The truth is that if you want to play varsity sports like lacrosse in college bad enough, there is a spot for you somewhere. What level will you play at? That’s the more difficult question.
Luckily, you’ve got options!
Colleges Want YOU!
Option 1: Post-Graduate Year
If you’re a highly skilled athlete, but are undersized, your grades aren’t quite up to standard or you are possibly a late bloomer, you may benefit from a post-graduate year. This means you are essentially delaying your freshmen year of college by taking an extra year of high school. The benefit of this is an extra year of training, practicing and classes to help you develop more physically and mentally in order to be more successful in college. Some athletes enter their post-graduate year already committed while others use it as a last chance. The major drawback to this option is cost, as the schools offering a post-grad year are typically quite expensive and are concentrated in only certain areas of the country.
Option 2: Junior/Community College
Just like Option No. 1, going to a community college is a great way to aid in the development of athletes who have aspirations of high level college play, but may need more development either on the field or in the classroom. Junior college is significantly cheaper than the traditional four year schools, but depending on the sport options are limited as to what you can play.
Option 3: Traditional 4-Year College
Whether you commit to play at a 4-year school directly out of high school, or you choose Options No. 1 or No. 2, all roads generally lead to a 4-year college. The harder part, is choosing what level to play at.
NCAA Division I
This is where the cream of the crop play, the NCAA! This is where athletic scholarships aren’t the only thing attracting students. This division consists of some of the largest colleges in the country that often times spend hundreds of millions each year on athletics. Athletes at these schools can expect to play against top competition — often times on TV — and will be looked after constantly by tutors, trainers, coaches, nutritionists and doctors.
NCAA Division II
Division II is an excellent option, but athletic scholarships aren’t quite as readily available as in Division I. Here, scholarships are often shared or split-up. These schools are noticeably smaller than most Division I schools and are often times located in more remote areas. Most programs will look and operate like Division I programs, but on a smaller scale, which means you still get tutors, trainers and coaches, but the facilities won’t be as big or flashy.
NCAA Division III
I’ll start by saying there are NO ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS in Division III. Any and all money at this level is need-based financial aid, grant money or academic scholarships. In my experience, these schools are primarily private with higher price tags. You will also find that there are schools with extremely high academic standards along with schools that use athletics as a way to boost enrollment and keep the lights on. The quality of athletics is still very high, but the commitment to the athlete and to athletic excellence will vary heavily.
The NAIA is a lesser known, but still well run, organization that oversees schools that don’t want to work under the NCAA restrictions. These schools aren’t required to have as many sports as NCAA schools. Academically, like at all levels, the standards and quality of schools varies greatly and requires you to do some research. To overgeneralize, the NAIA is similar to NCAA Division III in terms of what schools look like, and similar to Division III in terms of scholarship structure.