So, you want to play college athletics? Make sure you’re covering all the bases!

So you want to play college athletics? Make sure you're covering all the bases!

It is February of my senior year of high school. It is the middle of basketball season, prom is around the corner, and I am gearing up for my last go around of the high school golf season. I am cruising through until May. Then it is on to college golf – my dream since I was in junior high school. Arriving home one afternoon, I see a large 11×8 envelope waiting on the kitchen counter.  It says: “OPEN PROMPTLY.” It is addressed to me and is from the college athletic department at University of Central Missouri (UCM). I panic.

Before this moment, my senior year had gone as planned. Firstly, in October, I went on my unofficial visit to UCM. The visit went great.  The campus culture was a good fit and I hit it off immediately with my prospective coach and fellow team members. Secondly, I received a similar large envelope with an athletic scholarship offer.  That’s the single most important piece of paper I had received up to that point in my life. Thirdly, was my National Letter of Intent (NLI), solidifying my commitment to enroll at the university and become a member of the men’s golf team. In addition, there were lots of other forms included in the envelope.  However, after seeing the first two, do you think I took the time to look at them? Not a chance.

Meanwhile, early signing day was the second week of November. There was a large ceremony with my fellow seniors who were also making commitments. I was surrounded by my high school golf coach, my family, and my fellow teammates. I signed my NLI, took some photos, and was overcome with joy. It was a great day.

Required Paperwork

And now, here I am, faced with this dreadful looking envelope that threatens all of it. I peel open the envelope and pull out two sheets of paper. The first paper is from the university athletic director himself, who states his congratulations and welcomes me to UCM. The second paper is not so welcoming, though. Apparently, those forms I disregarded in October included the steps I needed to take to become academically eligible (not just athletically).  It was a huge mistake to have ignored them. I have a deadline now – April 1st – to submit some essential paperwork to the office of admissions.

The next morning, I rush to school an hour early and run upstairs to the high school athletic director’s office. I am frantic, panicked and anxious.

“I have all these steps I must take, otherwise my athletic career is over,” I say.

She smiles, gives me a reassuring chuckle, and calmly explains what to do. All that is required is to submit my official high school transcripts, official ACT test score, and my eligibility to attend college in the United States. In fact, compiling these three pieces of information takes no more than 15 minutes. That evening, I put all the information in a return envelope addressed to the UCM office of admissions and send it via overnight delivery. A couple days later, I receive a letter from the admissions office that eases my anxiety:

Congratulations! You have been admitted to UCM as a member of the 2016 graduating class.

As a result, all that stress was caused by overlooking a few pieces of paper. Sheesh.

In short, what is the lesson here? After your initial acceptance euphoria, please remember to look at all the papers included in your official offer package. The college athletic department put them there for a reason. They are important! If you were fortunate enough to reap the benefits of submitting your NLI during the early signing period, great! You are hopefully experiencing less stress than I was feeling. If you are getting ready for the spring signing day coming up in February, best of luck, and cherish one of the most exciting and joyful days of your athletic career.

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