Your Guide to the Complicated World of College Football Scholarships

College football is the dream of many athletes across the country, but many families are unsure how to get their sons and daughters recruited for the sport. There are only 7% of high school football players who will play Division 1 college football, according to NCAA statistics. Moreover, not all football players will be eligible for athletic scholarships. 

All sports (including football) have seen a significant increase in recruiting volatility, according to NCSA survey data. Many college coaches are unsure of how the recruiting process will play out in the near future. 

What does it take to get recruited to play college football?

Getting a scholarship to play college football is a big deal.

For football recruiting, athletes must first determine which athletic divisions they qualify for, as well as what types of schools they are most interested in attending. Immediately after they've narrowed down their list of schools to focus on, they should begin contacting the coaches at those schools. College coaches are more open than ever to digital recruiting and communication with potential recruits. Those who take advantage of the new recruiting environment and differentiate themselves from the competition are more likely to succeed. 

In spite of the fact that the D1 football recruiting dead period will last until June 1, 2021, prospective players can still reach out to coaches virtually by sending their football recruiting video and explaining why they are interested in that program as well as a few key statistics. They should keep in touch with those coaches, sending them updated videos and stats, as well as arranging campus visits, to keep them informed of their progress. Find out everything you need to know about football recruiting in this article. 

At some point in the recruiting process, the prospective student should zero in on about five specific colleges that they are considering, and the coach should be doing the same. They can expect to receive offers from a number of schools late in their junior or early senior year, and they will sign with their preferred school. Discover more about college football recruiting in our most recent article. 

A streamlined version of the recruiting process, to be sure. Here is a comprehensive guide to college football recruiting that includes all the major milestones athletes need to reach as well as helpful football recruiting tips and tricks for families. 

The most important football recruiting tip to remember is that athletes must take control of their own recruiting process in order to ensure that they are recruited by college football coaches. If you're an athlete, don't sit around waiting for a coach to "find you." Recruits, on the other hand, must take the initiative. If they're serious about the program, they should send a video of their best work and introduce themselves to the staff. For many families, it appears that the most elite, nationally ranked recruits are "discovered" without putting in a lot of effort. As a result, even future NFL players have been overlooked in the college athletic recruiting process. 

Recruiting for football begins at what time of year?

If you want to know how to get recruited for football, you should know when the recruiting process begins. There is a big difference between when athletes should begin the recruiting process versus when they can expect to hear back from college coaches. As soon as an athlete commits to playing college football, the recruiting process begins. As soon as they've made up their minds, they should begin looking into schools, creating a highlight video, and laying the groundwork for a fruitful recruiting campaign. The athlete's freshman and sophomore years of high school are ideal times to do the bulk of this work.

College football coaches will begin contacting the best athletes as early as their junior year of high school. High-level D1 programs begin recruiting football players in their sophomore and junior years of high school, however, for the majority of recruits. By the end of their junior year or early in their senior year of high school, they'll usually have a full roster for a recruiting class. Coaches from Divisions 2 through 3 and the NAIA wait until recruits are in their junior or senior year of high school to see if they've been overlooked by a Division I school.

More opportunities will be available if your family begins the recruiting process early. An athlete's information must be in front of coaches before they fill their rosters for the next recruiting class in order to be considered for D1 schools. College football recruiting: everything you need to know. 

The significance of football star ratings

All the major football recruiting websites, including, ESPN,, and, are plastered with star ratings. The criteria used by each of these organizations to rank high school athletes may differ slightly, but in general, they all rely on footage from games, camps, and combines, as well as an athlete's overall athleticism to arrive at their rankings. 

This is just like how the methods for assigning star ratings to differ, so too do what they mean across platforms. Recruits will be given star ratings based on their potential to contribute to a D1 football team. Star ratings can be summarized as follows:

  • Five Stars: As true freshmen, these players are among the rarest in college basketball's elite class.
  • Four Stars: Recruits with a four-star ranking are considered to be outstanding prospects who can make an immediate impact on their teams' fortunes as freshmen.
  • Three stars: These athletes have promise, but it's possible that they'll need more time to mature before they can make a significant impact on their college team.
  • Two Stars: Two thumbs up: Two-star athletes, who are considered average recruits, require the most time to develop their abilities before they can be major contributors in college.

There are a few specific reasons for using star ratings: Because they make it easy to see who are the top recruits, the general public can keep track of their own recruiting journeys. Athletes who are a good fit for a college program can be identified using the ratings. However, and this point cannot be emphasized enough, assigning stars is neither an exact science nor a definitive guide. More than a few college and professional athletes have had successful careers despite their lack of star power. Using a ranking as a starting point can help you identify the best programs for your needs. Keep in touch with coaches at the schools you're interested in. 

