What is the difference between Division I, II and III schools?

There are a number of differences, but the primary difference is how many students the school has and how much funding it has for sports. The division also determines whether or not the school can award athletic scholarships. Division I and II schools can award scholarships while Division III schools cannot. However, just because a school is Division I does not insure that they have scholarship money.

There are over 250 Division I men's tennis programs and nearly 300 Division I women's tennis programs. While many Division I schools offer tennis scholarships, Ivy League schools and various other programs do not. A fully funded men's program can offer 4.5 scholarships and a fully funded women's program can offer 8. Some schools offer fewer than the maximum, and some schools may offer scholarships for their women's program but not for their men's program. Financial aid based on academic achievement and/or financial need is also available. Division II tennis programs can offer a maximum of 4.5 scholarship for their men's program and 6 for their women's. Like Division I programs, not all Division II schools offer scholarships. Financial aid based on academic achievement and/or financial need is also available. Division III is the largest of the NCAA divisions, with nearly 300 men's programs and over 300 women's programs. There are no athletic scholarships available, but financial aid based on academic achievement and/or financial need is available.

What is the NAIA and NJCAA?

In addition to the NCAA there are hundreds of institution in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

Which schools offer tennis scholarship?

NCAA Division I and Division II schools can offer tennis scholarships. While many Division I schools offer tennis scholarships, Ivy League schools and various other programs do not. A fully funded Division I men's program can offer 4.5 scholarships and a fully funded women's program can offer 8. A fully funder Division II men's program can also offer a maximum of 4.5 scholarships while a fully funded Division II women's program can offer a maximum of 6 scholarships. Some schools offer fewer than the maximum, and some schools may offer scholarships for their women's program but not for their men's program. NAIA schools also offer scholarships. Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Financial aid based on academic achievement and/or financial need is available to qualified student/athletes at schools not offering tennis scholarships.

What is an official visit?

An official visit is a prospective student-athlete's visit to a college campus paid for by the college. The college can pay for transportation to and from the college, room and meals (three per day) while visiting and reasonable entertainment expenses, including three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest. Prospective student-athlete's are allowed to take up to five official visits at Division I and Division II schools. There is no restriction on the number of official visits at Division III schools, although D III schools don't often have the budgets to pay for travel expenses.

What is an unofficial visit?

An unofficial visit is any visit by a prospective student-athlete and their parents to a college campus paid for by the prospective student athlete or the prospect's parents. The only expense the prospective student-athlete can receive from the college is three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest. The prospect may make as many visits as he or she likes and may take the visits at any time. The only time the prospective student-athlete cannot talk with a coach during an unofficial visit is during a dead period.

What is a dead period?

A dead period is a designated time in the recruiting calendar when the college coach may not have any in-person contact with the prospective student-athlete or the prospect's parents at any time. The coach may write and telephone during this time. In tennis the dead period is twice a year for a 4 day period during the early signing week in November and the regular signing week in April.

How and when do I set up official visits?

Often recruits think that they need to wait for the coach to extend an official visit, but recruits can ask the coach directly for one. Once you have your list narrowed down (by the summer before your senior fall), you will need to request an official visit if the coach has not already offered one. We recommend that by middle of August you have all of your official visits set up for the fall. The earlier in the fall you can take official visits the better, as you may gain an advantage by telling a coach that you're ready to commit before other recruits do.

Will I be practicing with the team or playing as part of my visit?

Except for Division 2 schools it's against NCAA rules for a recruit to practice with the team if the coach is present. In some cases a coach may want a recruit to work out with someone on the team outside of practice hours (they cannot watch, however). The best advice is to ask the coach before your visit whether you should bring your tennis gear.

What questions do I need to ask myself after I visit a school to determine if the school is a good fit?

1. If I were unable to play tennis because of an injury would I be happy at the school? 2. Do the coaches and players seem to genuinely care about each other? 3. What are my chances of being a starter as a freshman and thereafter? 4. Will I be successful academically at this school? 5. Will I fit in with the rest of the student body at this particular school? 6. If the coach were to leave the school would I still be happy with the program and the school?

I sent an introductory e-mail to the coach and he/she has not responded, does that mean they are not interested?

No. It can depend on the time of year and the coach's style. Some coaches are very quick to respond to recruits, others may take longer to return a call or e-mail, while some don't reply at all. This should not be seen as an indicator of their level of interest, especially if your list of schools is appropriate. Don't give up on a school because you don't hear back right away, but rather continue to be persistent.

I'm getting e-mails from schools that I'm really not interested in, how should I handle this?

Early on in the process it's important to keep an open mind until you learn more about particular schools. If you know for sure that you are not interested in a school you should respond to the coach (and not just ignore the e-mail) saying that their school does not fit your criteria and you do not plan to pursue it. If you receive a mass mailing letter there is no need to respond to that coach if you are not interested in their schools. Throughout the recruiting process it's important to be prompt at communicating with coaches, and that also goes for being courteous to the coaches at school's you're not interested in.

How important is it for me to make a video?

