College Tennis USA
How is the American university system structured?
Americans generally finish a "high school" at age 18 and begin university in August or
September the same year. A typical student finishes his/her degree in 4 years. Upon
receiving an "undergraduate" degree, the students starts work or pursues an advanced
degree in a field such as medicine or law. An American college's liberal arts philosophy values
critical thinking and a wide skill base rather than initially focusing on a specific subject.
The school year is normally from September to May with a 3 month summer vacation.
There is generally a one month break in studies in December and January as well as a
week long spring break in March or April. American universities range in cost from
$10,000 to $45,000 per year. Private schools generally have fewer students and cost
more than State/Public schools. Financial aid given to needy students and scholarships
given to exceptional academic and athletic performers help cut costs at all schools.
What is American College Athletics all about?
There are over 30 sports offered at American universities. All programs are based on
the American concept of the student-athlete. All athletes take classes with their fellow
students while representing their schools in competition against other universities.
Collegiate athletics is broken into five blocks-each of which has different rules and
- NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) Division 1
This top league has the strongest competition and the strictest rules. There are over
250 Men's and Women's programs in Division 1.
- NCAA Division 2
Similar to Division 1. Schools are generally smaller and offer slightly more relaxed
admissions and eligibility requirements. There are over 200 Division 2 athletic programs.
- NCAA Division 3
These schools cannot offer athletic scholarships, but are often ranked among the top
academic institutions in the country.
- NAIA - National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
These schools vary greatly in size, level of competition, and academic levels. NAIA
schools generally have more relaxed rules for acceptance and eligibility than NCAA
schools. There are over 200 NAIA athletic programs.
- Junior College
These are two year schools which feed into larger NCAA institutions. They have few
entrance requirements and can be a good first step into American athletics and
academics. A high percentage of the top athletes are International. Junior colleges are
inexpensive, but offer limited scholarships. There are over 500 Junior colleges in the US.
A day in the life of a typical collegiate athlete
09:00 - 12:30 Classes
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch
14:00 - 17:00 Practice
17:00 - 18:00 Weights & Conditioning
18:30 - 19:30 Dinner
19:30 - 22:30 Studying
22:30 - 24:00 Hang out with friends: Eat a pizza, watch TV.
All collegiate coaches programs differ but this can be viewed as a normal
schedule Monday through Friday during your sports season. In Sports such as
Basketball which have a defined season there will be informal workouts at
other times during the year.
What is an athletic scholarship?
Student's costs in return for competing on a sports team. A full scholarship
covers all costs for attending the university including: tuition, room and board
(rent and food expenses), and class books. Costs related to the sport are also
paid for by the team. This includes: clothing, shoes, miscellaneous training
expenses, and athletic travel expenses. Athletes have access to medical
personnel for injuries and other medical needs. Not paid for are travel costs
between the university and the student's family home, and entertainment and
other daily expenses.
Scholarships are awarded to an athlete one year at a time. If an athlete is
doing well academically and is behaving appropriately, the scholarship will be
renewed the next year. An athlete who improves from one year to the next may
earn increased scholarship funding. Schools offer a limited number of
scholarships and the money available each year is affected by how many
current athletes return to the team. In general, only a few scholarships are
available each year for new athletes. There are different scholarship rules for
men and women in many sports. Tennis for example offers more scholarship
money for women than for men while football has 88 scholarships for men and
none for women.
What is college athletics all about?
The athletic experience in the US varies by university and by coach. At the
top programs in NCAA Division 1 there are often coaches with international
experience who have developed professional athletes, but college coaches
have a wide range of skills and experiences. They also have very different
personalities and styles. Your coach will be one of the most important people
in your life during your college athletic career.
Coaching responsibilities include: individual time with athletes, running well
organized and efficient team practices, and providing insight and motivation
during competition. Most sports also have assistant coaches who are often
younger coaches seeking a future head coaching job.
Level of teammates and competition:
Athletes at top schools will be world class and have professional or Olympic
aspirations. At some smaller programs a top athlete may get more attention
and end up developing more than if they had chosen the very highest level.
They also may earn a larger scholarship.
