Choosing a Pathway
What do I need to know about myself in order to choose a college that will be right for me?
Following are lists of academic, tennis and general criteria to consider in the college selection process, as well as a breakdown of the different NCAA divisions and other levels of play on offer. Only you can determine how important each criterion is to your ultimate choice. These questions will help you evaluate what is and isn’t important to you in the selection of a college. Remember, not only should the school you select be compatible with your interests and goals but also with your abilities.
- Do I want a rigorous academic environment? Will I meet the entrance requirements and be able to balance the academic workload with my athletic commitments?
- How strong are the programs in my fields of interest?
- Is summer school available?
- Are there academic support programs specifically for athletes and for the general student population?
- In what size college will I flourish? Under 6,000 students? 6,000-15,000? Over 15,000?
- Is the student/teacher ratio acceptable?
- Can my family afford this college or university? If not, does it give financial aid, or will I qualify for other sources of financial aid or scholarships?
- Would I have the opportunity to develop as a tennis player?
- Where would I likely be in the team lineup, and how much would I get to play?
- What is the coach’s background, reputation and teaching philosophy?
- Are the coach and assistant coach people I could see myself developing with as a player and person over the next four years?
- Would I still want to attend this school if the tennis coach (or assistant coach) were to leave during my time there?
- Is the coach supportive of the academic needs of team players?
- What are the current players on the team like, and would I be compatible with them?
- What is the in-season practice schedule – both frequency and length?
- What are the off-season practice requirements?
- What is the overall quality of the tennis facilities? Indoor and outdoor courts? How many?
- Is there a strength and conditioning program?
- Does the athletic department provide sports psychology and nutritional counseling services?
Campus Life Criteria
- Do I have a preference regarding where the school is geographically – north, south, east or west?
- Is climate a factor in my decision?
- Do I want to attend college in a big city, small city, college town or rural area?
- Do I prefer to be within a short commuting distance of home? Or is distance from home not a factor in my decision?
- How important are other campus activities to me, for example, fraternities, sororities, clubs, concerts, movies, dances, etc., and does this college or university provide them?
- Do I see myself fitting into the general student body?
- What do I want for living accommodations? Dorms or off-campus? Private or community bathrooms?
- What is the distance from my housing to classes and the tennis facilities? Quality of food?
Which Division is Right for Me?
- While each division has its own unique characteristics, one common theme emerged from conversations with all of the coaches: focus on the school itself more than the division. Factors like campus size and location, and the emphasis on academics vs. athletics at particular schools should be top of mind. There is also a lot of variance within each division; for example, it’s not uncommon for a top Division III school to compete with a weaker Division I school.
- Generally, Division I stands out for its talent depth, with a consistently high level throughout the lineup, from No. 1 to No. 6. There is also more opportunity to improve at this level, as a longer season allows athletes more time to play and practice. Scholarships are available at the DI level, and for elite players, there may be an opportunity to travel to ITF events with coaches.
- Division II, at large, provides more of a mix of academics and athletics, while also providing scholarships.
- The Division III level, on the whole, allows more of a focus on academics and internships. While no athletic scholarships are permitted, academic and need-based scholarships are common.
- There are also opportunities to play at the Junior College and NAIA levels, where eligibility and other requirements are more relaxed—though the competition remains intense.
For more information, visit the USTA College Tennis homepage.