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7/26/22 blog post

are you ready for college? a student athlete's preparation checklist

By: Dr. Tiffany Ofili Porter

From the moment you enter high school, the preparation for college begins and it's important to keep in mind that your choices and actions can affect your future. This knowledge should not be intimidating, but rather empowering when you have the information and tools in place to position yourself for your life in college. 

Whether you're a highly sought after recruited student athlete, or a student athlete hoping to walk on to a college sports team, I have prepared a checklist to help make the transition to college sports possible and seamless. 

You will need to register for a certification account with the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly NCAA Clearinghouse)

You will be able to partner with your school counselor for assistance, and after creating an account they will submit your transcript to the Center via the high school portal. In addition to the transcript, you can have your ACT/SAT scores sent directly by listing the Eligibility Center as a score recipient at the time of test registration.  

There are both academic and amateurism requirements that must be met, and this is the case for athletes who will be competing at either the division 1 or 2 college level. Maintaining your grades as high as possible will give you more opportunities to compete at your dream school by keeping more options open. 

Often times the NCAA Eligibility Center certification is a quick & easy process, but is still an important step to ensure you're eligible to compete in college. 

You will need to choose the right school that fits your specific needs

Every college-bound student is different, and there is no one size fits all approach to figuring out which school you should attend. 

  • If money is a factor, like it is for many people, you may be limited by the colleges that are offering you scholarships and/or financial aid. 
  • If you're more focused on academics than sports, you may be okay choosing a college with higher academic standards compared to their sports program(s). It's also important to consider your specific desired major and whether the school offers that program as an option, and if so, if it's up to your standards/expectations. 
  • If you're very family oriented and suffer from homesickness, you may want to choose a college that is closer to home. 
  • If your primary focus is going pro after college, you may want to choose a program where the philosophy of the coaching staff aligns with your goals.
  • If you play a team sport where the caliber of the team can directly impact your exposure or opportunities, you may want to focus on the team dynamic and culture. Conversely, in individual sports like track, swimming, or gymnastics, your teammates may have less of a bearing on your ultimate decision.  

Keeping all of this in mind and evaluating what's most important to you, will allow you to make a balanced decision on what's the best fit for you as a student and an athlete. 

You will need to take a visit to the college that you plan to attend

Choosing a college is a huge life decision, and making the right choice can greatly affect your experience. Even if you've done extensive research on different universities (which I recommend), it is important to physically visit the school to get a feel for the environment. Athletes are allowed five official paid visits (for division 1 and unlimited for division 2 & 3), and unlimited unofficial visits; I recommend taking advantage of these allowances if possible.

During the visit, you will be able to get a good overall feel for the school by checking out facilities, touring the campus, and meeting the coaches and current athletes. 

Now I am not saying that you must visit a college that you have absolutely no interest in, but keeping an open mind and getting a sense of different programs will not only help answer questions, but give you a peace of mind once you make a final decision. 

Using summer camps or showcases can be a useful tool to show college coaches your capabilities, and to gain an understanding of different programs 

The benefits of attending summer camps are:

  1. You will have an ability to play/compete in front of coaches of schools you may be interested in, allowing them to assess you first-hand. This will enable you to not only showcase your sports ability, but also intangibles like character, and work ethic.
  2. You will gain experience, skill development, exposure to other top athletes, and first hand insight to what college level sports looks like.
  3. You will have the ability to network with coaches, fellow recruited athletes, prospective teammates, and other personnel associated with the program. 
  4. You will have access to different coaching philosophies, helpful tips, and an increased awareness of college athlete expectations. 

Preparing a highlight tape or athletic resume may be useful to aid in the recruitment process

In the very competitive climate of college recruiting, it can be helpful to be proactive in ensuring coaches are aware of your talent and abilities. Yes, there will be some athletes that are so good that coaches are lined up at their door, but for others, putting yourself on a coach's radar may be a critical step to open up the lines of communication. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, having a highlight of your achievements ready to share won't hurt. 

For an athletic resume, you should list your academic record, sports stats beginning from ninth grade to present, and basic student information. This can double as your "letter of interest" that many people can begin sending out as early as their sophomore or junior years of high school. 

Similarly, a highlight video should include actual footage of your athletic ability with the best clips displayed first. This video should be short (about 3-5 minutes), and should showcase you using different skills, positions, or events depending on your sport. Ensure the video is high quality, and provide sport specific information like height, weight, wingspan, name, graduation year, position/event etc. 

Once the athletic resume and highlight video are completed, don't be shy about gathering the contact information of different coaches, and sharing them regularly. 

Going from high school to college sports can be overwhelming, but paying attention to these factors can help make the transition seamless and even enjoyable. Utilizing this checklist to ensure you're positioning yourself to play college sports will lesson the burden that student athletes often feel as they are preparing for the unknown. 

Good luck with this transitional period, and I hope you feel supported and empowered as you walk into this new chapter!

Meet the author:

Dr. Tiffany Ofili Porter is a Michigan native and currently works as a pharmacist, digital content creator, and sports broadcaster. She is a former world class Olympic hurdler and ran track professionally for 12 years. During that time, Tiffany competed in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Olympic Games, earned four world championship medals, currently holds the British National record in the 60 meter hurdles, and formerly in the 100 meter hurdles. She was also European Champion, Commonwealth Games silver medalist, Continental Cup silver medalist, World Junior Championship silver medalist, and earned several European medals during her tenure.

Tiffany graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012 where she earned her Doctorate of Pharmacy. During her time at U of M she was a five-time NCAA champion, team captain, school record holder, Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient, Academic All-American, Vice President of SNPhA, and a member of the pharmacy school Leadership Scholars Program. In 2014 Tiffany was inducted into the University of Michigan Track and Field Hall of Fame. To learn more about Tiffany & follow her journey, please visit:

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