Email of the Day: Problem Parents / Too Many Schools

These days it’s much more common than it used to be to find kids changing schools multiple times during their high school years. It’s something of an epidemic. I think it’s consistent with the overall mentality of immediate satisfaction in our society today, and it’s not good.

Here’s an email I wrote to some parents whose child must be close to some kind of record for number of schools attended (6 in 3 states), especially for a very good student.

 

Ron,

For 30 years I’ve guided families through the prep school and college process. It’s my full time job. I get paid to do it. I help families in similar situations every year, and my guidance almost always pays for itself. In your case, I wish I could help, but I can’t.

I’ve watched the highlight videos and I’ve been doing some homework on your situation. The pieces are coming together.

You and your wife are friendly, highly educated people. I’ve always enjoyed the conversations you and I have had, but you completely lost your sense of reality on this topic a long time ago. On my website, there’s a section of blogs entitled “Otherwise likeable, intelligent people”. You’ve made the list. If it’s accurate (or even close) that your son has attended six different schools in three different states since he started high school, that’s a huge red flag. It’s so bad in so many ways, I almost don’t know where to start, but here’s where it ends. I’m going to tell you what you don’t want to hear. You’re a problem parent, and that’s holding your son back more than anything else in this equation.

Your son has scholarship level athleticism (although he doesn’t play the game that well). It’s realistic to think he could get a D2 or NAIA offer, and he still might. However, if his academic profile is as you described (3.4 GPA, 1700+ SAT), the much better choice, the smarter choice, is a very good D3 school (a UAA, a NESCAC or similar school) for the next four years. He’d get a great education, have a great basketball experience, and, finally, get some stability.

Given your history, I expect you will choose a JuCo for a year or two, then yet another school after that. I said at the beginning I’d like to help, but I can’t. I’d have to tell college coaches about your son’s history and that they’re asking for trouble if they take him (although they almost assuredly would know it without me telling them). They’d ask me why. I’d tell them the parents are a big problem. Then they’d ask me why I bothered contacting them in the first place, and they’d be right.

Sorry for being blunt. I’ll call you later to discuss.

Thanks.

 

Mike

 

 

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Quote of the Day – Administrative Attitude

 

He’s a deadly combination of arrogance and insecurity.

 

A comment about the relatively new director of admission and financial aid at a well known prep school made by another person in the field. The school has seen a precipitous drop in the academic quality of incoming students under the new director, who is also single-handedly scuttling what was a top prep school athletic program. He dismisses any input from, or meaningful communication with, others at the school who want to fix the problem, telling them he’s the only one who could possibly understand what’s going on. A classic example of the Wizard of Oz mentality.

 

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Looking Back: Michael Wright – Missed Opportunities

As a college freshman, Michael Wright made an immediate impact on the football team. He became a starter after only one game before getting hurt and missing most of the season. In his second year, he picked up right where he left off. Not only is he starting as a redshirt freshman, he’s far and away the team’s best receiver. No one else is even close.

Most would say this is great and that in deciding on his current university he made the right choice. After all, he’s having the kind of success that every athlete and parent hopes for, but few ever find. He’s a star who’s going to have a great career. Everyone’s happy and excited. On the surface, it’s hard to argue with that. Let’s take a closer look.

Despite seemingly obvious talent, Michael had few options coming out of HS. Playing in a small town with limited exposure and support, not many colleges showed interest. At that point, prep school was an option. In the spring of his senior year he finally received a partial offer from one of the lowest D1 FBS teams. Ready to take it, he then received a full offer from a decent FBS program. Once he got those offers, his interest in prep school ended. He took the second scholarship offer, saying it was a great opportunity. On the surface, it was hard to argue with that. This kid from a difficult background was going to play D1 ball while getting a free education. Isn’t that the goal?

