colleges recruiting you because you don't apply for aid using the FAFSA.
NOTE 2: Be sure to read the Jan-Feb 2017 article entitled A Buck is a Buck and a Rose is a Rose: Financial Aid Basics for more information on financial aid and how it works.
11-15-16 THANKING THE PEOPLE WHO HELP YOU!
Here's a list of people ball players may want to thank and things you may want to be thankful for: 1) Your parents (and your whole family) - particularly if you're lucky enough to have parents who "get it"--e.g., they know YOU are the one who will be recruited and have to play in college, thus you are the one who has to want it. But they also know it's their job to support you, encourage you, and protect you while at the same time giving you the room you need to grow and learn. 2) Your coaches - again, particularly if you're lucky enough to have coaches who see the big picture. Like your parents, they know it's their job to teach you, help you get better as a player, educate you about the college search, and provide you with great competitive opportunities. But they also know they need to help you find the school and team that are truly the best fit for you as a student-athlete....regardless of whether the school is a big name, ranked Div. I or a small, growing, unknown (to them) Div. III college. 3) Your teammates - once more, particularly if you get to play with other young athletes who have the same level of commitment and dedication as you do. If you're on a team where the players are smart enough to put their egos aside while you're all on the field, you're also very lucky. As the old saying goes, "There's no I in team!" You are responsible only for your own accomplishments, but hopefully, you can all revel in the success of both other individuals and the team as a group!
Mom and Dad too should be thankful that they have a daughter who is healthy enough to play sports and who understands the value of hard work. Enjoy this time, but don't push it. If she decides softball is no longer fun, she'll still be part of your family, still love you, and still have a future. But the time will come when she has to put down her bat and glove for the things of adulthood. So be supportive and helpful now and revel in these days you share together.
So as Thanksgiving approaches, make it a point to say, "Thanks!" to all those people who are a big part of your softball experience!
12-1-16 MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR HOLIDAYS! The holiday season--while promising excitement and fun (and for the few who believe TV ads, a new car!)--can be a stressful time. But most of you will have the opportunity to take a break from softball, and this is a GOOD THING! Even if your team works out or practices between December and January, make sure you take a week or two to rest and relax. Allow both your mind and body some time off from sports. It will do you a world of good.
But by the same token, you can (and should) be using this time productively. There's a lot you can do to move your college search forward, and you won't necessarily have to give up your fun time to do it.
SENIORS: If you've committed, Yay! The only work you have to do is whatever your teachers told you must be done between Dec. 15 and Jan. 5!
If you haven't committed, but you're on final approach, just be sure you are doing whatever needs to be done to ensure admittance to and recruitment by your chosen college. Check with the coach before the break to see if everything is on track for your to finalize the process.
If you haven't committed and you're sort of floundering, here's a couple of suggestions: 1) Lower your athletic expectations. If you're waiting for a big name D-I college to recruit you, you're probably out of luck. 2) Instead of sitting around bemoaning your fate, identify some competitive Div. II, NAIA and D-III teams and PHONE the coaches at those schools to see if they're still recruiting. You will probably get voice mail, but you an leave a detailed message saying who you are, how to reach you and that you're very interested in their program...if they are still looking! 3) Follow up these calls with an email that includes your academic and athletic resume and your video link. 4) Follow up the first call and email in early January with another phone call to make sure they got your information. I know this is a challenge for a lot of players...and it will indeed help you determine how serious you are about playing. But if you call 30 or 40 or 50 colleges, I bet you'll find someone who's still in the market for a great player like you!
JUNIORS: If you've committed, Yay! But since most of you won't have committed, here's what I suggest you do.
If you've got your video and a first round of test scores, use this time to identify the colleges you want to write (50 at least), and begin putting together your resume and letter of introduction. If you have already done this first mailing, prep for a second one later in the spring. This could be another letter or a postcard to follow up your first big mailing. Remember SNAIL MAIL is the way to start. Most coaches are inundated by emails, and every player I work with tells me that coaches often tell them how much they appreciate getting a letter...on paper...that really shows the player is interested in their college.
If you haven't taken your SAT or ACT, schedule them for the first available dates. If you haven't done your skills video and you live where the weather will permit you to shoot it now, then do it over the break! If not, plan ahead for the first available date when you can shoot it (weather permitting!) Having your video is critical to the process, so don't put it off. Same thing for your SAT and ACT.
Note: If you're really gung ho and you've sent out packets already, you might try making some follow up phone calls to the coaches at the schools you wrote. You will almost certainly get voice mail, so you probably won't have to talk to anyone. But you can leave a nice message saying who you are and reminding the coach that you sent a snail mail letter. You can say that you hope the coach has read it and that you've love to chat when they return from the break about where they are with recruiting for your grad year.
SOPHOMORES: This is a great time to look ahead to your overall recruiting game plan. If you're hoping to reach out to some Div. I coaches to make them aware of who you are and to find out if you might be considered a Div. I prospect, this is the time to identify the colleges you plan to write and to schedule your video shoot for early spring. You can also be working on your resume and letter of introduction.
If you're planning to focus your college search on a broader group of colleges--e.g., more D-II/NAIA/D-III than D-I--then consider creating a small, simple postcard that introduces you to coaches at these schools. This wouldn't need to go out until late spring when you have a summer schedule. You can add that you'll follow up with these coaches when you're a junior and when you have your skills video and your test scores.
AND REMEMBER...my book, Preparing to Play Softball at the Collegiate Level, or better still, a CSC membership will make a great gift for your sophomore or junior student-athlete!
12-18-16 HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
As 2016 draws to a close, be sure to treasure the good things in your life (whatever they may be), and hope that the not-so-good things will disappear up the chimney in a puff of smoke as your burn your family's yule log. Happy Holidays!