The college athletic season
Every sport has a defined season which ends with the national or NCAA
championship. Fall Sports include: American football, Soccer, Cross Country,
and Field Hockey. Winter Sports include: Basketball, Wrestling, Ice Hockey,
Swimming, and Fencing. Spring Sports include: Tennis, Lacrosse, Track and
Field, and Baseball.
Some programs have athletic facilities which are top of the line. Other schools
have much smaller budgets and will not have the best state of the art equipment.
College athletes are expected to compete for their team for 4 years. Most
coaches will be more interested in an athlete if they are confident that the
student will spend 4 years playing for the school.
Athletes often improve tremendously during college. It is not uncommon for
athletes to begin school as very average members of a team and leave 4 years
later with a chance to compete professionally. There are, however, no guarantees.
It depends on the program and the person. Good competition and regular
practice gives the motivated athlete every opportunity to dramatically improve.
What about the academics?
How does the standard of US universities compare to those in your
American colleges vary in academic levels. Some schools are known worldwide,
while others are barely known even in their region. A school may be
strong in some departments but weak in others. Some schools accept less
than 15% of students that apply while others accept 100%. Good information
about each school is essential before making decisions. As a whole, the
standard at US universities is among the highest in the world, and an
American degree combined with language skills and international experience
is valuable in any job market.
Equivalence of degrees between your country and the US.
This will be affected by what you study and where you attend school. Major
American universities, such as Harvard and Yale, have international reputations
and are respected worldwide. If you receive a degree from a less-known
school, an extra year of studies in your home country can be helpful in assuring
that your skills are recognized in your job market. Universities in each country
have discretion concerning the credits they accept from other countries.
Difference between a college and a university.
Colleges are generally smaller than universities and unlike universities do not have
graduate schools where students earn advanced degrees (Doctorate/ Phd.).
Whether you attend a university or a college you will be in the undergraduate
school and not the graduate school when you are competing as an athlete.
Difference between public and private schools.
Public (or state schools) are supported by taxpayers money and generally cost under
$15,000 per year for students from outside the state and less for state residents.
They often have over 20,000 students and may have excellent facilities but sometimes
suffer from overcrowding both in classrooms and in housing. Private schools
are supported by private contributions and the fees of the students and tend to cost
much more than public schools sometimes over $30,000 per year. Many public
schools have less than 4,000 students. People may choose private schools an excellent
reputation or a desire to be in a smaller more personal environment.
Maintaining academic eligibility
A student athlete is required to maintain a certain level of grades and academic
performance below which point he/she will become ineligible for the team. This
minimum standard is well below the average grades given out at the university
asa whole. With a reasonable level of study a student should remain eligible even
with the extra time devoted to sports.
Level of English required
Your studies will be in English, and the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign
Language) is required for admittance to almost every university. Although following
lectures in English may be difficult if English is not your first language, tutors will help
you make the adjustment. Your English will improve quickly. If you are dedicated, you
Grading conventions and yearly format
School years are broken into two semesters or four quarters depending on the
school. Final exams are given at the end of each period, with smaller exams and
papers spaced throughout the term. Students begin classes at the beginning of
any term and may not enroll once a semester/quarter has begun. A normal academic
schedule consists of 4 courses in various subjects per semester. Students taking
less than 4 courses will need more than 4 years to graduate or they will need to
take additional courses during summer vacation. The amount of studying required
will depend on the individual, courses taken, and the university. Courses generally
meet 2-3 times a week.
Is it better to start school in September than in January?
Academically, starting in January does not cause a problem. Your first day of a class
in January will be the first day in that class for all the students. However, you will not
have the same amount of guidance for beginning school as the students who started
in September who generally go through a structured orientation program and
may have made a lot of friends during the early months. If your sport season is in
the fall or winter, starting in January will not work well for a coach of the team.
What is the life like at an American university?
Housing and meals
Most American students live away from their parents in student housing on the
campus called dormitories. Many schools require students to live on campus and
eat in the college cafeteria at the beginning of their college years before possibly
moving off campus into apartments or houses in later years.
There are wide varieties of activities on college campuses. A few of these include:
movies, sports events, concerts, plays, and parties. Swimming pools, basketball
courts, and other athletic facilities are available for general student use. At many
US universities there is a system of social clubs known as
fraternities and sororities. These are often large houses where members of the
club will sleep and attend parties. Participation in these clubs is optional but the
importance of them varies widely by university and sometimes the social life at a
school revolves around them.
