How Do I Commit To An NCAA Division III Program?

In our last post, we discussed the National Letter of Intent program (Is There AN NCAA Division III National Letter of Intent?) as it related to NCAA Division III soccer players and their families. This week, we are going to look at what it means to “commit” to an NCAA Division III program.

How does a player commit to an NCAA Division III soccer program? The answer to that question may surprise you. For NCAA Division III colleges, there really is no specific, binding action that you can take to commit yourself to a NCAA Division III institution. Let’s repeat that— there are no specific, binding actions that commit you to an NCAA Division III 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 NCAA Division I and II colleges and universities). Specifically the NCAA prohibits Division III 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”. (See NCAA Division III Manual 13.9.1 and 20.11.4.)”

So how does a student-athlete “commit” to an NCAA Division III 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 NCAA Division III level.

At the NCAA Division III level, there are several ways in which a student-athlete (and their families) can commit to a program, so it is important to understand each of them.  Let’s look at the different types or levels of “commitments” that are typically used by a student-athlete and coach when looking at an NCAA Division III college.

The first one is the verbal commitment.  This is when a student-athlete calls a college coach and says the following:

“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 2014. Can’t wait to be a part of your team”.

Let’s 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 entirely. Do you know any high school aged kids like that? They can and they do and there is nothing restricting them from doing it.  Or after having made that announcement, another college or university may come back with a better financial offer for the student-athlete that changes this decision.

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. This shows the coach a certain degree of interest because as a student-athlete you are actually following up on what you are supposed to do!  From the college coach’s perspective, we realize the student-athlete is applying to several schools and not just one.  Coaches are also aware that their school 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, coaches usually can breathe a sigh of relief and figure that the student-athlete has actually committed to their 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, a coach 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, an NCAA Division III 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.

Questions? Comments? Drop us a line at  As always, thanks for reading!


About d3recruitinghub

Soccer coach, trainer, business analyst, & project manager.
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