Ideally a coach will want to see you play a live match. This can happen either at select tournaments (usually national events) or at the College Prospects Showcase. If a coach is not able to see you live the next best thing is to see you play on video. If you make your own video make sure it's mostly point play (a practice match is fine) where the coach can see the whole court or as much of the court as possible. (See "Tips for Making an Effective Video" in this guide)

Are Division I programs stronger than Division II or III programs?

Just because a team is Division I does not necessarily mean that they are stronger than all Division II or III teams. DTS can provide you with the necessary information to determine the strength of certain teams. There can be differences between the divisions in the length of the fall and spring seasons and the overall amount of time that players train each week.

What is an early read?

Most schools that are recruiting you will be able to give you an "early read". Once you have narrowed your list down to the schools you are most interested in, you can ask the coach for an early read. The coach will take your transcript and standardized test scores into the admissions office and ask them to assess whether you would be a viable candidate to be accepted. The early read is by no means a guarantee of acceptance but can give you a sense of what the outcome is likely to be.

When should I start working on my college applications?

You can start working on your applications as early as you would like. We highly recommend that you start the application no later that the summer after junior year and if possible have your college essay finished before senior year starts.

What is the common application and is it used at all schools?

The Common Application allows you to fill out one application (in theory) and submit it to multiple schools. Instead of filling out a separate application form for each school, you fill out the Common Application, pay a fee for each school, and then submit it. The Common App system automatically makes sure that the application form gets to each school you want to apply to. This also includes the School Report your counselor fills out, your teacher evaluations, and the midyear report some schools require. This greatly cuts down on the amount of stress and paperwork a student has to keep up with. The only thing you have to send under separate cover is the transcript. Some schools have supplements that you have to fill out. These are usually one or two pages of extra questions that are not on the Common App, but that these individual schools want to know. Sometimes these supplements require an extra essay or recommendation.

Not all schools use the Common App. There are 456 Common Application members in 46 states. For the list of schools that accept the Common Application and to review the application form please go to https://www.commonapp.org.

Is it important for me to continue playing tournaments once I've been accepted to college?

We recognize that you have put a lot of time and energy into your junior tennis career and may want to take a break from tournament play. While it's OK to perhaps play a fewer tournament than before, we would not advise you to stop playing tournaments altogether. Coaches want you to be prepared for when you enter your freshman fall and there is no better way to be prepared than to continue to play tournaments.

What's the role of my personal coach in the recruiting process?

It may be appropriate for your private coach to call a college coach on your behalf. This would typically happen later in the process once you've narrowed your list down considerably.

What's the best way of telling a coach whose school you've been seriously considering that you will be committing elsewhere?

We recommend that you do this via a phone call although e-mailing a coach who did not make much effort in recruiting you is fine. Be courteous and thankful for their interest in you. If there were very specific reasons you did not choose their school you should outline those (such as the school is smaller than you want, you feel the other school better matches your academic areas of focus, etc). If you don't want to go into too much detail a good general response is to say that this was a difficult decision since you really did like their school. But overall you felt that another school (it's fine to mention the actual school you've committed to) was an overall better fit for you.

When I get a commitment from a coach at a Division 3 school will I get something in writing prior to applying saying that I will be accepted?

No, you will need to wait to get your acceptance letter just like any other student applying to that school. In most cases, however, the coach will have "cleared" you through the admissions office, meaning that you've effectively been accepted. Most Division 3 coaches are not permitted to give a guarantee of acceptance in writing prior to official notification from the admissions office. On rare occasions, a positive early read from the coach does not result in an acceptance. While this is quite rare, it has happened.

What is the National Letter of Intent (NLI)?

The national letter of intent is a letter that you sign to commit to an institution for an academic year in return for an athletic scholarship. It marks the end of the recruiting process and prevents other schools from contacting you. The early signing period is in November and the regular signing period starts in April and ends in August. 620 Division I and Division II institutions participate in the NLI program. For more information about the NLI you can go to their web site at http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/nli/nli.

When will I know what college I'll be attending?

While this can vary dramatically many commitments happen in the early part of the fall of the senior year, with October being the heaviest month for commitments. On the extreme side you will see a handful of commitments as early as the winter or spring of the player's junior year and some commitments as late as the spring of the player's senior year. The best approach is to start the process early and do some unofficial visits during the junior year so that you're prepared should you be highly interested in a school and get an early offer from that coach.

I'd like to have one more year to improve my tennis (and/or academics) to be able to consider better college teams. Can I do that?

In 2012 the NCAA changed the rule that allowed players to take an extra year between the end of high school and the start of college. The one year grace period was reduced to 6-months for those considering Division I schools. In order to avoid losing a year of eligibility at the start of a player's college career they would need to start school in January of the year after high school graduation, or refrain from organized competition between January 1 and the start of school in September. Players planning to attend a Division II, Division III or NAIA school are permitted to take a year between the end of high school and the start of college. For further information click here to the see the DTS article on this subject: http://www.donovantennis.com/features/20120316.php

What are the rules for transferring to another school?

A one-time transfer between four year colleges is permitted. The player does not need to sit out a year. Before a player is permitted to speak with coaches at other schools they need to have a signed release from their current school. This release can be obtained in the Athletics office and needs to be signed by the coach and the athletic director. Coaches at other schools will need to have the release in hand before speaking to the player.