A number of people have asked Dad about the process for finding a US University (or College - more or less the same thing). So here is a page which deals with the process mainly from a French Golfer's perspective but most of the information is applicable to any nationality competing in most sports affiliated to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Keep in mind it is based on our own experiences things might be different for you and the process may have changed since we did it (2018-2019); in other words no guarantees that the info is correct, if you choose to use it you do so at your own risk.
We did our research and application process without using an agent so what follows are the steps we took at that time - things may have changed especially with Covid-19. Before I go any further I need to say a big thanks to Sandrine Mendiburu who explained all of this to Dad, it is her advice which is repeated here along with insight from my own and Dad's experience. Not forgetting, Phil Rowe (formerly of UNLV and now Cal Poly) who was also very generous answering a lot of Dad's questions.
As I mentioned we didn't use an agent mainly because on a limited budget it was an expense we couldn't afford but also because we wanted to keep control over the process ourselves. Some of my friends used agents and some speak very highly of the service they provided and feel the fees they paid were good value for money, others do not. Whichever method you choose to follow I hope some of the information below will be useful.
When to start the process?
It's best to start the process earlier than you might think. If I could do go through the process again I would start it during French school year know as la troisième or at the latest the following year. Pupils in la troisième year in France are generally aged 14 to 15 years old. The NCAA eligibility rules (more on this later) are determined by your schooling not by your age - so if you have jumped a year you will be starting a bit younger than everyone else.
To be successful you should be in regular contact with a several golf programs and be committed to keeping the coaches informed with what you are doing and how you are progressing (at school and as a golfer). It would be impossible to keep in touch with 100 coaches but maybe realistic to do so with 8, 10 or 12 - it depends on how motivated you are and how important going to the US to study is for you. It seems to me that coaches have a group of prospective players they follow, slowly the number dwindles as athletes decide the college isn't for them or the coach decides the player isn't the right fit for the team; I imagine there are many other reasons too.
I think the best advice I can give is try to be in the group of players the coach is following as soon as you can and do your best to stay in the group by keeping in touch with them. In the US the system of junior golf seems to be organised to promote entry into college. Many coaches attend junior events and spot talent from an early age; although it may feel odd or awkward to do so you have to try to be part of the system. The tendency (in France at least) is to wait until you have some good results and then start the process (maybe you won your first Grand Prix or were selected for the National squad, for example) but if you do this it will limit your chances of finding a spot on a golf team and maybe your chances of a decent scholarship.
So start early and make a real effort to build a relationship with the coaches at the schools you have selected. This is what the US based parents and players are doing, so you need to do so too.
One of the very first things you must do is create an account with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). I doubt whether any coach will take your interest seriously if you do not haven't created an account.
An aspirant college athlete wanting to play golf (or other sport) in NCAA Div I, II or III must register with the NCAA.
Connect to www.nca.org then navigate to: "Student Athletes" -> "Future" -> "Student-Athlete Registration" to create an account.
In time you will need to submit various documents including certified copies and translations of school reports (from la troisième up to and including la terminale), baccalauréat results, SATs and/or ACTs and a declaration of amateur status.
These formalities are fairly simple but need to be completed during the process of applying.
On the subject of translations it is likely that the colleges you apply to will require translations of you school reports and baccalauréat it might be worth getting several copies for future use.
The NCAA are aware of the French (and other nations') academic systems, they publish a document with information about what they expect from applicants. It is worth taking a look at this document to see if you meet the requirements.
To find the document connect to www.nca.org then navigate to: "Student Athletes" -> "Future" -> "International Student-Athletes" -> "International Guide"
You need to keep an eye on eligibility rules. When you graduate (which is the day you receive your results of the Bac) the clock starts ticking. There are rules set by the NCAA which must be followed, otherwise you risk losing the right to play for as much as 12 months and possible loss of scholarship. Be careful - speak with your coach, check with the university's compliance department for up-to-date information on eligibility.
Apparently, it is very easy to unknowingly break the rules and find out 3 years later that you've lost 12 months scholarship.
SAT (and/or ACT)
The NCAA and most colleges require some sort of standard testing to assess your academic abilities. Most people take either SAT or ACT or sometimes both. I sat the SAT exams but not the ACT so the information here only concerns SAT as I have no direct experience of the other.
