2020 has been an unprecedented year across every industry on the planet. The prep school world has not been immune to its effects. But the virus has not stopped the consumer demand for prep schools. In fact, boarding schools might look more attractive now than ever before. Some of those reasons include:
-Schools creating their own bubbles on campus. (Most staff live on these campuses with their families.)
-Basketball teams can start training right away. Some schools are not requiring students to play more than one sport.
-In classroom instruction versus all online classes.
-Contingencies for various Covid-19 related scenarios
-Schools playing against other private schools that also operate in bubbles.
-Livestreaming of practices, open gyms and scrimmages.
-Prep school coaches are some of the most connected to college coaches at all levels.
With all these benefits, each player needs to check certain boxes to garner a prep school’s attention and ideally acceptance. But when schools are reaching out how does a family know which prep school to choose, especially if you can’t visit. I went through this scenario with multiple domestic and international families these past few months. Here are some lessons I learned.
1) If you are going to a prep school for a post grad year I do not think it is a major setback if you can’t visit the campus. Players are there to achieve a goal of playing college basketball. Most schools have interactive websites where you can see the campus and get a feel for all the institution has to offer. If it happens to not be as you thought, just know that this is only for nine to ten months. A small price to pay for a player wanting to achieve their goal of playing college basketball. Players are also completing this post grad year to mature away from home, focus on academics and improve their basketball skills.
2) Most prep schools are nice places that have been around for over a century. Each one has its own personality but generally they offer the same benefits. When a coach reaches out to recruit a family they give their pitch on what the school has to offer and why this would be a good fit for a player. Zoom and Facetime can turn this into a visual conversation, but many of my players never met their eventual coach in person. While that would be nice for both parties, it wasn’t possible with many of the travel restrictions. To make up for this I gave families questions to ask coaches, and told them to take detailed notes that could be referred to in the future.
-Who reached out to you first?
-Who sounded intriguing?
-Who wanted you most?
When it comes down to it, the coach is one of the most important pieces in the prep school puzzle. You will be spending a lot of time with them and they will be the person advocating for a player when they talk to scouting services and college coaches.
3) After a player has been accepted to a prep school and they have talked to all of the coaches they need to make a decision on where to attend. Assuming for this discussion that the financial aid packages are all equal, where should the player attend. All of the familles I work with ultimately choose which prep school their child is going to attend. I help put them in front of the right fitting schools and if they pick any of those then in my professional opinion they will have a solid experience. But if a family has multiple, solid options how do they make a choice? First, they look at all their notes and list the pros and cons of each school. Secondly, they recall their conversations with coaches to see which one they feel they would benefit most by playing for them. Third, and potentially most is important, is to follow their gut.
One case study to put all of this into perspective are the kids I have placed from Taiwan. For the past seven years I have been placing the top players from Taiwan into US private schools. The challenge is to find ones that offer ESL and do not have a minimum TOEFL score requirement. During this time these Taiwanese players have been sent to schools in multiple states. They all eventually learn the English language and the US style of play. The first kid I helped came over not knowing any English and four years later ended up playing at a D1 school. Imagine an American 9th grader leaving his family and friends to go playing Taiwan, not knowing the language, culture or basketball flavor. It can really put this whole process of choosing a prep school into perspective.
So how did it turn out for the kids who picked schools sight unseen? They are starting to arrive at their schools now. The ones who are now on campus doing their quarantine are pleased with their choices. So are the coaches. It will be an interesting case study as the semester progresses to see how each school choice turned out in this new era. Regardless, the players will reap all the benefits that prep schools have to offer.