When it comes to US college recruiting and sports scholarships the first thing a student athlete usually thinks of is being admitted to a four-year college program as a student. However, there’s another, usually overlooked, path to follow which is basically taking a postgraduate year. Junior colleges provide a viable opportunity for the students who would like to keep playing sports, but are unable to commit to a four-year institution. In this article, we assess the pros and cons of being admitted into a junior college.
For international students who have started the process a little later than normal or those struggling to break through, junior college gives you a chance to continue your academic and athletic career at the college level. You can use this opportunity as a transition and after one or two years, transfer to a 4-year school and complete a degree.
Some students choose junior college because they want to mature more academically; others do so because they want an extra year to develop and compete athletically. Either way, it is a fantastic way to help make sure you are prepared to take your game and education to the next level.
Junior college can help athletes in all sports get a little more experience prior to attending a four-year school. For some athletes in certain sports, like football, ice hockey and to some extent basketball, junior college can be a necessary stepping stone to playing in the NCAA.
If you are planning on not attending college the year directly after you graduate high school, a post-graduate year is a great choice. It won’t affect your eligibility, and you can still compete at a high level while continuing to take classes and build your academic profile. It can be difficult to get recruited to play in college if you take a year off from serious athletic competition; you can buy yourself some extra time by choosing the post graduate route.
Attending junior college can increase your chances of playing at a division I school, but it will also open opportunities at schools that most international athletes have never heard of. There are hundreds, and possibly even thousands (depending on the sport), of schools that offer opportunities to student-athletes outside of the Division I level. Playing at a junior college for a few years allows athletes to learn more about the options available in the US. Getting some experience in the US will help you prepare for the division I level as well.
Junior college also stands out as a good option for athletes who don’t speak English well. To be eligible to play for an NCAA school, international students from countries where English isn’t the native language must pass the TOEFL exam. If you are unsure whether you can pass it, or if you have failed it, junior college provides an opportunity to improve your English before attending an NCAA school.
Whether you are able to get a scholarship or if you pay out of your own pocket, the costs of going to junior college are usually less than many of the scholarship offers you may get as a high school senior. Coming out of junior college with two or three full years of eligibility left and a much mature athlete will help you receive a better scholarship to a four-year college.
However, junior college shouldn’t necessarily be an athlete’s first choice when thinking about recruitment in high school; there are some negatives to trying to get recruited out of junior college. If it comes down to two athletes with equal athletic ability, one a junior college athlete and the other a high school senior, the college coach will likely choose the high school senior over the junior college transfer, because the senior has more eligibility left.
There’s another significant downside: Junior college opportunities are still competitive. Within the last few years junior colleges have increased the rules for international scholarships. Most junior colleges are now allowed to have only three international students on scholarship. This rule was implemented so junior colleges could focus on helping more local students, but considering the tuition costs at junior colleges are so much lower, an international athlete could become a preferred walk-on and still pay less in tuition than they would at many four year schools, even with a scholarship.
Looking for an opportunity to play at a junior college is similar to the process of finding an NCAA scholarship. First you have to research the schools that offer your sport. Then you must put together a profile highlighting your academic and athletic skills and achievements. Finally, you must reach out to coaches and contact them yourself; do not wait for them to contact you.
Lastly, let us remind you that by using our web site, you can search for junior colleges in our database, and get access to contact information of hundreds of coaches and consult our team of college recruiting experts.
We wish you all the best in your recruiting journey!