Standard Assessment Tests (SAT) are administered by the College Board. You will need to register with the College Board to take the tests.
For international students the test assess Mathematics and English Language skills.
You can take the test many times with your best score counting for the score which is used by NCAA and most colleges. I did them twice, but I know people who only sat the exams once - it's up to you but have a better score can only improve your chances of find a school that's right for you.
The test results need to be sent to NCAA and the school(s) you have applied to join.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Some schools require you to sit the TOEFL exams if you are not a native speaker. I was lucky because the schools I applied to join did not require this because they accepted the SAT English results as proof of competency.
More information with the body that organises these tests: www.ets.org
Translations need to be obtained from a State approved translator.
NCAA Div I, II and III
As far as I can tell there is no promotion, demotion from the divisions, each team is in a division and stays in the division.
The difference lies in the academic requirements to play college golf and the number of scholarships available to each golf program.
It is not necessarily the case that Div I is better than Div II, for example a top Div II side may have better facilities and better players than many Div I teams. You should investigate this for yourself.
There are other regulatory collegiate bodies besides the NCAA but I have no direct experience of them.
At the time of writing (August 2020) the number of schools with a women's or men's golf program in the 3 NCAA divisions stands like so:
Div I 266, Div II 200, Div III 245
Div I 298, Div II 224, Div III 310
Each golf program is part of something called a conference which is a bit like a league but not really. Let me explain...
"A bit like a league" because there is a conference championship towards the end of the spring semester where members of the conference compete to be conference champion and qualify for the later stages of the NCAA championships: regional and national.
"...but not really [like a league]" because the remainder of the time golf teams play competitions with competing teams from many differing conferences.
I only mention this here because if you're not familiar with US collegiate sport it isn't immediately obvious what the conference is for in a golfing context.
Finding Universities and Collegiate Golf Programs
When choosing a college it's worth considering several things, here are some considerations
- Academic entry requirements, Grade Point Average (GPA), SAT scores
- Level of golf to make the team. It can be a lonely weekend while your teammates are away playing tournaments and you are sat in your room.
- Geographical location, climate is very different in the North compared to the South. Getting to the East coast is quicker and less expensive than the West coast (from Europe)
- Campus or not? Some colleges are isolated and there is no town nearby, some are in the centre of large vibrant cities and are not what you might consider a campus university.
- Size of the college, some are small with 3 000 students some are large with more than 30 000
- Religious obligations - these are not normally very onerous but if it is important to you then should verify what is expected.
- Scholarship availability
- Teaching facilities
- Academic course you wish to study, if the college specialises in 'hotels and hospitality' and you want to study 'aeronautical engineering' maybe it's not a good fit.
- Golf facilities
- Do you need a car to get to practice?
- Which tournaments do they play each year?
- Do the coaches develop talent?
Think carefully about what you want and be clear about your priorities - some things are essential some are nice to have and some are not important. Everybody has priorities you should spend some time deciding what your priorities are.
There are many sources of information out there, here are just a few. If you know of some which you think should be included here then let me know.
For general information about schools: www.usnews.com
For team rankings in their respective divisions: www.golfstat.com
For geographical location: NCAA members school map.
Each college usually has an athletics website - these are easy to find, for example to find Campbell golf search for: "Campbell athletics golf" You'll find coaches' contact details or recruitment questionnaires to help you make contact with their golf program.
Before you contact Coach for the first time
Before you make contact with a coach you need to prepare.
A lot of coaches, if they are interested, will want to see your swing. Go down to the range and get someone to video you with your driver and 7i face on and down the line (from behind). Then get them to film you chipping and putting. Upload these videos onto your own website, if you have one, otherwise create an account on YouTube and upload them there so that they are available for public viewing.
Most (but not all) coaches are looking for people who are good golfers and good in the classroom. You need to do well at school, keep your grades as high as possible, be a good pupil. When you start at university in the US you will be expected to be able to deliver good results in class and on the golf course, while coping with time in the gym, golf practice, qualifying, travelling to events. Coaches want to see that you can do this - the way to show them that you can is to earn good grades at high school while progressing on the golf course.
It goes without saying you need to speak English. So make an effort to do so, take extra lessons if you need to, watch films in their original English language - do whatever you need to do to be competent in English. Before you get to college you will speak with coaches over WhatsApp, Facetime, whatever, so the sooner you can become more proficient in English the better.