Prep school would have been a dramatically better choice. Here’s why:

  1. Better Education   (This is supposed to be most important, right?)
    1. He would have gotten two much better, life changing educations
      1. Prep School
        1. He would have attended one of the top five academic prep school in the world
          1. He would have learned to be a better student
            1. He would have been better prepared to get higher grades in college.
      2. College
        1. The prep school education would have propelled him to a much better academic college
          1. He would be at an Ivy or Patriot League school, or a place like Rice, Boston College or similar
            1. The college he’s attending now provides an average education
  2. Incredible Connections
    1. Prep school and college
      1. He would have made incredible contacts that would last a lifetime
        1. His friends would have been the kids who will be running this country twenty years from now
          1. He’s not getting anything close to that at his college
  3. Higher level of college ball
    1. This was a given after a year of prep school
      1. His immediate success at his current school likely proves that he could play at a much higher level
        1. Instead of playing for a non-noteworthy school, he could be playing at a big time school like Vanderbilt, Boston College, Northwestern etc.
  4. Better life preparation and perspective
    1. The extra year of maturity is an invaluable one time opportunity

This is not second guessing. This has nothing to do with the success he’s found at college. These were the options, and this was all discussed, from the start. The success he’s had only reinforces the point.

Some families would have taken the prep school option. Why didn’t Michael’s? Perhaps they didn’t listen to the right people. Or maybe, contrary to what he said, he just didn’t believe in enough in himself and his talent.

It’s not that this was a bad decision, it’s that there was a much better one. He and his family could have had so much more. They had an asset, an investment, that they failed to get the most out of. All parents want their child to develop as fully as possible. The Wrights missed an opportunity to do this. They also missed out on tangible benefits. It’s pretty easy to make the case that Michael’s lifetime earnings will be dramatically lower than they would have been if he’d opted for prep school.

 

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Quote of the Day – Two Years for Less Than the Cost of One

 

We got two years of prep school for less than one PG year was going to cost.

 

This from parents whose child was planning on a post-graduate year, but immediately changed his mind after visiting his first prep school and decided to go for his junior year instead.

 

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PG Year – Wasted Time and Money?

Cameron had a good senior year playing for a low profile high school and received only D3 offers. She and her parents decided to invest their time and money in a post-graduate year, believing she had the potential to get scholarship offers.

By all accounts, Cameron played very well in her PG year. At the end of the season she took two official visits to NCAA D2 schools, but did not receive a scholarship offer from either. She was also offered a preferred walk-on spot at two mid-level D1 schools, one of which she accepted.

Many would look at this situation and say the decision to attend prep school was a bad one, a waste of time and money. While Cameron and her parents certainly had some disappointment, a closer look reveals a very good decision.

  • Cost: This is often a big part of a PG year decision, and understandably so. Cameron’s family invested about $15,000 and got no scholarship to show for it. What they did get is an extra $12,000 per year in college financial aid. That’s what the school they chose offered compared to offers from similar schools that did not recruit her for basketball. That’s a payback of three times what they invested. That alone makes the PG year an easy justification and a great choice.
  • Lower basketball risk: Cameron could have walked-on at a D1 school after HS, but the risks would have been much greater. She would not have been a preferred walk-on, so she might not have even made the team. She’d only have about a week to prove herself. As a preferred walk-on she is virtually assured a spot on the team. She’s also a better player than she was a year ago. The D2 offers are objective proof of that. Those offers prove it’s not unreasonable to think she can play at the D1 level, and possibly earn a scholarship. (It’s hard to overstate the value of that information in today’s sports world, where so many kids and parents struggle to accurately assess the athlete’s talent level). The PG year closed the talent gap, while reducing the risk once she gets there.
  • Lower academic risk: A below average student, by all accounts she needed an extra year to figure out how to get her inherent intelligence to show up in her school work. As it turned out, she did just that. A different learning environment, in addition to being away from home, allowed her to achieve better grades than she did in high school. She’s now better prepared to handle the tougher course work in college. It also boosted her confidence in the classroom, which will increase her chances of success in college.
  • Lower overall risk: Most families don’t understand the time and other demands of playing a sport at the D1 level. Combined with the more difficult classroom work, the athlete’s maturity is tested immediately and often. College has also changed since today’s parents attended. A much larger percentage of students are not graduating, or are taking more than four years to do it. Certainly the financial risks are greater. College debt is arguably the largest financial problem in the country today. Cameron’s transitional year of prep school did exactly what a PG year is supposed to do. It gave her the opportunity to mature as a person while reducing all of these risks.

No, Cameron didn’t get a scholarship – yet, but the PG year was subtly a very good intermediate step towards overall success. It allowed her to keep the dream alive and saved her family over $30,000, while getting all the other educational and maturity benefits and minimizing the risks. They would tell you it was still an excellent choice.

