Navigating a Sea of Options

There are over three hundred prep schools in the United States.  Over one hundred offer a post-grad year.  With so many options out there how do players ensure they choose the right one?  If they are savvy they hire PREP Athletics to ensure they do find the right fitting schools.  If not, here is a guide on how to make the right choice when choosing an athletic prep school.

Defining Your Objectives

Prep schools all have differences that distinguish them: urban vs rural, coed vs single sex, big vs small student bodies, old vs young coaches, talent levels, etc.  How can one differentiate between all of these options?  The first question I would ask a player is, “What do you want to get out of this prep school?”  There could be a myriad of answers to include: improve grades, mature emotionally/physically, try to earn a scholarship, exhaust all athletic options, etc.  Once you know this, you can share it with the prep school coaches you talk to in order to see how they can help you achieve this goal.

Engaging with Coaches

Once a player knows their “Why,” and they have narrowed down what they want in a prep school from the above parameters, they can now start reaching out to coaches.  I suggest reaching out to a coach first versus the school’s admission department because if the coach doesn’t like your profile, talking to the admission officer is moot.

If you are going to a prep school for athletics I stress to my clients that the coach is a very, if not the most important part of this decision.  Almost every athletic prep school offers great academics, support, environments, etc.  But the coach will be the person you spend the most time with and who will control playing time, skill development, and ultimately placement into a college program.

The Academic Landscape

Academics can be an important factor as well.  Most prep schools have faculty members that live on campus which makes them more accessible for extra instruction.  Plus, there is a different kind of school pride when living on a campus, versus commuting to one each day.  Long histories of college matriculation and smaller classroom sizes also help.  Most prep schools also offer AP courses and actual college classes where students can get ahead on the college academic requirements.  During a post-grad year, students can retake up to one class and if diagnosed with an IEP, they can retake up to three classes.

Significance of the Coaching Staff

We mentioned before the importance of the coach.  They come in all shapes and sizes!  Young/old, fiery/calm, run and gun/set up an offense, etc.  When talking to multiple coaches ask them what level they think you will be able to play at in college.  Ask about their player development, playing style, what type of athlete he wants in his program, who you play against, and more.  To get more info on a lot of these coaches you can find my interviews with a lot of them here.  As I said previously and it bears repeating, the coach is the most important part to consider when choosing an athletic prep school.

Location and Campus Environment

Some prep schools are located near major cities such as Boston, Worcester, Providence, Chicago, and more.  Some are located in cute little towns and others are in the middle of nowhere.  For a post-grad athlete who is only going to prep school for nine months the location shouldn’t matter.  But if a student-athlete is going for multiple years this might be a factor for a family to consider.

Understanding Student Body Size

Prep schools have different student body sizes as well.  Some go down to as little as seventy-five students while others can have up to six hundred.  There are pros and cons to each situation but feel free to ask the coaches and the admission officers what their thoughts are on the advantages and disadvantages of enrollment numbers.

Athletic Prep School

Assessing Competition Levels

The competition level at these prep schools can vary and an athlete will need to figure out what they want.  There are some teams that can have twelve players on their rosters who all go D1.  Hargrave Military had all thirteen of their players go D1 a few years back.  Other teams barely have a D3 player on the roster.  And then there is everything in between.

What level do you want to play at?  Are you coming from a high school situation where you need more reps during games, or did you play at lot and need to be around higher talented players on a daily basis. It comes down to personal preference.  There is not a right choice in this matter.

Financial Considerations

The elephant in the room when it comes to prep school is always price.  Some families have the means to easily write a check for the full tuition amount.  Other families that qualify via financial aid can get a fully funded scholarship.  And there is everything in between.  Schools are split into two camps when it comes to aid: need based and merit based.

When a student athlete applies to a prep school their parents will also need to fill out a financial aid form on a website.  After filling in this information the website will show the family and prep school the EFC (estimated financial contribution.)

This is the amount, according to financial records, that the family can pay for tuition.  Some schools see this number and that is what the family will be required to pay.  Schools that have merit aid will see this number but also knock more money off of the tuition if a student athlete is good at their sport, comes from a state or country not represented at the school, plays multiple sport, has excellent grades/test scores, or is an interesting kid.

The Challenge of Decision-Making

Choosing the right athletic prep school is not easy.  There are a lot of factors and continuously moving parts.  Knowing playing styles, coaching personalities, the flexibility of admission departments, past experiences of clients and more, make PREP Athletics the choice when wanting to ensure that a player doesn’t make a mistake in their athletic prep school choice.  This could be the most important athletic decision of a player’s career.

If you want to learn more about finding an athletic prep school, check out the PREP Athletics Podcast. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

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