Do the new redshirt rules have an impact on college football recruitment?

Redshirted Division 1 FBS and FCS football players no longer have to sit out a season because of a change in NCAA rules. Starting in the 2018-2019 football season, players will no longer lose their redshirt status if they take even one snap during the course of a game. 

This rule change means that college coaches will change their recruiting tactics by focusing on attracting recruits with the promise of meaningful playing time and development in the first year of their college career. Ask college coaches about playing opportunities for redshirt freshmen as soon as you start communicating with them. 

Starting out: Set realistic goals for yourself in terms of your abilities and what you expect of yourself.

The football recruiting process begins with the prospective student-athlete, their family, and the current head coach. Both athletes and their parents should take some time to sit down and answer the following questions honestly:

  • How well prepared am I for the rigors of collegiate football? It doesn't matter what division your athlete plays in, football will eat up a significant amount of time. On top of classes and homework, there will be early morning practices, training sessions, games, film studies, and travel. Before beginning the recruiting process, make sure your athlete is prepared for this level of commitment.
  • Is it possible for me to play college football if I work hard enough? If an athlete wants to accurately answer this question, he or she must evaluate their current athleticism and skillset, and then project how much they can improve before their freshman year of college. With the recruit's current coach on board, this is an excellent opportunity for athletes to talk openly about their aspirations of playing college football with him. Third-party evaluations like NCSA can also be done for athletes.
  • Are there any divisions that I'm eligible to play in? At Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, and Junior College levels, there are countless opportunities for softball players to play. Determine which division levels you are eligible to compete in with the help of your current coach, a qualified third party such as the NCSA, and college coaches themselves Get a better grasp on the various levels of division. 

Determine which colleges you want to attend by conducting research and compiling a list of potential schools.

Do your homework and look at as many schools as possible when you're looking for a football program. Start by reaching out to a large number of college coaches—around 20-30—and then gradually reduce your contact list. Here's how we'd suggest structuring your list of potential customers. 

5 safe schools: These are schools where you know you can play and where you meet the academic requirements. Make early contact with these coaches to let them know you're serious. In many cases, student-athletes discover that programs they had never considered before end up being the best matches for their academic and athletic goals.

There are ten schools that we are focusing on: The schools that are the best fit for you in terms of athletics, academics, and extracurricular activities—those you want to concentrate your recruiting efforts on—go here.

5 are able to get to schools: These schools may be out of your price range or highly competitive in terms of academics or athletics. Add them to the list of things you want to accomplish.

It's a good idea to include a variety of divisions in your list of schools to target. Your chances of receiving a college football scholarship are greatly increased if you play in the appropriate division. Check out this list of questions to ask yourself in order to find the college that is right for you. 

Create an attention-grabbing video montage.

When it comes to the recruitment process, nothing is more important than a candidate's highlight video! Coaches at colleges and universities are simply not able to go out and watch each and every recruit in action. In addition to the fact that the high school and college seasons overlap, high school players only play one game a week, making it difficult for college coaches to see them in action. A three- to five-minute video of a prospective player's best skills and plays is a tall order for any hopeful. To help you get started, here are a few pointers: 

  • Use footage from your school's varsity sports to create a highlight reel. Athletes compete against each other in a game, and coaches want to see how recruits handle themselves in that situation.
  • Remove the intro and background music. Neither music nor lightning bolts nor flames are of interest to coaches, who are only concerned with the outcome of the game.
  • Your highlight video should be treated like a commercial—start with your most memorable moments to draw the attention of coaches.

They can get their foot in the door with coaches by showing off their best clips. Depending on the coach's interest, they can either set up a time to see the athlete in action in person or request a full game video. Find out what kind of abilities candidates should be able to demonstrate in order to be considered for a given position in a recruitment video. 

Contact the coaches on your target list right away.

Step-by-step instructions for contacting college football coaches are provided here. Visit our College Recruiting Guide's Contacting College Coaches page for more information.

Send a brief email to the college coach, including a video of your best performances and your most important statistics.

  • If you call the coach, mention the introductory email you received from him or her.
  • Keep in touch with coaches by responding to any and all correspondence they send you.
  • Make sure to keep in touch with the coaches by sending them updated stats and videos, inviting them to watch you compete, or thanking them for their recent success.

a recruiting tip for football: First, contact the recruiting coordinator at large and medium-sized football programs if you don't know who else to talk to. Contact your position coach, then the assistant coach, then the head coach if you don't have a coordinator. 

Engage your current coach to help you establish contacts with college admissions officers and have them assess your abilities.

Athletes should keep their high school coaches up to date on their recruiting progress at all times! High school football coaches are critical members of a student-recruiting athlete's staff. High school football coaches can help college coaches get to know their athletes. Many high school football coaches already have connections with college coaches. They can recommend an athlete to the college coach if they think they'd be a good fit for the program. 

