Before Chip and Joanna Gaines became HGTV celebrities, before RGIII revived Baylor football and long before I ever was a Baylor Bear the sleepy town of Waco was hardly spoken of…unless you were talking about the infamous Branch-Davidians. (A tragic event that left 76 people dead).
The Waco I knew was just a pit stop, halfway between Dallas and Austin. A little Lone Star state geography for ya.
Photo cred: Waco Chamber of Commerce
So why on earth did I choose to attend Baylor University??!?!!!? For any aspiring college student-athlete, determining what school/program is right for you is the million dollar question. We are here to help!
- What level of competition is appropriate for you? Be honest with yourself. Recruit coaches and close confidantes to help you determine this. If you are athletically able to make it at the Division I level, but know you don’t want your sport to dictate your college years, make that known from the beginning. The best advice I can offer on this point: only YOU know what level is
- Is your major of interest offered? You’re called a ‘student’athlete’ for a reason, not ‘athlete-student’. Ideally, as an incoming freshman, you have an idea of what you would like to study. The NCAA airs those famous commercials…”There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, most of us will go pro in something other than sports.” So cliche, but so true!
- Culture Meriam-webster defines ‘culture’ as the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time. Narrow minded or free thinking? Conservative or liberal? Studious or party animal? Well esteemed or infamous? Southern hospitality or laid back/chill west coast? Tex-mex or deep dish pizza? Sprawling green space or urban architecture? I could go on for days, but I won’t 😝. If you’re looking for a smaller, liberal arts school with pleasant weather year round – you won’t be looking at major universities up north. Catch my drift? Make a list of what priorities mean the most to you and find schools that check your boxes.
- Location! Location! Location! A phrase so commonly used in the real estate market, but quite applicable when finding a college/university. Location is an often overlooked aspect for prospective college student-athletes. If you’re a high school football player from the pacific northwest, committing to a school in Louisiana will take some gettin’ used to! Of course you will play games in various climates across the country, but the majority of your training will take place in a VERY different climate. Additionally, many student-athletes commit to a school far from home, but have intentions of returning to their home state after graduation. Nothing wrong with that, but many of your job leads/networking will likely take place in whichever city you attend school, unless you make an effort to build professional relationships elsewhere.
- Academic reputation Last but certainly not least, is the topic of academics. In fact, this area should have much more stock than student-athletes give it credit. Remember, you’ll most likely be depending on your degree and area of study to earn a living one day. It’s important to choose wisely. Be sure to attend a class with one of your potential teammates, and even better if it’s a class in your academic area of interest. I had the chance to attend a graduate class with a fifth year senior, and it was one of the experiences that sealed the deal for me. (The large majority) of professors at Baylor go above and beyond for their students.
While this list is not all inclusive, it does include some of the items I find most important when choosing a college/university to attend and represent. Let me know your thoughts/comments/questions!