The D3 Recruiting Hub recently received this question from a parent.
My child is in the process of making a decision between two D3 schools. One of the two schools recommended that he submit a letter that they hand out to recruits to commit ASAP to secure a spot on the roster and ensure that we receive the maximum amount of financial aid. They told us less aid might be available if we waited longer. I want to be able to compare financial aid packages between schools to get the best financial deal for my child. I understand that the letter of intent is not applicable to D3, so should we just submit this letter and also be in contact with the other school to see what financial aid they will offer?
As a parent of a student-athlete, you should ALWAYS be looking out for the best interest of your child for college selection in terms of academic fit, soccer fit and financial benefits. You want to find the combination of academics and soccer that will work out best. However, affordability also comes into to play with the ever rising cost of higher education and you will need to give your child the “Sermon on the Amount.” Meaning what your family can or cannot afford.
As far as signing a “letter of intent” and committing early, there is no National Letter of Intent program at the D3 level. This only applies to the NCAA Division I and II levels. For more info on that go to National Letter Intent website which is: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/nli/NLI/Home/. So let’s remove that from the equation. A student-athlete at the D3 level can “verbally” commit to a school but that is not binding in any way. Student-athletes verbally commit only to change that commitment later.
The more “binding” commitment from a student-athlete is when they place a deposit to hold their place in the freshman class for the Fall season. However, even this is not a 100% binding commitment. At most institutions that deposit is refundable up until a certain date (usually May 1), so a student-athlete could change their mind at the end of April and get their deposit back. After the cut-off date, a student-athlete can STILL change their mind, but you won’t get your deposit back.
The bottom line is there is no binding commitment to a D3 school— only if you apply as an early decision candidate. Since this wasn’t mentioned, we are going to put that aside.
With regard to financial aid, generally speaking, most institutions have a pre-determined date when they send out their financial aid packages to their students. This usually occurs sometime in March (varies from school to school). And once the first round of awards go out, they will be updated on a biweekly or weekly basis as students decide that they will or will not attend. So it does not matter whether a student-athlete was accepted in November or January, they won’t determine a financial aid package until the initial packages go out. (Again with early decision, a student-athlete may be eligible for more financial aid since they are showing a commitment to that school. Again, we are ignoring that case here.)
Student-athletes should be able to apply to a school, get accepted, file their FAFSA forms, get accepted, and see their financial aid award from the school before they make a decision. (For more info on FASFA forms go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/#.) They should be able to do this for MULTIPLE SCHOOLS so they can compare financial aid packages from School A, School B and School C to see which one is offering the best package. A student-athlete should be able to do this before they have to commit to one school.
Our thought on this is that this coach is not really being up front and honest and trying to pressure you to commit to the school for some reason. (There could be a multitude of reasons why the coach is doing this, but I won’t get into those.) We suggest that you ask the coach why he/she is asking you to sign a letter of intent when they are not binding at NCAA D3 schools. Also, ask him/her the date of when the financial aid award/packages go out to incoming freshmen. Most likely he/she won’t know the answer to that question, so I would go to the Admissions Office and/or Financial Aid office and talk to them about the situation to get accurate information. As always, ask LOTS of questions until you get an answer that makes sense to you.
Bottom line #2 is that yes, a student-athlete should be able to compare financial aid packages from multiple schools without having to commit to a school.
Lastly, each school does have a fixed amount of financial aid that they give out in a given year and that pot of money will become smaller after they start giving out awards and students start accepting them. So what is available on Day 1 after financial aid packages go out might not be the same as Day 10 or Day 20.
The point that we want to emphasize is the importance of having honest communications with recruits and their families and it sounds like this is crossing over a bit unfortunately. However, we do not think that the damage is irreparable; an informed consumer is always the best consumer. And if you and your child do decide that this is the place that you want to attend, you do not want to create any lingering animosity between your family and the coach because that could affect your child’s status on the team.
Any questions, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.