Junior Days – Genuine interest or false hope?

The college recruiting process is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  And for many college-bound prospects, the junior year is the defining period of a long, complex journey.

Junior Days have become a common recruiting component for coaching staffs, especially in college football.  In short, these are invite-only events whereby a program extends to a junior prospect and his/her parents an invitation to come visit their campus, meet the coaching staff, tour the campus and learn more about their program.  In short, Junior Days are opportunities for coaching staffs to gauge the prospect’s interest in their program, personally interact with families, and “sell” their program.

Like camps, travel expenses for Junior Days are the responsibility of the families themselves. Coaches are allowed to provide a meal and tickets for the family to attend a game, but the family must cover the costs of getting to and from the college/university. So naturally, this begs many questions for prospects:
  • Should I accept every Junior Day invitation?
  • How much do Junior Days really say about a program’s interest in me as a prospect?
  • Is a program really going to offer me if I show up to a Junior Day without any offers in hand already?
  • How much interaction can I expect a coaching staff to really have with me if I’m there with 100 other prospects?

In short, Junior Days are an important part of the recruiting process for both player and coaching staff. If you receive a Junior Day invitation, it’s a very positive thing. In fact, it’s safe to assume that you have exceeded “mailing list” level interest at that school and are part of a much shorter list of scholarship candidates.  That said, players shouldn’t gain a false impression of the staff’s interest in them either. Understand that a program’s list of prospects might be anywhere from 100 to 500 players. They may extend Junior Day invitations to a few hundred kids and well over 100 might accept. And when the dust settles, only a handful of prospects who attend Junior Days may actually receive offers from that school.
So while receiving a Junior Day invitation is a genuine sign of interest, Junior Days aren’t too dissimilar from camp invitations. While they offer coaches an opportunity to more closely evaluate you, Junior Days should not be interpreted as a stage for receiving a guaranteed offer.
My advice for juniors is, attend as many Junior Days as your family can afford to attend. Get as much out of the recruiting process as you can, as it only happens once in your life. Don’t take Junior Days lightly. Use them as opportunities to impress coaching staffs. Dress appropriately and come armed with questions that will perhaps set you apart from other prospects. Nevertheless, don’t expect to come away with a scholarship offer either. Treat Junior Days as research opportunities. Learn from these events about what’s really important to you in your college experience. If you don’t have any offers in hand when you attend your first Junior Day, don’t panic.  Offers breed other offers, so once you land one, others will likely follow. 

Rex Grayner

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