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.




We’re Not Talking About Painting the Dining Room

Prep school is a big decision. Few other family choices include so many components of such importance.

  • Your child
  • Your child’s future
  • Your child’s education
  • The sport your child loves
  • Your child living away from home
  • Your child’s college options

If you tried to save money by painting your own dining room and it didn’t turn out like you hoped, you could pay someone $500 to fix it a month later. The damage is minimal. A bad prep school choice is a much bigger problem. We’re not talking about painting the dining room. You need to get it right the first time.



When to Attend Prep School? The Sooner, the Better

Many families think that because prep schools accept students in grades 8-13 they can decide to attend prep school whenever they want. While that’s technically accurate, it’s not that simple. The reality is that the competition for athletic spots at the best schools is tremendous. Schools are not just taking whoever applies, especially if the family wants financial aid (FA). Consequently, the sooner you attend, the better. Here’s an outline explaining why.

  1. It’s easier for younger student-athletes to get admitted
    1. The schools know the longer the student attends the school, the better the chances of success for all.
    2. Younger students improve the overall stability of the schools
    3. Post-graduate (PG) spots are the most competitive and hardest to get financial aid for.
      1. More students want to attend as PGs and almost all the leagues have limits on the number of PGs allowed.
        1. More kids fighting for fewer spots
          1. The same student who could have been accepted as a junior often cannot get a spot as a PG at the very same school.
  2.  It’s easier to get more financial aid for younger student-athletes
    1. Underclassmen are at a premium for all the prep schools
    2. PGs spots are the hardest to get financial aid for
  3. You don’t have to be as talented or successful athletically or academically
    1. Schools will take a chance on weaker students and those exhibiting athletic potential, if they are younger.
      1. Schools know the longer they have them, the better the chances of success
      2. This is particularly true for students coming from very weak academic and socio-economic backgrounds. Statistics and studies show the optimum time for this type of student to get to prep school is the beginning of the freshman year.
  4. The more time at prep school, the higher the rate of success
    1. Student potential is maximized due to more time spent in a better academic and athletic environment
    2. The transition to prep school is a big one
      1. It takes most kids a year to make the academic and athletic adjustment
        1.  Once the transition is made, the next level of  growth can take place
        2. Repeating junior year is more than twice as beneficial as doing a PG year. Both are a total of two years, one is more than twice as good a choice.
  5. A PG year can no longer make up for four years of poor high school performance
    1. NCAA rule changes in response to system abuse now allow credit for only one class in a PG year.
      1. For weak students the transition to prep school must be made sooner


Of course, each family situation is different. Students and parents develop at different rates. Consequently some are ready to leave home, or have their child leave home, before others. The facts, however, are clear. Sooner is better.



Picking Prep Schools: When to Get Help? Understanding the Timeline and Whom to Trust.

I received a call from a family whom I had been recommended to by a previous client. By the time they contacted me, they had already communicated with some prep schools. They also were getting help from one of their child’s coaches, as well as a friend who had been through the process before. As a result, they felt they had a good list of schools and decided they didn’t need my help at that time. They did leave the door open to hiring me later, in the event they needed help with the financial part of the process.

When they called me a few months later, their son had been rejected at the school that was their first choice. They were stunned. They shared with me that they had come to realize that, having no experience at this, they had misinterpreted the feedback they had been getting from the coach at that school and had overvalued the help they’d been receiving from friends and others. Compounding the problem, they assumed they were going to get into their first choice and made little effort with the other two schools they had considered. They were upset and looking for answers.

We talked about applying to other schools, but by this time most other schools had filled their spots and handed out their financial aid. Schools that would have been good options a few months prior no longer were. In addition, they told me after what they’d already been through in this process they didn’t have the emotional energy to start over with new schools. Consequently, this family was forced to choose from a very limited list of schools, most of which they wouldn’t have otherwise found acceptable, and/or, lacking options and leverage, pay $5,000 – $15,000 more than they would have.



Can I Reach My Goals With a PG Year?

For athletic and/or academic reasons, many players consider a post-graduate year at prep school. Part of this consideration includes the question “can I reach my goal if I do a PG year?”. It’s not always an easy question to answer. With some athletes it’s easy to see that a PG year could get them to their goals. With others, they could do three PG years and still not get there.

If you are considering a PG year for athletic reasons, ask yourself how many of the categories below describe you.

  • Do you have a lot of upside (potential)? This is the most important of these and the hardest one to determine. Listen objectively to what the college coaches have to say on this topic.
  • Are you young (turn 18 after graduating from high school) for grade?
  • Are you physically underdeveloped compared to others, or are you still catching up to your body?
  • Have you been under-recruited in high school due to injury, missing the recruiting periods, low level of competition?

If you fit any of these, a PG year is worth considering.

If you are considering a PG year for academic reasons, make sure you know where you stand. Most of this is within your control, yet we talk to too many people who don’t know. Many of them could have known before ever wasting the time and money that a PG year wouldn’t be enough to help them reach their goals.

If you goal is the Ivy League or Patriot League, know where you stand on the Academic Index (AI) and where you need to be to get recruited. If you can, get one of the coaches to tell you your AI number. If not, we can help you calculate it.

If your issue is becoming a qualifier, know where you stand with the NCAA Clearinghouse. If you don’t know, we have a spreadsheet that can tell you. If you need a higher GPA remember, you can only get credit for one course after you graduate high school, unless you have documented special academic needs. The days of making up for many years of poor high school grades with one PG year are over. If you need higher SAT scores, make sure you understand what a realistic jump in test scores after a PG year is.

A PG year is a great option for a lot of athletes. Make sure you do your homework first.