Initial contact with Coach
Your email to the coach needs to do the following: get his/her attention and get them to contact you!
Coaches receive hundreds of emails a month from all over the world. You need to tell them something which make you stand out from the crowd. It could be anything: a 5-star academic record, a series of under par scores, selection for a National squad, qualifying for a pro event it could be anything you just don't know what they are looking for.
Firstly make sure your email has a subject line which will encourage the coach to open and read it. If you've played for a nation team put it in the subject line, if your scoring average is 69 put it in the subject line, if you've won a Grand Prix or two this year put it in the subject line. If you've done all of these things, lucky you, be sure to put something in the subject that will make you stand out.
The content of the email should be clear, concise but include everything which may be important to you and to the coach. For example: if you need a scholarship then make sure you say so - if coach doesn't have any scholarships for your year's intake then it's better not to waste everyone's time taking it any further.
Include link(s) to your videos and a short resume of your recent competitions or any national honours. If you're planning to play in the US or any big European competitions (for example, Boys Amateur, European Boys Championship) then give the them the details.
Remember it's a two way thing. The coach has something you want and you may have something the coach wants - it's about finding out where the needs of both overlap.
I reckon one of the advantages of an agent is if he/she has a relationship with the coach there is a possibility the coach may take the agent's advice about you and contact you ahead of other potential recruits. However, if you go through an agent you may only be submitted to the agent's favoured schools, so you might miss out something more suitable.
Do not be disheartened if the Coach doesn't reply he or she may be very busy, away on holiday, visiting a sick relative, waiting to find half a day to sort through the hundreds of applications they've received - and yes, it is possible he/she may not be interested. Some will never reply, a few will politely thank you for your interest, regret that they do not have a spot available for you and wish you luck.... but those that are interested will get in touch.
You'll get far fewer replies than the emails you send out, 1 reply in 10 emails seems to be the norm. Of those that are interested not many are likely to offer you a place - so you need to be ready to take it to the next step.
Further contact with Coach
Check your email regularly for replies and respond without too much delay.
Don't worry about speaking with coach on WhatsApp/Facetime - it is normal to feel apprehensive speaking to someone you don't know in a foreign language. Most coaches who call you know this and are used to speaking with nervous teenagers, they will do their best to put you at your ease.
Speaking to coach is a good opportunity to demonstrate your personality so he or she can see if you will be a good fit for their golf program. Similarly, it's your opportunity to assess the coach and what they have to offer: do you like the person you are speaking to, do you see yourself spending 4 years in the company of this person? Ask questions, it's important.
If you get the chance to visit the University then you should do so if you can. Don't be shy about asking for a visit.
An offer of a place
If you get an offer of a slot on a golf program you will probably get 7 or 14 days to think about it after which the offer is likely to be opened to someone else. It is very unlikely (unless you are top 10 in the WAGR) you will be able to wait until you have several offers and then can choose "the best one". It doesn't work like that for most people.
So consider where you are in the recruitment process, discuss it with your parents, decide if the offer meets your minimum requirements, weigh up how far you are with other coaches - talk to the others if you can. Then decide whether to take it or leave it.
For example at one point I had an informal proposal for a place - some elements of the offer met with my requirements but others didn't so I decided to wait because I thought I might get something closer to my needs, not necessarily better just closer to my priorities.
A word of warning, do not attempt to play one coach off against another, many know each other and without hesitation will telephone the other guy to verify your story. Integrity is important.
Once you have accepted an offer the Coach (or his/her assistant) will guide you through the next steps of applying to be a student at the college and someone in the International Students section will help you complete the necessary paperwork to arrange the various documents you need, for example, I20, F-1 Visa etc. These people know what they are doing so I don't propose to attempt to explain the process here, I'll leave it to the experts.
Putting it all together
- Be a good pupil at school
- Register with NCAA
- Register with College Board for SAT and/or equivalent for ACT
- Do your research
- Contact coaches
- Take SAT and/or ACT exams
- Get non-English documents translated
- Submit documents and translations to NCAA
- Keep coaches informed of your progress
Hope this helps, let me know how you get on.
The following people assisted with information during my search for a US College so indirectly contributed to this webpage. My thanks to you all.
Matt Moot Assistant Men's Golf Coach, Campbell University
Phil Rowe Head Men's Golf Coach, California Polytechnic State University