Navigating the college choice process during COVID-19's interruption: Advice and info from Lisa Lavelle

COVID-19 is impacting the college admissions process and college recruiting. We checked in with Lisa Lavelle, the president of The Sport Source, which has spent more than 25 years in college counseling for student-athletes.

SOCCER AMERICA: What information and advice can you relay to high school seniors who have not yet committed to a college for 2020-2021?

LISA LAVELLE: First, stay focused on choosing the right college based on your college and career goals.

While universities have canceled person-to-person classes, prohibited campus visits, have restricted staff recruiting activities, for those who have not committed or are still looking, it is important to investigate schools/programs in their immediate area. Continue to show interest, and utilize the recruiting questionnaires found on most college web sites. (Google search “recruiting questionnaire,” plus the school name and sport.)

This simple step helps coaches and colleges identify prospective students-athletes who are serious about their school both academically and athletically. In essence, you are removing the guesswork for the college and coach by showing interest. Equally important, make sure you can meet or exceed the admission standards to eliminate any barrier to entry.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again, student loan debt is exceeding 1.5 trillion dollars. You don't want to be the kid who chose a college so that you could play soccer, only to find you are strapped with thousands of dollars in debt when you graduate. The chances of playing professional and garnering million dollars in endorsements of contracts are far a few between; so it's time to be prudent when choosing a college.

Look for those schools that guarantee you will graduate in four years or they will pay for the fifth year. Be prepared, assess and evaluate where you are in the process academically and athletically. For those who are pursuing NCAA Division I or II, make sure you have completed the NCAA Eligibility Center requirements If you have not -- DO IT NOW.

If you are just getting started and trying to figure out which college you want to pursue, consider a local two-year program. These are very cost-effective, given the financial uncertainty for most families.

Bottom line -- be prudent with your decisions -- think about your long-term goals -- and, consider what is best for you and your family, so that you don't go into debt.

SA: What challenges are college coaches facing during this recruiting and admission period for 2020-21 incoming freshmen?

LISA LAVELLE: Talking with college coaches, one of the challenges they've outlined will be the international student-athletes they've recruited and who have committed. Often, these student-athletes make up a significant portion of many college rosters, and revenue to the university. Until there is more specific information available regarding COVID-19, those kids who are currently living abroad will most likely stay put. For those who may have returned home during spring break, they may not be able to return to the USA till further notice. If that is the case, the college coaches will need to reconsider their list of prospects.

For the next few months, I understand many schools have moved the freshman class admission procedures and scholarship day online.

The majority of coaches are telling the kids to stay positive; use this time to stay fit mentally and physically, complete the required paperwork due to the NCAA/NAIA/USCAA/NJCAA -- and be ready when the school re-opens to accept students and athletes.

When will the universities re-open? We don't yet know. When will the college sports season start/resume? That is currently a moving target.

A geographic guide to men's and women's NCAA soccer programs, Division I, II and III, can be found HERE.

SA: What advice do you have for college coaches?

LISA LAVELLE: It's hard to say given so many factors they will face in the coming months. From kids choosing not to return and play due to family issues or not being able to travel to the USA, to decisions being made by their particular college and their governing sports body.

The NCAA Board of Governors directed all three divisions to enact modifications, changes or waivers to legislation and rules where appropriate, to provide relief due to regulations and policies impacted by COVID-19. From a ban on all in-person recruiting for Division I coaches, to schools being advised to suspend all official and unofficial campus visits, to suspending the National Letter of Intent, and financial aid agreements. In essence, a dead-period till at least April 15.

If it's about recruiting, some coaches have placed a great deal of emphasis on recruiting "international" players. They have indicated the university depends on this stream of revenue. With that said, these kids must show proof of financial responsibility before they ever get on campus. Any athletic money offered is usually not much, if any.

If international kids are not able to get here due travel restrictions or adverse issues the family might now be facing, coaches may take a second (or first look in some cases), at the kids in their local community who have shown interest.

Recruiting is a two-way street. It's always interesting to hear kids say they have filled out the recruiting questionnaire and contacted the coach direct, but have not received a reply or response. If that is true, it's unprofessional, not in the best interest of the university, or the sports program.

The same can be said for the kids too. Everyone is looking for the BBD [Bigger Better Deal] and, what might not be your ideal BBD just might be the perfect BBD to someone else. Why not just say "no thanks", so everyone can pursue their version of a BBD accordingly; silence is not an answer.

SA: Does the current novel coronavirus suspension of college sports affect high school juniors?

LISA LAVELLE: That's a great question. I tend to think it will affect high school juniors, given the many rules being amended by the NCAA, NAIA, USCAA, NCCAA and NJCAA to address sport participation in general, the length of the season, and recruiting. Then there is the question of when sports (at any level) will safely resume. What will be the length of the season, number of matches played, and will there be recruiting restrictions placed on coaches by their colleges or governing bodies of sports?

SA: Does the possibility of the NCAA's granting an additional year of eligibility to current college student-athletes affect soccer players?

LISA LAVELLE: I think it affects all sports participants, including soccer. Right now, those players currently on the roster will most likely be given additional eligibility. Granting an additional year of eligibility allows college coaches to work with certain knowns; like who is returning, and those who are not for whatever reason.

We've never experienced anything like this, and it's incredibly difficult for everyone -- from the academic halls of the colleges to the coaching staff, players, parents, and so many more.

SA: Anything else you'd like to add?

LISA LAVELLE: I'd like to say thank you to all the parents, kids, coaches and, communities dealing with adversity and the unknown. We are all in this together and, Mark Twain said it best ... "Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and, the blind can see." Everyone really does make a difference.

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NCAA Eligibility Center
Certifies a prospective college athletes is eligible to play NCAA Division I or II sports.

NAIA Eligibility Center
Certifies a prospective college athletes is eligible to play NAIA sports

National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
Governing body of 500-plus community, state and junior colleges.

United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA)
Eligibility guidelines and eligibility form for USCAA members; 78 small colleges, community colleges and junior colleges.

National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA)
Eighty-nine members are Christian universities, colleges, and Bible colleges, including ones that also compete in NCAA and NAIA.

U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator
Links to all colleges and universities to get a better idea of the cost and scholarships you may be eligible for.

Federal Student Aid
Grant, scholarship, financial aid & student loan information; free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Financial Aid Estimator.

(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to, whose College Finder MATCHFIT can also be contacted toll free at 866.829.2606. Facebook.)

1 comment about "Navigating the college choice process during COVID-19's interruption: Advice and info from Lisa Lavelle".
  1. uffe gustafsson, March 24, 2020 at 9:29 p.m.

    I feel so sorry for the juniors that can't visit colleges, soccer or just just want to see the school.
    but one thing I thought my daughter never give up on dreams. And if it does not happen this year don't give up just keep working hard.

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