Kelly attended Tulane University where she competed in the Heptathlon while majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology and Religious Studies. She transferred after her sophomore year to Springfield College where she became an All-American in the combined events. She also switched her major to Sport Management and followed up with the Psychology minor. She spend the last two years coaching the successful Track and Field team and earning her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership at St. Lawrence University. Kelly is now started training and looking forward to competing for USA Bobsled/Skeleton.
Collegiate athletics are essentially nothing more than another extracurricular undergraduate universities and colleges offer. As a high school student athlete looking to narrow down, or perhaps even start making a list of top schools of choice, one often important factor is the division in which that particular school competes within. I’ve had experience being recruited, competing as a student athlete and working for both Division I and Division III schools.
One thing that must be stressed is that communication will be required on your end. However, that same level of communication is not to be expected as the standard for how departments within schools adhere. It is also imperative to understand the major difference among all three divisions within the NCAA. Division I athletics are the “big time” sports that offer full and partial scholarships to a limited amount of student athletes for each team. That number of scholarships offered is determined by the NCAA and the population of the school. You may find that institutions with lower tuition costs split their scholarships among the student athletes, especially among those with the in-state tuition rate. Institutions with higher tuition costs may build their programs among a few key student athletes who are provided with full scholarships and the rest of the field is filled in with partial scholarship student athletes and/or walk-ons. Some institutions are notorious for only offering their very top student athletes with scholarship aid and rely on their prestige or athletic domination to attract their other high caliber student athletes.
Division II offers less numbers of scholarships than Division I, again determined by the NCAA, but can offer full scholarships. Another important thing to note is that institutions only offer scholarships on a year by year basis; there is no such thing as a full four year ride in collegiate athletics.
Division III is where I have had the most experience as an All American as well as a coach of a National Champion. This division of the NCAA puts the student athletes experience and participation over generating revenue. They, along with the Ivy and Patriot Leagues, do not offer any athletic aid, but the coaches often know the right direction to point you in if you express your need for more financial aid. By rules, they cannot call the Financial Aid office on your behalf, but they can help you get into their institution. Certain conferences allow coaches to reserve slots for recruited student athletes.
One of the major differences I found between Division I and Division III was the expected time commitment. I was fortunate enough to transfer in a sport where there virtually was no difference between the divisions for the competitions since my timed result was a reflection of my effort and not that of poorer competition. In Division I there was no such thing as an off-season. There was either pre-season, or competition season which ran the entire length of school, and then some. Pre-season was divided into roughly eight coached hours a week and competition season had twenty coached hours a week. When I wasn’t at practice or in class, I was expected to be in study hall. I was provided with tutors when I needed help, and rewarded with less study hall hours when I excelled in the classroom. We spent many hours on the road travelling to and from competitions, and more hours trying to catch up on the work we missed.
I would encourage you to explore all of your options when finding the right fit. Go on as many recruiting trips as possible, it is capped at five official visits for Division I, but unlimited for Division III. On those trips, ask the upperclassmen questions regarding time management. Get the goods on the coaching staff, how long they have been there, any whispers of movement in the coaching world coming up, even the number and age of any children the head coach may have. Many coaches stay in a stable position if they still have school age children. There are typically more coaching changes within Division I than Division III. If you have decided your major already, talk with the head of that particular department. If you are still undecided, ask current students how they made their decision. Be proactive with this search but also open to change. Whatever you end up choosing, remember to stay in the present moment and not dwell on the “what-ifs.”
Good luck on your college search and enjoy the process!