What I have found working with high school student-athletes, is that those who are trying to go to the states on an athletic scholarship, are only concerned about going “DI”. Going to a Division I school is a dream come true and a great accomplishment, but many are not aware of the demands and background politics that are associated with that “dream”. There are other paths athletes can take to still be successful without going DI. I was fortunate enough to go to a Division I school, but was that the best decision for me?
When I was a high school student-athlete, my coaches only talked to me about Division I schools, so I assumed that was the only route I had to take.
My body was physically exhausted due to the demands of training in hopes of attaining scholarship qualifications for certain colleges. As well as mentally exhausted, which I had to deal with alone because Sport Psychology was not as prominent ten years ago. Looking back, a majority of the trials I endured could have easily been prevented if I had the proper advice and guidance. Which is why I want to shed light on this issue to help current student-athletes understand their options.
I had the privilege of attending Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUe), a Division I College in The Ohio Valley Conference, on an athletic scholarship. One of the main reasons why I chose SIUe was because of how I felt on my unofficial visit. I was able to interact with the athletes and coaches, observe practice, explore the beautiful campus and athletic facilities. I felt a sense of “family” and that was important to me. Personally, I wanted to feel a part of something, so having that family atmosphere sold me. However, other athletes may be looking for something else such as the team’s success rate at Nationals and Conference, etc.
Even though I attended a Division I College, I was heavily considering going to a Division II College in North Carolina, Wingate University.
Please understand that there are great schools at every Division. Going DI does not mean you are superior. There are plenty of Division II schools who easily dominate other Division I schools in athletics. Additionally, there are more requirements the higher the Division. Some student-athletes do not want to engage in the serious demands that their sport can bring and choose to go Division III just to have the opportunity to participate in sport.
Taken from NCAA.org,there are 350 schools at the DI level, with 1 in 23 students being athletes, 310 schools at the DII level, with 1 in 10 students being athletes, and 438 schools at the DIII level, with 1 in 6 students being athletes. You should also be aware that there are no athletic scholarships at the DIII level! This is why majority of student-athletes attend a DI or DII institution to be given athletic aid. But with that being said, only 60% of athletes at the DII level have the opportunity of receiving partial scholarships, and 57% of athletes at the DI level have the opportunity of receiving multiyear, full or partial scholarships. Each Division also has their own eligibility requirements that must be met if you are planning on attending that given institution- you can read more about this on NCAA.org.
Do not get me wrong, it takes a lot of hard work and determination to receive an athletic scholarship at the DI level, so to the athletes who have been able to achieve that, please pat yourselves on the back and brag about yourself a bit because you deserve it. Many people do not understand how difficult it is to sit for hours and concentrate while writing your SATs. The commitment to a team to attend practices and games/competitions regularly while going to class and balancing time to study and work on assignments. The mandatory volunteer service, weekly study table hours, and other required services from the athletic department. The work ethic that is required can be exhausting at times, especially if you lack time management skills.
To my current high school student-athletes, my advice: Go to a school that makes you feel like you are at home, because I promise you will get homesick. A school that makes you feel safe, and you truly believe you can see yourself excelling in your sport with the support of a great coaching staff and even better teammates. A school that has an educational program you are passionate about because at the end of the day, you are a student first, athlete second. If that is a DIII College, great! A DII College, great! A DI College, great! Whatever is best for YOU!
Do not let the thoughts of others affect a decision that will impact you the most.