 

 

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Should Your College Coach Pick Your Prep School?

Sometimes athletes have already committed to a college when they decide to switch from high school to prep school. When their future college coach recommends a prep school or two, the natural reaction of the athlete is to accept the recommendation on faith. After all, if the athlete and family are willing to trust the next four or five years of the athlete’s life to the college coach, why wouldn’t they trust the prep school recommendation of that coach? This is a tough situation for the athlete and family. Here’s why.

  1. Most college coaches don’t know that much about prep schools
    1. Just because they know more than the families, doesn’t mean they know enough to offer complete, big-picture, objective advice
      1. Their knowledge of schools is limited to a relatively small number of schools
      2. Their knowledge of the aspects of the schools outside of the sport is limited
  2. Sometimes college coaches are looking out for themselves first. This is one of those times.
    1. They want the athlete at a school where the chances are smallest that the athlete will get recruited away by another college before the athlete actually signs and matriculates.
    2. They like the prep school coach and want to help the coach out.

Certainly there are times when taking the coach’s recommendation makes the most sense. Perhaps the prep school uses the same system, philosophy or training methods as the college coach. Maybe it’s physically located very close to the future college, allowing both athlete and coach great opportunity for a year’s worth of interaction that will provide an excellent head-start on their four years together. (The Hun School of Princeton and Princeton University are probably the best example of this).

There can also be other factors. For example, the athlete may be worried about offending the college coach by not taking the prep school recommendation. This could send the wrong message and no one wants to start off on the wrong foot. A simple conversation will usually relieve this situation quite easily.

As always, the choice of the best prep school should be one based on what’s best for the child and the child’s overall development, not simply on a sport. The process of picking a school should be one that minimizes risks while maximizing the possibility for success. In the reality of today’s world, where no one has enough time, most families will accept the college coach’s recommendation. Many don’t have time to go through the process the right way. Smart families will not put all their eggs in one basket. Instead, they will explore some schools in addition to those recommended by the college coach.

 

For a more in-depth version of this blog, including a detailed example, click on this link.

http://prepschoolsportsconnection.com/should-your-future-college-coach-pick-your-prep-school-2/

 

 

 

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Today’s Quiz – NCAA Core-Courses

Today’s quiz involves core-courses required by the NCAA to be a qualifier at the D1 or D2 level. This is a multi-part quiz.

 

Part 1a

Question:     What is the maximum number of core-courses the NCAA allows a prep school post-graduate student to get credit for towards D1 eligibility?

 

 

Answer:     1

 

Part 1b

Question:     What is the maximum number of core-courses the NCAA allows a prep school post-graduate student with a documented learning issue (LD, IEP etc.) to get credit for towards D1 eligibility?

 

 

Answer:     3

 

Part 2

Question:     What is the maximum number of core-courses the NCAA allows a prep school post-graduate student to get credit for towards D2 eligibility?

 

 

Answer:     Unlimited

 

Bonus

Question:     How may times does the NCAA allow a student take the SAT or ACT in order to raise his/her score as a post-graduate?

Question:     What’s the maximum number of points the NCAA will allow a student to raise his/her SAT or ACT score as a post-graduate?

 

 

Answer:     There is no limit to the number of times a post-graduate student can take the SAT or ACT or the number of points a student can raise his/her score.

 

 

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Should Your Future College Coach Pick Your Prep School?

Some athletes have already committed to a college when they decide to switch from high school to prep school. When their future college coach recommends a prep school or two, the natural reaction of the athlete is to accept the recommendation on faith. After all, if the athlete and family are willing to trust the next four or five years of the athlete’s life to the college coach, why wouldn’t they trust the prep school recommendation of that coach? This is a tough situation for the athlete and family. Here’s why.

Most college coaches don’t know that much about prep schools. Though they almost always know more than the families, that’s not saying much. Many know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to offer well thought out, objective guidance. Their awareness is limited to a relatively small number of prep schools and doesn’t include enough about the non-athletic parts of the schools. These statements are not made arbitrarily. College coaches have called Prep School Sports Connection for decades asking for insight, help and information regarding prep schools, and we have listened to them and studied at length what they know and don’t know, even those who don’t call me for help.

