College placement program tips

The International Development Academy has a mission to help international student-athletes find the most appropriate academic and athletic fit for their college search.  This is a major life decision that a young person will have to navigate and it is important that they are diligent in the process and use every tool that they can, in order to make the most educated and informed decision possible.


Colleges are looking to ascertain 3 major items as they evaluate you as a viable student-athlete;


  • Are you “smart enough” to be a successful student in their institution?

  • Are you “good enough” to be a contributing member of the sports team that you are interested in, for that particular incoming class and team?

  • Are you “genuinely interested” in attending their institution?  Why do you want to be there over every other student-athlete in the world or is your application just part of a general blast to see if there any takers?


The first step is understanding that this is your own, individual process.  You have your own wonts and desires, and you are unique, so start by figuring out exactly why you want to go to college in the US and what you want from the experience, short, medium and long term.  This will require you to reflect, and really, really think about the factors that are important to you and your family and start to write these down so you can formulate a clear and concise plan of attack.   Like a US student-athlete who is investigating the college placement process, an international student needs to research and plan thoroughly.


Some of the challenges that an international student will face:

  • Proximity – you will not be able to go and physically visit a campus as readily as a domestic student.  For a student-athlete, it will be significantly more important to produce a high quality highlight reel that can be easily sent to interested coaches.

  • Finance – whilst there are still many opportunities for an international student to apply for aid, there is no support from the US Federal Government and very few schools will offer aid so you need to research your options a lot more thoroughly.

  • English Language – if English is not your primary language, you will have to go take a test for English as a foreign language.  Different schools will have different requirements here so again you will need to research.

  • Visa – you will need to apply for a visa to study in the US and this will require you to be very organized and aware of all deadlines as it can be an arduous process.


Below are some key stages and steps in working through the college placement process effectively and efficiently.


  1. Navigating the Admissions process


It is important to understand that schools will be evaluating a number of areas as they try to ascertain if you will be a successful candidate in their admissions process.  Some factors to keep in mind:


  • Grades in all courses

  • Curriculum strength

  • SAT/ACT Test scores

  • GPA

  • Essay or writing sample

  • Counselor/Teacher recommendation

  • Class rank

  • Extracurricular activities

  • Interview


Building a strong relationship with the admissions office personnel and the coaching personnel will be vital for you to understand what, specifically, they are prioritizing in their own admissions process.  Basically, they want to be sure that you will be able to cope academically, contribute meaningfully in your sports team, and be a good citizen in a more general sense for their institution.  So being organized, punctual, persistent and professional in all communication is very important whether it be an email, a phone call or an in-person visit.


  1. How are you different?


You will be competing with student-athletes from around the world, so it is critical that you can find ways to separate yourself from the pack.  What is your hook?  Ideally you have more than one. 


  • Athletics

  • Arts

  • Community Service

  • Leadership

  • What is your X factor?


Being organized and professional during the recruitment process can be a powerful way to help you separate.  ‘Teenageitis” is a common problem, with a lot of student-athletes procrastinating or lacking the drive and initiative to manage the necessary steps professionally.  Be on the front foot, ask questions if you get stuck, be prepared and do your homework on the school and show that you “genuinely” care about attending that particular school.  It will help you to stand out enormously.

  1. How to begin


Remember that you are embarking on a 40yr journey – not a 4yr one!  It is important to understand that this is a personal process – it doesn’t matter what the Jones’ are doing!!  You need to sit down as a family, work through the important factors to you, and start to build a list based on all of these factors.  There will be a number of search engines that will help you to work through schools that may be a match for what you are looking for.   Once you have built your initial list, the fun begins and you need to start doing your due diligence to dig deeper into these institutions and start to group them on top, middle and bottom. 


Some factors to consider when building your list:


  • Major

  • Academic strength of school

  • School size

  • Class size

  • Location

  • Cost

  • Sports program – strength of conference, coach, off-season, academic support in season

  • Playing time – be realistic and reflect on this honestly.


