By: Rachel Fenton
University of Michigan 2015, B.A. in English

As you face the countless pros and cons that come with each potential college, it is important not let emotional interests override your academic priorities. Embracing a college or university because of its overall ranking or reputation, or because it has a great athletic program or is in a location you like, on the assumption you’ll be able to figure out the academic piece later, is not wise. When you do that, you become “destination-centered” and set yourself up for frustration down the line.

“A great way to start figuring out the right fit for you is to start with a big list and narrow it down. Not only is 7th grade a great time to start the college process it is a great time to think about athletic scholarships,” says Timothy Parros of Parros College Planning LLC, an Ann Arbor based college planning company. “During the first part of your seventh grade year, it’s OK for you to send out your first set of emails. Doing so can help you get a feel for the types of colleges you are interested in and it also allows you to start imagining yourself in these different schools.”

In the end, the first colleges you contact may not be the ones you want to attend, but that’s okay because starting early gives you practice in dealing with recruiters and more leverage as you start to choose the schools you think will be the best fit for you. After July 1 at the end of your junior year, colleges can begin to contact you and you can even visit their campuses. Being in conversation with potential schools early on gives you a one up on others who don’t even know what their options are.

“You can’t count on your coach to contact colleges, this is your responsibility to do with your parents,” says Parros. “We have a senior that could be playing at a Division I school, but she uploaded her hockey video late and the college’s coach didn’t discover her until April 1 of her senior year. The coach wanted her, but it was just too late. She’s now attending a Division III school on a good scholarship, but had she been more proactive in the process, she would have gone to a Division I school and, I believe, would have had a better offer.”

Athletic ability does not limit your scope, rather it broadens it. Strong athletic and academic records are major assets in both college acceptance and funding and if you get started early, you will have an upper hand in the application and negotiation processes. Don’t get bogged down by traditional paths for a college athlete, instead realize that you can carve your own path and we can help you do just that.

Parros College Planning can guide you through the vast and often overwhelming process of exploring what college might be the right fit for you. If you thought that your athletic background should be the sole deciding factor in choosing your future college, think again and let us show you the array of possibilities your future can hold. It can be daunting, but there is a right fit out there for you and we want to help you find it.

Timothy Parros stresses that since summer is coming, it is a great time to explore colleges online and complete your college requirement lists so that you are prepared to weigh the “whys” of the colleges you’ve picked.