D3 seemed more and more enticing. University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Cal Tech, Babson the list kept going on. You now know that there is an option to not sacrifice neither academic nor athletic. You will become a D3 student-athlete.
You look at yourself as a student-athlete after spending most of your days either on the courts or at the field while your friends were going out. There will always be the stereotype of the jock, but you fight that by putting together one of the best academic resumes your high school has ever seen. The hours preparing for the SAT have now paid off. Dreaming of Harvard is not far. Now is just a matter of knocking on some doors and finding out when they open. Unfortunately, Division 1 seems to be filtering too much your level. There are options but they will disregard the academic sacrifice you put. That much sweat will not be disregarded. You had heard of Division 3 schools but always with the classic points of:
"There is no scholarship," some said.
"The level is much lower than D1," others stated.
After research, D3 seemed more and more enticing. University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Cal Tech, Babson the list kept going on. You now know that there is an option to not sacrifice neither academic nor athletic. You will become a D3 student-athlete.
This story happens more than you think. Division III, that at some point was looked as the ending of athletic careers, has now become a perfect destination to become the best student-athlete you can be.
According to James Berrigan who for the past two decades has lead Babson College men's and women's tennis, one of the top D3 programs and the #1 school for entrepreneurship in the country, there is a school for every player in Division III.
Now the fact is that D3 does not offer athletic scholarships. That will not change regardless of your level. You can be the number one recruit and be treated the same way a regular student will be in the eyes of admissions. On the other hand, there should be stated that having a partner (college coach) supporting you will be a welcome addition.
"Most schools offer some sort of merit-based grant to help with tuition costs," Berrigan said. "In some cases, the grants and merit based scholarships are far greater than a partial tennis scholarship from a Division II or Division I school."
"These days, scholarships have become so competitive at the highest level academically such as the Ivies and top-tier programs as Stanford, USC, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame," Thomas Anderson, University Sports Program (USP) president and founder stated, that students are choosing DIII to not sacrifice any academics. Due to this, their level has increased to the point where they are competitive with some D1 programs."
"We have dealt with schools where coaches can offer Wild Card positions with admissions," Thomas said. "Where you are put into a different standard than other admissible students."
"It takes time to research schools based on your likes," Berrigan said. "Players must consider, geography, majors, size of school and strength of the tennis program."
The bulk of the aid from these institutions come from Financial Aid grants. The stigma that only the rich attend D3 schools should not deter you from doing so. In fact, financial aid could cover most or all of the cost of the institution for you.
According to this article from the Time Magazine published in 2016 from the top 28 schools with the best need-based financial aid, 18 were D3 institutions, seven Ivy Leagues and the other three were Davidson College, Rice University, and Duke University.
Let's start with the real tips now that you choose to be recruited by a D3 institution:
- Start Early: Is key to identify the schools you are targeting in your Junior Year. You can do that by researching your Major as an important filter or areas and weather you will feel comfortable. Having your highest SAT/ACT score before the Senior year is imperative. This will enable you to do a pre-read, with your prospective college coach helping, to know where you stand before even applying.
- Contact Coaches: The early the better. College coaches at highly regarded institutions are as well sought as Power 5 programs. Make sure you are being realistic and move forward with them. They will be your best allies in the process.
- Fill out your CSS Profile and FAFSA fall of Senior Year: As stated before, Financial Aid will be the bulk of the scholarship so make sure you are a step ahead signing up and filling correctly these two forms. They can be found easily online or you can ask your counselor to help you with this.
- Early Decision (ED): If there is a school where you feel everything is a great fit, you should apply for ED. Just remember that by applying for ED and being accepted as you must attend the college. Coaches will mention doing this as you will receive the best package they can get but only do so if you feel this is the perfect-without-a-doubt-university for you.
- Apply: Don't be afraid to massively apply to schools. If possible apply Early Action as there is more aid always early. Students and parents tend to believe that applying is a commitment. It is not. Other than the application cost, and there are waivers for that too, there is not a downside to applying to all the schools you feel are a good fit. It is recommended to use Common App for this. This step can help with the next one.
- Negotiate Offers: Yes you heard that right. Feel free to negotiate your aid packages. You will be surprised how much they can change. By having options, you can leverage your offers by mentioning to admissions that comparable schools have offered better packages. Surprisingly, this works a lot.
Finalizing, Division 3 works for you if you do not want to sacrifice academics and have the profile for it. There is no point in looking at those options if your academics are subpar. If you have that on your side your athletic achievement will be the driving force to open the doors to some of the best institutions in the world, in some cases with better scholarships. Is just a matter of having the right information and guidance.