Be careful when building your list that you don’t limit yourself to too narrow a range.  International students can sometimes get blinded by big name institutions, so it is important to really do your homework on schools that fit your needs.


  1. The Recruiting process


Understanding that it is a process, and will require organization and persistence is the start point.  Typically, you should be thinking about getting organized at the start of your sophomore year.  You can review the communication guidelines with college coaches on the NCAA website by visiting the Eligibility Center link.  This will clarify what you can and cannot do with regards communicating with college coaches. 


After you have created an initial list, you will want to prepare a cover letter that shows you are smart enough, good enough and interested enough to attend that particular school.  Each letter must be personalized for that particular school – so no blanket emails.  You will also need to prepare a player profile that has some key information such as graduating year, photo, key successes to date and contact information.  You should also plan to submit recruiting questionnaires for each particular institution as necessary. 


Once you have your collateral prepared, you can then start to begin the communication process.  All of this is designed for them to realize that you are “genuinely” interested in their school, that you have the educational profile to make it through the admissions process, and that at least on paper, you seem to be good enough to make their team.  They will want to verify the latter so having them watch you live will become important.  Communicating effectively on league games, upcoming tournaments or college ID clinics or camps will be a vital component in being seen.  If you feel that there may be schools on your list that will not be able to see you live, then producing a professional video will be important.


Be proactive and positive in these interactions.  College coaches can be slow to respond, so never take “slow as a no”.  Get them to see you play, get them to provide clear feedback on how they evaluated you, and then you can make a better decision as to whether the school should still remain in your list or not.  This can be difficult and you may have to read between the lines at times, or ask for outside help from your club coach or HS coach to get more detailed information on where you stand on any particular college depth chart.


Believe in yourself, and push for clarity.  It will help you make a better decision in the long run.


  1. Is there a timeline?


Starting early is never a bad idea.  But there will be a buildup of things that need to be done as you work through your HS career.  Some of the basics that will be required for each HS year are below:


9th Grade:

  • Focus on grades

  • Map out a 4yr course progression

  • Start getting involved in extracurricular activities


10th grade:

  • Continue to focus on improving grades

  • Build relationships with teachers, counselors, coaches as support.

  • PSAT and subject tests

  • Start to Build your college list

  • Create player profile and cover letter

  • Start to create a playing video


11th grade:

  • Full focus on grades and best results possible – be accountable.

  • Full research on college search

  • Communicate and follow up with college coaches

  • SAT/ACT testing

  • Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center for D1 and D2 schools

  • Finalize playing video

  • Look at taking an official visit



12th grade:

  • Finalize your list

  • Continued focus on grades

  • Verify eligibility status with NCAA

  • Make a final decision



  1. Eligibility


In order to be eligible for NCAA D1 and D2 play, you will need to register via the NCAA Eligibility center to verify academic eligibility and also amateur status.  This should be done around the month of July after Junior year and costs about $90 for domestic players and $150 internationally.


  1. Financial Aid


The key to being successful in fully understanding what financial support might be available to you is research, research, research.  Be prepared to ask questions of the Admissions office, the coach and the financial aid departments in order to have a full picture of what might fit for your family.  Affordability is what you are looking for – being able to get the best education for what you want without burdening yourself or your family with an unreasonable amount of debt.


Athletic scholarships are very tough to get and differ for men and women and across the different college organizations.  For example, NCAA D3 schools offer no athletic scholarships. 


There will be no financial aid from the Federal government for international students so research online what might be available for your particular country.  There may be merit aid scholarships and private scholarships or grants that could be applicable to you – but you won’t know unless you really look.


International Development Academy is set up to be able to support international student-athletes and their families, through each of these steps and stages.  We are built to support our families as they negotiate this process and assist in ensuring that there is a successful outcome for each of our student-athletes.


International Development Academy helps international student-athletes and their families in finding the right pathways towards collegiate and professional soccer.


For more information on the International Development Academy, please contact