Back to School Juniors to Face Tough Lesson or Fail -- Competition in High School Sports Means Scholarships Challenging

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High school juniors need to start thinking about college sports scholarships now. By senior year the places will be gone. The recruitment game is faster than ever due to increased international competition and many students applying for the same schools is making landing a spot tougher than ever. What should they do? Tips included for athletes and families returning to school.

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For thousands of high school athletes around the country, junior year just got a lot more stressful and a lot more work. According to new information from national scholarship consulting firm Scholarships for Athletes, competition for scholarship places is now so competitive that if athletes don't start the search process in their junior year they could be outplayed and out of luck when it comes to playing their sport at the college of their choice.

"We're seeing an unbelievable level of athletic skill coming out of high schools today," says Ross Greenstein, president, Scholarship for Athletes. "The level of competition is really high. But while kids are more committed to their sport, train harder and play better than ever, they unfortunately don't have the same kind of commitment and resources when it comes to the school selection process."

According to 2007 SFA data, there are two main reasons why returning juniors need to get organized and start planning school selection now. Firstly, a marked rise in international candidates seeking to further their sports careers in the United States is driving increased competition. International students make up around 25 percent of the college athletes and that number is rising every year. Secondly, too many high school athletes are applying for too few places at the big name, well-known colleges. Both factors increase the competitive level for candidates and athletes are starting earlier than ever to seek the attention and recognition of the college coaches making the decisions.

"It's just like consumer retail," says Greenstein. "People trust established brands, follow trends and will do anything to get the latest must have item. It's the same with schools. We're seeing a lot of applicants from overseas, which is terrific for the level of US college sports but does increase competition. Kids also need to broaden their search away from just the top division 1 schools and programs they have seen on TV. There are more than 1,200 NCAA schools total and 500 junior colleges and NAIA schools. There is a lot of scholarship money out there."

The real issue is lack of education, according to Greenstein. SFA data shows that as high as 90 percent of high school athletes still rely heavily on their high school coach or club/academy coach for connections with college programs. Due to the lack of education being provided to the student athletes and their parents out of more than 1,700 colleges in the United States many scholarship applicants seek placements in only the schools with big name reputations. Athletes need to understand the differences in schools and their athletic programs, determine what their market value is, and make every effort to distinguish themselves as early as possible.

"Juniors need to start differentiating themselves now," says Greenstein. "By next year the majority of those scholarships will be gone."

SCHOLARSHIP TIPS FOR ATHLETES AND FAMILIES
o    Start early. By senior year you or your athlete should be known by college coaches
o    Determine what is important to your or your athlete: athletically, academically and socially
o    Shortlist schools based on three criteria: athletic, academic and social requirements
o    Create a well written letter of interest and send it college coaches in your or your athlete's junior year
o    Compile a DVD of tournament play,
o    You or your athlete should ask three questions: what are the differences in the schools on the short list, what is my or my athlete's market value, what am I or my athlete doing to distinguish myself or my athlete?
o    Seek external counseling help with scholarships if needed

About Scholarship for Athletes (http://www.scholarshipforathletes.com)http://www.scholarshipforathletes.com Scholarships for Athletes is a new organization dedicated to helping promising high school athletes and their families navigate the process of negotiating and securing the right college sports scholarship. Founded by Ross Greenstein, former MN High School State Tennis Champ and a Top 20 player in the United States, Scholarship for Athletes recruits and employs highly professional, highly experienced big name coaches to represent athletes interested in football, tennis, soccer and other sports. Staff and coaches work with athletes and their families to help them understand not just the sporting agenda of schools but to match their abilities, needs and desires socially and academically to the right school and athletic program. There is no other organization in the United States today that works in this way.

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Steve Gill
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