It can be painful and confusing to sift through national rankings, lofty promises from college coaches, and the first-class treatment you get on official visits to determine which university is the “right” one. Not to mention the jealousy that can pop up when teammates and competitors start committing, making the entire college recruiting process feel like a reputation race. Despite the emotional ups and downs that are part of this process, it’s critical to keep in mind the reasons why you’re going to college: What do you want to get out of your college experience? What kind of future are you trying to create?
These can be difficult questions to answer. And while your collegiate soccer career is important, it’s not the only factor to consider. When evaluating which college program meets your athletic and academic goals, it’s also essential to think about what you want from life after college. Try these four simple steps to help you make decisions that your future self with thank you for:
1. What’s your passion?
Consider what makes you feel happy, fulfilled and successful. Think about the activities you enjoy – what do these hobbies have in common? For example, do they all involve creative thinking of some kind? Are they all hands-on? Do you prefer collaborating with others or going solo? These questions, and similar ones on educationplanner.org can help you connect your interests to possible career paths. If you’re unsure about a career path (and many people are, which is normal and ok!), reflect on the lifestyle you desire. Do you want to travel for work? Do you prefer a set schedule (think 9-5) or flexible hours? How much money are you interested in earning? Where do you want to live?
2. Get your foot in the door
Now that you have an idea of what careers excite you, the next step is figuring out how to get there. Do the potential career paths you’ve identified require an internship? Do they partner closely with certain universities? Where did the big names in your chosen field attend school? Figure out how to create opportunities for networking and getting your foot in the door. Use sites like LinkedIn to do your research and determine what can help you get there.
3. Choose the right degree
What degrees do those in your chosen field hold? Which schools are known for these programs? Which schools have top-tier professors? Do some research to figure out what percentage of the school’s senior class graduates with job offers. And be sure to check out the rate of alumni that’s admitted to post-graduate programs if an MD, MBA or other degree will be required for your chosen career.
4. Decide what’s most important to you
Reflect carefully on the work/life/soccer balance you will have on campus while pursuing the degree(s) you’ve chosen. Will the required courses be manageable with a full-time D1 program or would a limited spring season better serve you? Are you ok missing tailgates and spring breaks for soccer, or to make up course credits? If studying abroad is important to you, check to see what courses are offered abroad and if the soccer program encourages or dissuades athletes from participating. If your major will require labs, are they offered in or out of season? Consider a university offering a January term or Maymester a bonus, since that’s when soccer commitments lighten up and your load is easier. Make sure you have time to actually enjoy college and not feel like you’re constantly running from one commitment to another.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.