College coaches are looking out for themselves first. While you may trust them and think they’re great (and they usually are), don’t think there aren’t times when they’re going to do what’s best for themselves. This is one of them. They are most likely going to pick a prep school for two reasons. One, they want the athlete at a school where the chances are smallest that the athlete will get recruited away from them by another college before the athlete actually signs and matriculates at their school. That means a prep school situation and coach who will protect the college coach’s interests by shielding the athlete from possible recruiters from other colleges. Many families would respond that by saying it doesn’t matter as they’ve already made their college choice and it’s not going to change. They would be missing the point. There’s a risk, and the coaches know it better than you. They do this for a living. Most families have never been through this before. As much as the coaches like you and want to help you, they want to protect their interest more. So they pick a prep school that minimizes their risk, not one that maximizes opportunity or provides the athlete the best overall fit for this very important year or more of personal development. By the way, many families would be surprised at the number of athletes who change their mind and choose a different college. Why do you think the coaches are nervous? Prep school opens up options and thinking. It’s a big world. If you’re used to a local school, prep school is a real eye-opener for most families. If you don’t keep your options open, you’re cheating yourself out of a significant benefit of prep school. Why would you do that when you don’t have to? The second reason college coaches pick certain prep schools is that they like the prep school coach and want to help the coach out. Perhaps they have worked together in the past, are friends or were college teammates. While this could benefit the athlete, it generally does not put the athlete’s interests first.

Here’s a recent example. Allison O’Connor is a very talented athlete and student. When her father took a new job in a different state, she attended a highly regarded parochial school for one year. A very bad and emotionally trying experience there prompted the family to decide that she should attend prep school. After the year they’ve had, the family has made it clear that they don’t want to go through something like that again. They have to get it right this time, especially since the girl will be 900 miles from home. She will be entering her senior year and has already committed to an Ivy League (D1) school, turning down scholarship offers in the process. Any prep school would be thrilled to have her based on those factors alone, but she also happens to be full-pay (the family can easily write the check for the $55,000 for prep school), making her the student-athlete every prep school looks and fights for. Her college coach recommended just one prep school and it meets none of the criteria the family and I agreed to use for the school search. Specifically, the academic level of the school is significantly below the level that best supports the student, the school has no history of producing Ivy or other D1 players, the overall level of the sport and league is nothing special, the campus is below average, the geographic location is not good, and the endowment is relatively small, and the type of students the athlete would be around are not the type this child is looking for. In short, the overall environment is not a match, and there’s no objective reason for this to be on the list of possible prep schools for this student-athlete’s consideration.

Certainly there are times when taking the coach’s recommendation makes the most sense. Perhaps the prep school uses the same system, philosophy or training methods as the college coach. Maybe it’s physically located very close to the future college, allowing both athlete and coach great opportunity for interaction that will provide a big head start on their four years together. (The Hun School of Princeton and Princeton University being perhaps as good an example as there is).

There can also be other factors. For example, the athlete may be worried about offending the college coach by not taking the prep school recommendation. This could send the wrong message and no one wants to start off on the wrong foot. A simple conversation will usually relieve this situation quite easily.

As always, the choice of the best prep school should be one based on what’s best for the child and the child’s overall development, not simply on a sport. The process of picking a school should be one that minimizes risks while maximizing the possibility for success. In the reality of today’s world, where no one has enough time, most families will accept the college coach’s recommendation. Many don’t have time to go through the process the right way. Smart families will not put all their eggs in one basket. Instead, they will explore some schools in addition to those recommended by the college coach.

 

 

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QB Position Dilemma

Andrew was a good enough high school QB as a senior to garner interest from a handful of D1 football programs. None actually offered him as a QB, but fairly mobile at 6’5″, 245 lbs., many had serious interest in him as a tight end or lineman. He refused, saying he was a QB and that’s the position he wanted to play in college.

Our search for a prep school produced very limited options. The QB spot is very competitive at the prep school level, especially as a post-graduate. Many of the schools we would have liked did not want him as a QB but wanted him badly as a lineman or TE. I discussed this option with the young man and his family. Their self-confidence in him as a QB was unshakable. I remember his mother telling me he had been to some D1 schools exposure camps and had received very favorable feedback from those schools regarding their interest in her son as a QB. We continued to look for a prep school and ended up finding one we were happy with, but at a cost. We had to make a significant sacrifice academically while spending twice the family’s budget.

