Pursuing Collegiate Sports: The Challenges and Opportunities

Pursuing Collegiate Sports: The Challenges and Opportunities

According to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), roughly 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 13) go on to play a varsity sport in college and less than 2% go on to play at  NCAA Division I schools. This year, at November’s National Signing Day, Merion Mercy Academy had nine girls commit to playing at the collegiate level—six at Division I schools— which is roughly 10% of the senior class. 

Besides the obvious gratification that comes from embracing one’s competitive spirit, playing a college sport offers a variety of benefits for student-athletes, both academically and personally. Among the skills developed are time management, discipline, teamwork, and leadership, as well as perseverance, resilience, and sportsmanship. Along with physical fitness, student-athletes also benefit from improved mental health and enhanced self-esteem.

As the numbers above indicate, however, being given the opportunity to play a varsity sport in college is not an easy feat. It is one that requires a combination of talent, hard work, dedication, and the ability to navigate the college recruitment process. In addition to staying physically fit and developing one’s skills through practice, competition and coaching, here are some steps and factors to consider:

1. Maintain Academic Excellence:

  • Grades Matter: College coaches often look for student-athletes who excel academically.

  • Standardized Tests: Prepare for and take standardized tests (like the SAT or ACT) as they are often considered during the recruitment process.

2. Create a Recruiting Profile:

  • Athletic Resume: Create a detailed athletic resume highlighting your achievements, statistics, and skills.

  • Highlight Videos: Make highlight videos showcasing your best performances. These are invaluable for coaches who cannot see you play in person.

  • Online Profiles: Use sports recruiting websites to create profiles that college coaches can access.

3. Attend Showcases and Camps:

  • Showcases: Attend sports showcases and tournaments where college coaches might be present.

  • Camps: Participate in college camps or workshops where you can learn from college coaches and showcase your skills.

4. Reach Out to Coaches (be both persistent and patient):

  • Emails and Letters: Write personalized emails or letters to college coaches expressing your interest in their programs. Include your athletic resume and highlight videos.

  • Phone Calls: Follow up with phone calls to establish a personal connection with coaches.

5. Visit Colleges:

  • Official Visits: If a coach expresses interest, consider taking official visits to the college. This helps you assess the campus, team dynamics, and coaching staff.


In addition to what an individual can do to improve their odds of playing college sports, there are advantages that a private school can offer in this regard. 

  1. More well-rounded student-athletes: While practice and games are a significant part of a student athlete's high school schedule, Merion Mercy Academy prioritizes a balance of physical, mental, and spiritual development, which can provide a favorable advantage.

  2. Diversity of competitors: Student-athletes at Merion Mercy Academy have the advantage of playing and competing with and against students from all over the Philadelphia region. Teams are made up of talent from all different backgrounds and experiences.

  3. More qualified coaches: It is important that coaches are experienced and skilled in the programs they run. In private school athletic programs, sought-after coaches are often brought in as part-time employees just for the season. This is seen as an advantage for many sports. 

  4. Academic rigor: Playing a varsity sport in college is about more than just athletic prowess; as noted, school performance is also a significant factor. The reality is that any athletic program that shows interest in a student will need to be certain they can meet the academic requirements of the school. The better the grades, the better the chances of getting accepted.  

  5. Active support at all levels: At Merion Mercy Academy, our fusion of mentoring, advisory and counseling services empowers our students to embrace their authentic self with courage and confidence. Enhancing the learning process, our support personnel guide the development of all Merion Mercy students with their academic and personal concerns, and higher education goals. By providing coping skills and maintaining holistic health, student athletes can channel their growth into strong athletic performance.


If you want to play a collegiate sport, a private school like Merion Mercy Academy offers a number of advantages, and there are a variety of steps you as a player can also take to increase your chances of success. In the end, being a student-athlete will provide you with a number of rewards that will benefit you for years to come!