BLOG: Why the Junior College Route Should be Considered by ALL High School Soccer Players
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
By Chris Cousins (Founder of SRUSA)
As a former Junior College player myself, and having helped numerous players over 10 years to be placed into the Junior College system, I wanted to tell you why I believe that most players wanting to play in College (in the USA) should consider this route.
And I’ll write this in layman's terms to help people understand as much as possible.
For the ones who don’t know what a Junior College is, it is a 2-year institution (Which can also be known as a Community College), where students partake in their first 2 years of their degree. Typically, 2 years of your degree at a Community College gets you an associate’s degree (looked upon as half a bachelor's degree). For the ones wanting to continue their education to gain a full bachelor’s degree, they then transfer to a ‘4 Year School’, to finish their last 2 years off.
You probably are wondering why someone would do that. Let me quickly explain;
The first 18 months to 2 years of your degree level education, no matter what degree you are doing, you have to ‘tick off’ and complete generic education classes. Lets say your intended major is ‘Business’, you will need to tick off your ‘Gen-Eds’ such as Math, English and Science classes, to start getting towards your more intended major classes. You could be in classes in your freshman year (1st year) with 20 people all intending to graduate with different majors (degrees).
The reason people like this model is because it gives you a more well-rounded education, but also because it gives you time to figure out what you want to study. Lets say, you start your degree level education thinking you want to get a Business degree, but you actually enjoy an English class, and realise you want to do an English degree. The College system allows you to have that flexibility to pivot and change your major.
I personally changed my Major 4 times in 2 years (don’t ask). But if I went to an English University, if I wanted to change a degree, I’d have to leave the university and start all over again the following September.
Because of these Generic Education classes, and your ability to do them at ‘Junior Colleges’ or ‘4-year schools’, a lot of people do them at the 2-year Junior Colleges because of reasons such as finances (the tuition tends to be a lot cheaper than 4-year schools).
Also, sometimes, students who didn’t do great in High School, can get into Junior Colleges easier, to work hard, get a good GPA, and then get into a good 4-year school, for their last 2 years. A school they might not have even been anywhere near the entry requirements straight out of High School.
Now, let’s add soccer into the mix…
Typically, the players who go down this route because of the following;
More Playing Time
Because players can only play at the Junior College level for 2 years, the majority of the players are aged 18-20. This means that there aren’t any 3rd or 4th year student athletes, who could be aged 21+ who might have cemented their positions, who you need to try to take their spot. I have found over the years, that the majority of players who go into 4-year schools, do NOT play anywhere near as much soccer in their freshman year (1st year) compared to players at Junior Colleges.
More Scholarships Available
Finances are important, and if you are needing decent financial assistance to attend a school, the Junior College route, can be more achievable than 4-year schools.
If a 4 Year School College Coach is recruiting a player out of High School, he’s got to be REALLY sure he wants that player as he is essentially committing to having him on his roster for 4 years. You find first year offers are lower than typically what they end up on by year 4. That's because coaches typically want a player to come in and prove themselves, because they’ve never played at the College level.
However, a player going into a 2-year Junior College, they are, to put it nicely, less of a gamble. The schools usually are cheaper, and colleges at this level tend to have a lot more scholarships available, so because they are there a maximum of 2 years, if they don’t quite play as well as they thought, they are only going to be a 2 year commitment from the coaches budget.
There are around 340 Men’s Soccer Teams and 360 Women’s Soccer teams at Junior College level, which makes up about 28% of all the College teams in America currently. This is saying that nearly a third of Soccer teams at the Collegiate level are Junior Colleges.
But the Level is supposedly bad…
This is a huge misconception, usually brought on by the culture of Basketball and Football (the American format).
As these are predominantly American sports, the BEST players do usually end up at the NCAA Division 1 level, which has some of the larger schools. But with soccer being a worldwide sport, and many more athletes around the world available than other sports, you find there are good and bad teams at every level.
The culture internationally is that NCAA Division 1 MUST be better than NCAA Division 2. And NCAA Division 2 MUST be better than Division 3. But remember, this is the USA, there’s no promotion/relegation. A school and ALL its athletics programs are placed in a division based upon factors, such as size, funding, facilities, etc.
The reality is, there are good soccer teams and really bad soccer teams at every level. It’s just down to how a coach recruits with the world at their fingertips.
If you look at when schools face each other from different divisions, you find that anyone can be beat by teams from another division. E.g. Recently, a few NCAA Division 1 schools were beaten by NAIA schools.
For me, it’s a shame that they can’t have an ‘ALL-Divisions’ championship.
The reality is, because the levels of players available for the College Soccer pathway now has increased ten-fold in the last 10 years (I mean look at how many National team players are available to be recruited). Even getting onto a College Soccer team is hard enough these days. We find that the players who can step into 4-year schools with older, more mature and physical players, are ‘typically’ ones out of professional clubs, who have that pedigree and physical attributes to step in. (That's if they have the education to get into them of course.)
I like to call these the 2%er’s. The top available players, with the other 98% of players coming from non-glamorous soccer backgrounds are more of a ‘gamble’ for coaches.
So to conclude, here’s why you need to consider the Juco route...
If you are needing reasonably high scholarships, want to play as many minutes as possible and to prove yourself to the top 4-year schools to get them to recruit you after 2 years of playing at the Collegiate level, please consider the Junior College route.
I loved it, many others do too, and remember, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.