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When Is the Right Time to Ask About Athletic Scholarships?

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If ever there is a time when a scholarship offer might be forthcoming, it is during a face-to-face meeting with the coach. This could occur during an unofficial visit or an official visit.

You’ve begun the recruiting process, and things are humming right along. You’re working your target list of schools and reaching out to coaches.

You’ve had some contact, and some conversations have seemed promising. It’s time, you think, to take this to the next level. You want to bring up the subject of an athletic scholarship, but should you? It depends.

There are several factors to consider before diving into “scholarship talk” with a coach. I talked to NCSA Vice President of Recruiting April Hall and Recruiting Coach Ray Napientek, both former college coaches, about scholarship etiquette.

IS IT EVER OK TO ASK ABOUT SCHOLARSHIP VIA INTRODUCTORY EMAIL, TEXT OR DM?

The early stage of the recruiting process is the “getting to know you” phase, so it’s not advisable for athletes to ask about scholarships in the first few emails, texts or DMs.

“I’ve actually received introductory emails from student-athletes that read, ‘Hey coach, I’m looking for a scholarship,’ ” Napientek recalls. “I’m thinking, ‘Do you even know anything about my program, or about me?’ I will look at this recruit, but they’d better be very special.”

Even an email that manages to broach the subject with a little more finesse (“I’m so-and-so, and I’m looking for a baseball scholarship”) is ill advised, Napientek adds. “Coaches know athletes want a scholarship. I came from a family that needed as much money as possible to help pay for college, but that’s just not what you lead with. Even if communications have progressed to include conversations and follow-up emails, texts or DMs, the scholarship talk is best held over the phone or in person.”

PHONE CALLS: KEEP THOSE QUESTIONS ON HOLD FOR A LITTLE WHILE

A phone call is a more personal form of communication than an email or other forms of electronic contact, but still, recruits are advised to keep their scholarship queries or demands in check.

“The first couple of phone calls are where you get a feel for the coach and where they’re at in the recruiting process,” Napientek said. “If the coach indicates they are thinking about making an offer, that’s obviously a great opportunity to talk about scholarships. It’s fine to ask if they have any roster spots available or do you have scholarship money available? That gives the student-athlete an idea of what the coach has without asking outright, ‘Are you going to offer me a scholarship?’ ”

TOURNAMENTS: JUST LET ME GET TO MY CAR

Tournaments and showcases might seem to be a golden opportunity to talk scholarships. After all, here’s the family, there’s the coach. But, honestly, the timing here couldn’t be worse. Consider the coach at an AAU baseball tournament, for example.

“They have just spent eight hours watching recruits, and now they’re trying to get to their car and collect their thoughts, but now they’ve got parents waving them over wanting an answer on scholarships,” he explains. “It’s not the time or place.”

FACE-TO-FACE: NOW WE’RE TALKING!

If ever there is a time when a scholarship offer might be forthcoming, it is during a face-to-face meeting with the coach. This could occur during an unofficial visit or an official visit.

Hall notes, “If the school is setting up an official visit, that’s a pretty serious indicator of high-level interest. Most coaches would not pay for a student-athlete to visit their campus if they didn’t have the intention of making a scholarship offer.”

“If the student-athlete and the coach haven’t talked on the phone much, then coming out and asking if scholarships will be available is completely taboo,” Hall emphasizes. “If they’ve built an awesome rapport, then it would be appropriate to ask the coach questions about where the coach sees the student-athlete fitting into their program, how they measure up to other recruits in that class and what their recruiting timeline is. The student-athlete can justify these questions as an expression of how very interested they are in the program and excited about the opportunity to be offered.”

But hold on, Hall cautions. “The coach could be waiting to make a decision on the recruit to see how the visit goes, so they could be shooting themselves in the foot if they just come out and ask about money. A good rule of thumb is to not just straight up ask. Ask the specific questions about roster availability and the coach’s timelines to get a feel where the coach is at. If those questions go well, ask if there would be any financial assistance available for that roster opening.”

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