Location and transportation needs
Some schools are in the heart of major cities where a car is more of a headache
than a help. Cities offer tremendous cultural resources but can detract from the
sense of a traditional college campus and the university may get lost in the overall
bustle. Many schools are located in traditional college towns with numerous bars,
restaurants and other businesses catering to
students. In these towns the school is often the focus of the community and
a car is not necessary. Other schools are far from towns and offer little on campus.
Geography is important!
The United States is a huge country, with some of the 50 states larger than
European countries. There is not one culture in the US. People in the North,
South, East, West and Midwest having very distinct ways of speaking,
interacting and working. In the case of universities, the difference in social customs,
dress, and values can be dramatic. If at all possible, a visit to schools
before enrolling will be valuable.
Some regions of the United States are warm all year long, some have normal
change in seasons, and some have long and extremely cold winters. Many of the
best teams are located in the southern and western states, but the growth of
indoor athletics has lessened the traditional gap.
Although the United States does not have universal medical insurance, every
school requires insurance for their students. The insurance costs $300 to $700 a
year and may be included in a full scholarship.
Diversity and student population
Universities in the US differ greatly in their student composition. Some are
dominated by an ethnic group, have skewed percentages of men or women,
or have a specific religious element. Some schools have a high percentage of
foreign students while others have almost all the students from part of that
state. It is important to understand how the student population is composed
and why American students choose that school.
What are my options?
There could be a thousand different opportunities available to a potential
GSC's decision matrix uses the following criteria to find the best
possible fit for our clients.
- Level of competition
- Academic standards
- Scholarship funds available and students monetary needs
- Facilities - Athletic and Academic
- College atmosphere
- Timing - when able to begin
- Size of school
You have finished secondary studies:
You need to take the SAT (a multiple choice test of math and English) as well
as the TOEFL which determines the English level of foreign students. SAT
tests are given on Saturdays throughout the year. The TOEFL test is given
throughout the year using a computer testing and scoring system. The minimum
levels needed to enroll in a Division 1 school are usually possible with a
small amount of preparation. However, high scores on these tests are important
if you want a spot at a top academic school and this may require serious
home preparation or a test preparation course. These tests must be taken well
in advance of enrolling in a US institution since they are part of the admissions
process. College applications (with test scores) are usually done in the fall of
the year before a student enrolls in school and may include essays and personal interviews.
You have begun upper level studies in your home country:
If you have finished your secondary studies and begun upper level studies in
your home country, you may be able to enter the US college system as a
transfer student with credits towards your final degree. There are different
requirements to fulfill than if you were starting at age 18, but the TOEFL and
perhaps the SAT would still be required. The number of years you studied in
your country will affect how many years you can compete for a US university.
The studies you are pursuing and those which you pursue in the US will affect
the how many years of US credit you receive for your work in your home
You did not finish high school or performed poorly on exams:
Junior colleges, designed for students
needing more academic work, do not require the SAT and accept an alternative
high school degree. After 1 or 2 years at these schools, athletes can switch to
Division 1 schools if they have made proper academic progress. Students who
finish a 2 year degree at a junior college and transfer to a Division 1 school will
begin in the third year of studies and not at the beginning.
Issues regarding the age, the number of years to complete HS diploma and the gap between the end of HS and the entrance at the university whatever the country:
Starting with the graduation class of June 2011, rules have changed tremendously and you can not take a year off with your studies and hope to go Division 1 anymore. Contact us as each situation is very specific with the different divisions.
Professionals are unable to compete for athletic teams at US colleges! College
athletics is for amateur athletes. This is often an area where foreign athletes
have problems. The rules state that an athlete can never have received payment
from their respective sport. These rules may be changing in the near
future but consider them to be as such. Please speak with us about this if you
have any questions.
Typical Calendar Process
For American student-athletes, the process of choosing a university
lasts close to two years. The large number of choices and the fierce
competition for top spots makes it important to begin preparations
as early as possible. Below is a sample calendar that an American
Junior Year (Third year of high school)