While senior year may seem like a time filled with only freedom and fun, it is overshadowed by the difficult and stressful process of applying to colleges, involving choices that have the potential to affect your entire life. However, some students begin their final year at Westminster already assured of acceptance at a college of their choosing by committing to play a sport there. Students are able to sign if a college recognizes their athletic potential and wants them to participate in collegiate sports. While signing to a college may seem like a less stressful alternative than applying to several schools, it can be a long and difficult process.
“So lacrosse recruiting starts really early,” said senior William Hudson, who committed to the College of the Holy Cross as a lacrosse goalie. “Honestly, you could argue that it starts in middle school. “
Once a person signs to a college, they will not be able to renege on their decision if they later conclude it is not the right fit academically. This is a factor that students thinking about signing must take into account. Some students decide to commit after only looking into the athletic program of a college and not considering the entire school.
“Don’t do it just to sign with a college,” said head coach of the varsity boys lacrosse team Tony Souza. “Pick the colleges that have lacrosse and are a fit for you, then see if there is any interest in you as a player.”
Despite this disadvantage, signing is still very appealing to many athletes due to the fact that they are spared having to work on many different applications, making their final year in high school less of a burden.
“Definitely the best part about signing to a college is knowing where you’re going to be and having everything over with,” said senior Charlie Trense, who committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame. “That takes a little bit of the pressure off.”
Choosing a college that is the right fit is as difficult for student athletes as it is for students seeking academic admission to a university. While regular students can look at many colleges, student athletes are only able to choose schools that are interested in their athletic talents. While this limits choice, the benefit of only needing to apply to one college outweighs the difficulty of the admission process for many students.
“I really like the academic opportunities I have there,” said senior McKenzie Parks, who hopes to attend Harvard for crew. “It’s a good size, it’s a good location, and then also there are a lot of opportunities for me there on the team.”
Students who are planning on signing to colleges are able to commit at many different times throughout high school. For example, students who commit early can be assured of their position at a college, an idea that is very comforting.
“I didn’t go very far into the process because I committed really early in November of my sophomore year,” said senior Mason Rooney, who signed to play volleyball at Davidson College. “The summer before my sophomore year I went and visited Davidson and kind of got in touch with their coaches, and they came and watched me play in some tournaments. Then when I went up and visited again in the fall, I committed.”
On the other hand, students who commit later, such as in their junior or senior years, have the advantage of being more likely to pick a college that is right for them based on experience.
“I was fortunate to commit December of my junior year,” said Hudson. “Goalies go a bit later, but anywhere from freshman to junior year is when you commit.”
Early athletic college signing undoubtedly provides a very different experience than applying for regular admission to multiple schools, offering both advantages and disadvantages. However, for those who are passionate about their sport and want to continue playing it, an athletic commitment is a great way to secure a spot at a college.
“Well you only have to apply to one college first of all which is pretty nice,” said Hudson. “The assurance that you know where you’re going, the assurance that you get to go to a school that you want to, that you feel like you fit well at home there.”
Thanks to Westminster’s strong athletics program, many students have the talent, preparation and attitude to commit athletically to a college. However, students thinking about signing to a college to play the sport they love should not only focus on athletics, but should also consider whether the school is the right fit for them academically and socially.