(AP Photo/Missoulian, Tom Bauer)
It's every high school athlete's dream: That someday all those endless practices, tiring scrimmages, overpriced equipment and exhausting games might translate into a chance to play sports on the collegiate level.
But with less than 10 percent of all high school athletes playing their given sport at an NCAA-member institution, and just a third of those receiving an athletic scholarship, it's crucial that players and parents learn all they can about this confusing, difficult and oftentimes frustrating process known as recruiting.
No matter what any one person or organization claims, nobody can guarantee you or your child an athletic scholarship. But it's our hope here at Active.com that this recruiting resource, along with additional information you gather along the way, can help you take control of the recruiting process and ultimately make an athlete's dream come true.
More: Recruiting in the 21st Century
No.1: Take the Right Classes
Long before college catalogs clog mailboxes, and recruiting tapes are viewed, a student-athlete takes classes in their freshman year of high school that directly affect their NCAA eligibility.
Because eligibility standards continue to evolve--in 2008 the NCAA increased the number of English and math courses required by one--it's an athlete's responsibility to make sure their class schedule fulfills NCAA core course requirements.
The best way to make sure you meet all requirements is to schedule an appointment with a high school guidance counselor to ensure your course schedule is in-line with the approved high school core course list. (It's a good idea to do this each year as high school curriculums can change as often as NCAA compliance standards.)
Quick Tip: Let your guidance counselor "guide" you in your high school course selections--starting with your freshman year and continuing throughout your high school career.
More: How NCAA Eligibility Works
No.2: Register With the NCAA
It used to be called the NCAA clearinghouse, but now it's the NCAA Eligibility Center that students must register with to validate their status as an amateur athlete. (This is to ensure an athlete isn't secretly playing defensive back for the Denver Broncos during their high school career.)
The process is relatively pain-free; all you need is $50 and a Social Security number. But don't leave it to the last minute. Every year a few student athletes miss out on the chance to play collegiately, because they fail to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Quick Tip: Register with the NCAA by your junior year.
More: Everything You Need to Know About Scholarships
No.3: Make Your List(s)
Before you compile a list of 200 schools you would just die to play for, remember the function of the list is to help you focus your search going into your sophomore and junior year, not overly complicate the process with unrealistic expectations.
"I tell athletes to make three lists," says Michael Husted, former NFL kicker. "One: a list of their dream schools, two: a list of schools that they could realistically get into and three: a list of fallback schools in case something happens at the last minute."
Now before you freak out about the prospect of not attending your favorite university, Husted concedes that "there will be some overlap between the first two lists." But ideally your three lists should total no more than 12 to 15 schools, with the bulk of the schools residing in the "realistic" list.
Quick Tip: Make three lists--with four or five schools per list--to focus your college search.
More: Recruiting Checklist for Seniors