As the summer progressed, and before he got to prep school in the fall, Andrew and his parents came to grips with his recruiting reality. They discovered that the colleges they thought were interested really weren’t, and the family was forced to make the tough decision many QBs face at some point. He called his prep school coach and told him he was ready to change positions.

Prep school was a great experience for him. He liked the school he chose and the school loved him. He struggled to make the position switch, but stuck with it and did well, receiving D1 offers as a TE/lineman from some of the best academic colleges in the country. He and his parents are happy with their decision and the outcome.

It’s hard to argue with the outcome in this case, but consider the alternative. Making the decision to switch positions in February that he ended up making in July would have yielded more and better prep school choices and changed two things. Instead of sacrificing his level of prep school education, he would have gotten a world class, life changing one, and gotten it for free, saving this family of limited means over $20,000.

 

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Why Do a PG Year When I Already Have Offers?

People regularly ask, often incredulously, why anyone who already has offers would do a post-graduate (PG) year. The better question is, why wouldn’t you?

Asking why is a pretty clear indicator of goals and perspective. All most families can think of is getting a D1 offer. They’ve hardly considered, and have little understanding of, what happens and what it takes to be successful once you’re actually in college and playing a D1 sport.

Survival is a big part of sports at the D1 level. Everyone at that level has talent. Everyone is on a scholarship. Everyone thinks they will play. Not everyone will. Nobody thinks that will be them.

If your goal is just to get the offer, there’s no reason to do a PG year. If you want to maximize your success and get the most out of your college experience, there’s every reason. Here are the main ones:

  • There is virtually no downside to a PG year
  • You will still have all the offers and options you have now, plus five times more
  • You will get higher level offers
    • The additional year makes you a better athlete and gets you better exposure
  • You will have more choices and options, which leads to a better decision
  • You will have a better idea of who you are as a person and an athlete
  • You will be better prepared to live away from home
    • Better handle the reduced supervision and increased freedom
  • You will become a better student
    • This is true for all levels of students, even the best ones
  • You will have an additional year of education and credits
  • You will be much better at recruiting process the second time around.
    • This is one of the most overlooked reasons to PG
      • Most families are fairly clueless the first time they go through the process
      • It’s not a fair fight.
        • Coaches are professionals. If they don’t recruit successfully, they don’t have a job.
  • You will get more out of college and increase chances of success
    • Remember, you only get four years
      • Achieve higher grades in college
      • Achieve more success in your sport
  • You will minimize the risks
    • Lower risk of transfer or bad experience
    • Lower risk of failing out
    • Lower risk of sitting on the bench the first year or two, or never cracking the lineup
  • You will have a much better chance of thriving in college, instead of just surviving

These reasons all pertain to students in general. If you’re young for your grade or a student at risk (ie: a weak student, marginal recruit or received offers based more on potential than current ability), that’s all the more reason.

Why don’t more families take advantage of this opportunity? Lack of awareness, lack of patience, lack of perspective. Some don’t know the opportunity exists. Some are too impatient to get to college. Some don’t see the big picture. Ask yourself this: what is your decision going to look like when you look back a year from now?

If school and sports are really about life preparation, then this truly is an easy decision. A PG year better prepares the student for college and life after college. There’s no question about it.

If you think this is all hypothetical, consider one example. I worked this past year with a young man who said no in the summer before his senior year to the first D1 offer he received. During his senior season many schools came to look at him, some as many as a five times, but no one offered. Finally, late in the season, he received one very low level offer.

When they asked to speak with me about their prep school options, this family of very little means was worried about passing up the one offer they had.  We sat in their living room when they nervously asked me if it was reasonable to think that they might get more offers. They decided they believed in themselves and opted for prep school. Five months later they had over 20 offers. The schools that had watched him five times, and to whom he would have quickly said yes any and every day during the season, now could barely get the family’s attention with their offer. In the end, this athlete ended up jumping all the way to high level D1 and a top 25 program.

Having offers gives you leverage. Use it. A PG year reduces variables and risks. You only get four years of college. A PG year is the best way to maximize those years.

 

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