Choosing the Right School for YOU: Part 1

The UCSC women’s cross country team gathers just before the start.

Choosing a college is a big decision. For a high school student it’s almost surely the biggest decision you will have been faced with yet. It’s a challenging process for anyone, and now you’ve gone and made it more complicated by throwing athletics into the mix. Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.

Keep in mind the primary reason why you’re going to college. Start with a list of schools that best meet your academic needs. Other factors will then narrow your list. If you’re going to compete in college, athletics needs to be a high priority for you, but any number of variables could also figure significantly in your decision. Of course financial realities always need to be taken into account.

You’ll need to decide which other factors are important to you. Here are a few key athletic considerations. These might not be what you think is most important, but this list is based on input from those who have the benefit of hindsight. Former college runners at all levels, looking back on their college careers, point to these factors as being key contributors to the quality of their student-athlete experiences.

1. How you fit into the team

What’s the team culture? Are you a good fit socially? Academically? Athletically? Will you make the team? Will you be able to contribute right away? Will you be challenged?

2. Coach’s approach or philosophy

Is it a high-mileage program? High-intensity? Does the coach individualize the training for each student-athlete? Which type of training program is best for you? Does the coach form close relationships with student-athletes?

3. Experience of athletes that came in at your level

Are they satisfied with their experience? Do they feel valued? Did they improve?

4. Experience of athletes who have had significant injuries or other setbacks

Are they satisfied with their experience? Do they feel valued? How are they treated? Do they still feel connected to the team and the program?

5. Training facilities

Where does the team run most of their mileage? Do they run on pavement or natural surfaces? Which do you prefer? Is the weather agreeable to you? Are the track and weight room facilities adequate?

6. How good the team is, and how good they’ll be

Have they been contenders in their conference? Region? Nationally? Is the program on the rise? Do you want to be part of a winning program? Do you want to be part of a developing program?

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