It is better to cut down a massive list than creating one out of thin air. When writing a list of schools onto a blank piece of paper, the tendency is to name lacrosse schools that an athlete is familiar with perhaps based on past contact or a school’s prestige. The problem is that this technique results in a list of schools that have nothing in common other than lacrosse. If Dartmouth and Salisbury are on your list, your list is not congruent and you as a student athlete really don’t understand who you are as a person and what you want.

Beginning in 8th grade, you need to start building your college list.  While being prepared for early recruiting is part of the equation, the reality is most athletes won’t be asked to make a decision freshman or sophomore year. However, we don’t believe anyone should be waiting until fall of senior year to consider their college options. The impact of early recruiting is that we are talking about and attempting to plan someone’s future, which is a great thing. If we are ahead of the process, we are can control it and not feel overwhelmed.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with a dramatic shift as time goes on from 8th grade to 10th grade. It could be a new major (engineering versus not engineering), geographic location, or school size, but at least we’ll know how to make a second a list. Start even if you’re not sure.

The end goal is to finish with five or six schools that are very similar. So similar in fact that you could close your eyes, drop your finger on one of those schools, and be thrilled with the result.

1.     Be honest with yourself.

If you’re not a varsity starter as a sophomore, you’re probably not D1 unless there are D1 commits in front of you, which is unlikely because there are so few D1 athletes playing lacrosse in Pittsburgh.

If you didn’t get elite grades as a freshmen, you’re probably not a candidate for an Ivy League school.

If you’re someone who has been a career starter, hasn’t had to work very hard, going to an upper tier program might not be a good fit for you.

2.     Go to LaxPower, click men from the top banner, select links, print out list of schools in all of your appropriate divisions

3.     Cross off all the schools that don’t make sense

Parents should help with this process because there is a good chance parents know more about a college than a 16 year old boy.

a.     If you don’t like cold weather

b.     If the school is too expensive (even with financial aid)

c.      If the enrollment is too big or too small

d.     If the campus is a dump

e.     If the school is too far away

f.      If they don’t have your major

g.     If your grades aren’t good enough, if your grades are too good

h.     If the boys on the current roster don’t have the same socio economic background

i.       If you’ve never heard of the school

j.       If the school is too conservative

k.     If the school is D1 and you’re not D1

What’s left is a more refined list of what the player wants.

Now what?

4.     Start to visit as many schools as possible, even if they aren’t on your list.

Remember a school’s website and social media is pure marketing. They aren’t going to show you images the homeless near campus, the near perpetual grey weather, the freshman dorms, or what its like getting to and from campus.

Figure out what you like about the campus you’re visiting and what you don’t like. Then you can further refine your list. If a school you had high hopes for has a dumpy campus that let you down, cross it off your list. If you like a particular thing about a campus, look for it in the next visit.

School list size by grade:

8th grade - 40 schools

9th grade - 30 schools

10th grade - 15 schools

11th grade - 10 schools

12th grade - 5 schools

At some point during this whole process, you get to select where you are going to go to college. You get to select where you are going to live for the next four years. If you don’t think you’re going to like it after being on campus for a couple hours, you’re going to be miserable when you’re there for four years. Don’t be sucked in by an aggressive lacrosse coach or any pressure from your parents, peers, or club coaches.

Bonus Tip: Assistant coaches do not stick around. Don’t let an assistant coach positively or negatively impact your decision because he won’t be there for all four years.