5 Keys to Landing a College Football Scholarship

On November 30th, the highest tier of college football (FBS) entered a "Contact Period," stipulated by the NCAA. This basically means that the floodgates are open, and college coaches can hit the recruiting trail with fewer restrictions and more vigor than any other time of the year. Subsequently, the next two months will feature constant media coverage of which college teams are recruiting various high school prospects until the frenzy reaches a climax on college football's National Signing Day, February 4th, 2015.

By the numbers, there are less than 900 college football teams in America, according to their respective governing bodies (see below). Outsiders often fail to appreciate that recruiting is a tremendous undertaking, as college programs are responsible for a total population of over 1,000,000 high school football players across the United States.

NAIA: 89

While it's worth noting that NCAA DIII and CCCAA teams cannot offer athletic scholarships, they can often help with admissions and provide other forms of financial aid. However at all levels of collegiate play, there are five things that all high school prospects should do to improve their chances of getting recruited.

1. Get Organized
Collect and consolidate all pertinent information which includes but is not limited to your height, weight, graduation year, contact information, accolades, highlight videos, and academic transcripts. This information should be digitized so that a college recruiter can easily look it over from a smartphone or tablet computer while traveling. And if you aspire to play in the NCAA, you should attain your NCAA ID number through the Eligibility Center.

2. Inspect Your Social Media
Review every post you've ever made online and delete anything that could be considered profane or insensitive. If college coaches gain interest in you, they will usually research your background extensively, including your social media presence. This has been an area of increasing concern and has even resulted in college coaches passing on recruits. Inappropriate behavior on social media not only reflects poor character but it also presents serious future liability for college coaches and universities.

3. Get Your Coach's Assessment
This is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects in recruiting. You should talk to your coach and ask him if he thinks you have the ability to play in college and at which level(s). As Ohio State University's head football coach, Urban Meyer, told ESPN's Colin Cowherd, "The high school coach knows...work ethic and what type of person he (the prospect) is."

4. Build a List of Target Schools
In talking with your coach, create a list of target schools based on the blend of academics, athletics, social life, geography, and other areas uniquely important to you. Keep in mind that athletes are recruited to help college teams improve, so you must be honest with yourself about the programs to which you can truly add value. While many prospects aspire to play for a top-25 FBS team, those types of programs probably shouldn't saturate your list of target schools if they aren't already in contact with you.

5. Get Promoted by Your Coach
Politely ask your coach to reach out to college coaches on your behalf. Much like applying for a job, it's important for a recruit to have a strong introduction and credible references. Your coach knows you well and, unlike a scouting service, isn't paid to embellish about your abilities. High school athletes often underestimate how powerful it is for their coach to tell a college recruiter, "I believe this young man would be a great fit for your program." Also pay close attention to which college teams have recruited players from your program in the past, as your coach may have preexisting relationships with those college recruiters.

After you've secured your first offer, respectfully alert other schools on your target list that you've been offered, for this can help you garner even greater interest. Once you know all of your playing opportunities, consult your family and coaches in order to select the college team that is the best fit for you, not just the biggest name.