Archive for NESCAC

When Colleges Compete, You Win!

Athletic recruiting at the selective Tier 1 colleges comes down to 2 things: admissions support and an acceptable financial aid offer. The likelihood of achieving both of those is greatly increased if there is more than one selective college recruiting you.

Let’s start with admissions support. Whether we’re talking about Likely Letters in the Ivy League or being told that you’re on the coach’s list in the NESCAC or Patriot League, it’s important to remember what purpose those early indications serve from the perspective of the college. The Likely Letter is not a reward for your strong athletics and academics. The Likely Letter is an early-indication tool that the school uses to let a potential recruit know that he or she will be admitted (barring any major screw-ups). Since Regular Decision notifications aren’t given until early April, the schools know that many athletes will be under pressure to make their commitments much earlier than that and the LL gives them the assurance they need to pass on the other offers. The school uses this tool if they feel there is a good chance you’ll take an offer elsewhere. If no other competing school is recruiting, the incentive for a school to give you that early indication is not as strong.

The other important component is the financial aid offer. Many of the Tier 1 colleges only offer need-based financial aid. You submit your CSS and FAFSA forms and the financial aid computer spits out a number. That number is going to vary a lot depending on the school. Endowment size vs. enrollment allow some schools to be much more generous than others. Here’s a link to Ivy League financial aid comparisons that shows just how much they can vary. But those numbers aren’t written in stone. If an athlete has a financial aid offer from another school within the conference, there’s a very good chance that School 1 will attempt to match the offer from School 2. Without a competing offer, there isn’t much incentive for the school to improve their offer.

So even if you are getting interest from your dream school, you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you close the doors too soon. Strong interest from other schools, especially within the conference, will only improve your chance for admissions support and a good financial aid package.

Lacrosse Recruiting in the NESCAC

Here’s a great article on the lacrosse recruiting process in the NESCAC written by Chris Meade, co-Founder of


As many of you know, the NESCAC is the New England Small College Athletic Conference. It is an athletic conference made up of academically more and most selective liberal arts institutions. On top of the institution’s high academic caliber, the league is often considered the most competitive Division 3 conference. According to LaxPower’s Power Rankings, the league has had one of the strongest power rankings over the past 5 years. Reigning national champion, Tufts, is one of the member institutions.

Right now, a number of ODAC and Centennial graduates are rolling their eyes. Both conferences have strong academic reputations and strong lacrosse programs. Over the past couple of years, the word NESCAC has become a buzzword on the recruiting trail. For example, “Is that school a NESCAC school?” or “Do you play in that NESCAC league?” My personal favorite is, “if my kid doesn’t go big time D1/Ivy, I want him to go NESCAC.” It helps that over the past decade schools like Middlebury, Wesleyan and Tufts have consistently ranked in the Top 10 in Division 3 as well as Amherst and Williams always being in contention for the Top Liberal Arts Institution in the country.

So here is my disclaimer, I love talking about the NESCAC and have lots to say because I went through the NESCAC recruiting/admissions process and ended up at Wesleyan. I graduated in 2005 after our school’s first trip to the NCAA tournament. The following years brought two trips to the NCAA Semi Finals and then a NESCAC Championship. (Not bragging or anything). Matt Wheeler, who I started with, also went to Wesleyan and played lacrosse with me.

I end up answering many emails regarding the recruiting process at these schools. So here is some background information about the admissions process for a lacrosse recruit at these institutions.

Some Admissions Tips

To get started, it has become increasingly important for recruits to apply early decision. Almost 95% of recruited athletes will apply early decision at an institution. This is a way for the coach to know that the athlete is reciprocating the effort they are making to bring a player to their school. The effort is also monitored by admissions liason who goes between the athletic department and the admission’s office. By going early decision, the coach knows that if you are accepted, you will be coming.

There are a few wrinkles between the different schools in the conference. For example, Bowdoin and Bates have an SAT optional policy that makes it a good choice for strong academic performers in the classroom who may struggle with standard tests. To a lesser degree, similar situations are available at Colby and Connecticut College.  At Colby, applicants can make up their SAT score with any three SAT 2 subject scores. The admissions interview is a must for a player who is borderline for a program. The interview shows effort and interest to the admissions staff allowing a student athlete to explain any weaknesses in their application.

What is a band?

NESCAC institutions use a banding system that the athletic and admissions departments use to rank players who seek admission. The banding breaks players up based on GPA, Class Rank, SAT (or ACT) and SAT 2 and then categorizes them as A Band, B Band or C Band. Over a 4 year period, schools slot a certain amount of players per band. The system allows for more flexibility than the Ivy’s Academic Index but limits weaker academic applicants. Schools are generally given 4-7 slots per year. At a school like Williams, the class may be made up of 4 A Band students and 2 B Band students. The same B Band student at Williams could be considered an A Band student at a slightly less selective school like Bates.