In addition, a recruit's high school coach is likely to have full game film, which will be crucial for the creation of a recruit's highlight video. As well as assisting recruits in selecting the best plays to include in their highlight video, they can also assess each player's abilities and offer suggestions for how they can improve in order to succeed at the next level. 

Athletes should rely on their high school coaches throughout the recruiting process, as they can help them build rapport with college coaches, gain exposure to college coaches, sort through game film, and work on their weaknesses. 

Do what you can to get in front of college coaches by attending camps, combines, showcases, and junior days

A great highlight video is just as important as attending football camps, showcases, and junior days for the same reason: college coaches have limited time and resources to watch every recruit in person. Camps are a great opportunity for college recruits to show off their abilities to potential coaches. They can also assist athletes in developing personal connections with their coaches. 

When it comes to recruiting football players, combines are still an important part of the process. Verified football stats, or football numbers taken by a reputable third party, can be obtained by football players at combine events. This event includes a variety of football-related drills, such as the 40-yard dash and 3-cone drill.

Find out more about recruiting through camps, combines, and showcases. 

Manage the football recruiting process effectively.

Most of the time, we see families get bogged down in the recruiting process and wonder if they are on the right track and if they really understand how to get their child recruited for football. When a company is in the "managing" stage of the recruiting process, this is a telltale sign. At this point, families have a number of options for continuing their recruitment efforts: 

  • Add new clips and plays to your highlight reel. This is a great time for the athlete to send the new video to the coaches on their contact list via email.
  • Keeping in touch with college football coaches is essential! Coaches should be notified about the progress of their recruits on a monthly or bimonthly basis, and athletes should send their schedules to them so that they can watch them compete in person. Take a look at these 25 reasons why college coaches should be updated.
  • New athletic or academic statistics, a new video, an updated transcript, or a personal statement can all be added to your NCSA profile. Using an athlete's profile, coaches can get an accurate picture of the student-athlete.
  • College visits can be both unofficial and official. A visit to a school's campus is the only way to know for sure if it's right for you. Check out the training facilities, library and freshman dorms before making a final decision about whether or not you want to live there for four years.
  • Keep adding schools to your list of potential colleges. During the recruiting process, schools on your list will inevitably drop off, move up or down, or even remain exactly where they are. To ensure that you're prioritizing your recruiting efforts correctly, review your list of schools every quarter.
  • Take the ACT or SAT to see where you stand. Academic eligibility in the NCAA and NAIA is heavily reliant on standardized test scores. Athletes are encouraged to take the ACT or SAT in the fall of their junior year so they have time to improve their scores in the spring.
  • Make sure you're eligible to attend school. Check to see if athletes are on track to meet their academic eligibility requirements.
  • Make sure you're on top of all of the due dates. If you're applying for financial aid, you'll need to fill out the FAFSA, as well as fill out the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Center registration, your final transcripts, and proof of graduation.

Know what you're getting into and how to get the best deal

The goal of the football recruiting process for most athletes is to be offered a scholarship. It is a headcount sport in NCAA Division I football and all scholarships must be full-ride. Non-scholarship athletes, or walk-ons, are required to join the team. Athletes in the NAIA, as well as all other divisions, have the freedom to distribute their scholarship money however they see fit. In our College Recruiting Guide, you can learn more about the various types of offers. 

Tips for getting a better scholarship offer is what most families are interested in learning about. Offers from other schools are the best negotiating tool an athlete has. Rival schools, in particular, can be a problem for college coaches. Athletes should aim to receive offers from at least five schools in order to get the best deal possible. The amount of money your family will have to pay out of their own pocket should always be taken into consideration when negotiating a deal. Visit our college recruiting guide to learn more about scholarship negotiation. 

As tempting as it may be at first for a prospect to accept the first college offer and be done with the recruiting process, it is important to find a college that meets the athlete's academic, social, and financial needs. NCSA data shows that over 45% of underclassmen athletes are not listed on their college roster the following year, so the best college is one that a prospect wants to attend regardless of football. 

Choose your dream college and enroll today!

The athlete must sign a contract with the school in order to make a scholarship offer legally binding. The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is used by about 650 NCAA Division I and II schools, as well as NAIA and NHCAA institutions. Because the NLI is a legally binding document, families should check their understanding several times before signing their names to it. An athlete agrees to compete for one year at the school, and the school promises to pay him or her the agreed-upon scholarship for that time. 

National Letter of Intent (NLI) signing dates for Division I football have been pushed back to August 1, 2021, because of the coronavirus. 

It's been a long journey, but it's finally over! As you prepare for the next phase of your life, don't forget to commemorate this momentous occasion.

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