Last time, we looked at the National Letter of Intent program and how that impacted D3 soccer players. In this post, we will discuss what it means to “commit” to a D3 program.
How does a player commit to a D3 soccer program? The answer to that question may surprise you. For D3 colleges, there really is no specific, binding action that you can take to commit yourself to a D3 institution. Let’s repeat that— there are no specific, binding actions that commit you to a D3 college or university. (The lone exception to that is if you apply Early Decision— that is binding. For more info on early decision, see the College Board’s website on “Early Decision and Early Action”.)
As we discussed in the last post on the National Letter of Intent, this is a binding program that only applies to schools that participate in NLI program (namely D1 and D2 colleges and universities). Specifically the NCAA prohibits D3 institutions from using letters of intent stating in the NCAA Division III Manual: “An institution, or one that competes in a sport in Division III, shall not use in the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete in a sport classified in Division III any form of a letter of intent or similar form of commitment”.
So how does a student-athlete “commit” to a D3 school? The first choice, of course, is early decision. This option is not available at all schools, but is binding provided you get accepted and can get a workable financial aid package. Other than early decision, there really is no truly binding commitment at the D3 level.
Let’s look at the different types or levels of “commitments” that are typically used by a student-athlete and coach when looking at a D3 college. First is the verbal commitment- “Hey Coach, I really, really thought it over for a long time and I decided that I am going to go to your University in Fall 2012. Can’t wait to be a part of your team”. Let me be frank— this commitment, while it may be sincere and true, is essentially worthless. The student-athlete could wake up the next morning after having made that verbal commitment and change their mind. Do you know any high school aged kids like that? They can and they do and there is nothing restricting them from doing it.
The next level of “commitment” is applying to the school. By filling out an application (and possibly paying an application fee), the student-athlete is showing a greater level of investment in the school by actually applying. Keep in mind this might be a “safety” school and they are only applying in the event that all other applications fall through.
Once a student gets accepted to the institution, the next level of “commitment” is putting down a deposit. For most colleges there is a deposit that student-athletes put down to reserve a place in the incoming class as well as a housing deposit— in this case we will assume they are depositing for both. Usually this deposit is refundable up to a certain date, so even if a student-athlete has applied, been accepted and put down a deposit, they can still withdraw their application and get their deposit back if they request before the cut off date. Moreover, even after the cut off date a student-athlete can still withdraw their application; they just won’t get their deposit refunded. So even though they have gone through all those steps and shown a certain level of “commitment”, they still do not wind up at that school. Starting to get the picture?
The next level of “commitment” is, in addition to all of the above (applied, accepted, deposited), the student-athlete registers for classes. Now at this point, I usually breathe a sigh of relief and figure that the student-athlete has actually committed to my school and they are going to attend. The recruiting part of the process is now over, but it still leads us to the final level of “commitment”.
The final level of “commitment” is when the student-athlete actually shows up for preseason practices in August and is ready to participate. Even though they signed up for classes and have become a student-athlete at my institution, I will know that they are truly “committed” by the hard work and effort that they put into their practices as well as their classes. This stage is outside of the recruiting process, nonetheless equally important for both the student-athlete and coach.
The bottom line is this—Until a student-athlete is on the field for preseason practices, a D3 coach really has no 100% guarantee of which student-athletes are ultimately committed to their program and going to be a part of it. From the student-athlete’s perspective, there is no binding commitment for the student-athlete (beside early decision) and you can change your mind up until the last minute despite what coaches may tell you.
A Happy Thanksgiving to all— it has been a very busy recruiting season! Good luck to all student-athletes in their college searches.
Questions? Comments? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.