So here is a general outline of A, B and C Bands for NESCAC schools.

A Band

SAT Scores 700+ average all above 670

SAT II 710

GPA: 92+ GPA, Almost All As

Class Rank: Top 5%

Courses: 4+ APs, Honors Classes

B Band

SAT scores 650+ average, all above 620

SAT II 640

GPA: 88+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs

Class Rank: Top 15%

Courses: Few AP Courses, Honors

C Band

SAT scores 630+ average, all above 590

SAT II 600

GPA:  85+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs, occasional Cs

Class Rank: Top 20%

Courses:  Honors

As I said, these are general numbers but they serve as a benchmark to better understand where a student athlete stands. As you narrow down your schools of interest, providing your transcript and speaking with the coach will provide the greatest feedback and realistic expectations.

Interpreting “Coachspeak” as a Recruit: Are You a Buyer or a Seller?

"She loves me, she loves me not...."

At the highly selective Tier 1 colleges, leveraging your athletic ability into admissions support is often the name of the game. Almost every school can offer some sort of admissions support to athletes with strong academics. The Ivy League has Likely Letters (as does the University of Chicago), the NESCAC has “tips” and “slots” (although not every NESCAC school uses those terms in their recruiting vocabulary), and MIT, Stanford and Patriot League schools all have varying degrees of support that a coach can provide.

The question is, how do you interpret the level of support that you’re getting? I get a lot of emails from athletes describing their dialogue with a coach and asking for my interpretation. Here’s one, for example:

“The coach has told me he thinks I would be a good addition to the team and he’s going to do his best to get me here, but at the end of the day it’s up to admissions. Does that mean I’ll be getting one of his slots?”

Okay, aside from the obvious advice -“ASK HIM”, how do you interpret “coachspeak”? How does a coach talk to a top recruit compared to one that’s on the bubble?

Are You the Buyer or the Seller?

One very good way to get a read on the tone of the interaction with a coach is to ask yourself, “Do I feel like the buyer or the seller in this relationship?”

The “buyer” in the relationship is the one who is evaluating choices. In the conventional sense of the word, the buyer is the one with the money and needs to be convinced that the seller is offering something worthwhile. In the Coach / Recruit relationship – the coach is trying to sell his product (the school and team) to the top recruits, while the lower level recruits are doing their best to sell their talents to the coach.

For example, are you the one making more of the calls and waiting for your messages and emails to be returned? If so, that sounds like you’re the seller.

Is the coach calling you regularly just to check in and let you know interesting or exciting things that are happening on the team? In that case, you’re the buyer – he’s the seller.

If he tells you that he thinks you could be an impact player right away instead of spending 2 years on the bench like you might at School X, he’s selling. But if he tells you that your times or academics are good, but he’d really like to see them at _____, he sees you as the seller, and your product needs to be a little better.

I think the buyer/seller analogy is a good way to help you interpret the strength of the coach’s commitment to you. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that acting like a buyer will give you an advantage. No, no, no. Acting like one who has a lot of choices to evaluate and really needs to be shown exactly why this school is better than the competition is a great way to be put on he “do not call” list as a potential attitude problem.

Be respectful, be polite and be professional as you go through the process. But when you’re trying to determine where you’re really wanted, ask yourself: Do you feel like a buyer or a seller?




ED1 vs ED2 in the NESCAC?

As we’re ticking down to 11/1, kids are deciding where to go ED. So many kids are insecure that it’s gong to work out, even with coach support. If a coach has been recruiting a kid and they decide to go ED elsewhere, is that pretty much the end of the relationship? Is there any way for a recruit to still keep a door open with the other schools that have been recruiting him in case things don’t pan out at #1? We asked a NESCAC coach if he could give us any insight into ED1 vs ED2 and if it’s possible to keep your options open.

I think it’s natural for kids to feel a little nervous about things working out in the ED 1 process at a NESCAC school. As the policy in the NESCAC states, as coaches we’re not allowed to guarantee anyone they’ll be admitted to our institutions as it’s ultimately an admissions decision, not a coach’s decision.

Each coach has their own language and track record over the years, all I can say is that kids should be asking direct questions about where they stand and what kind of read they were given by admissions.

As far as keeping in touch with other coaches, I would say that it doesn’t happen often but kids can certainly reach out to other coaches and let them know that if things don’t work out at school A, they’ll likely apply to school B in the ED 2 round or regular decision…they can ask if there would be the potential for support in one of those rounds.