Choosing the Best College as a Student Athlete

Every year, high school student athletes are faced with a seemingly impossible task of choosing the best college. While a college’s sports ranking is often the main point of consideration, there are other equally important factors that can influence the decision. This process can be overwhelming for prospective student athletes and their families. In this post, Bethel University Athletics Recruiter Riley McCann shares with us his own experience of choosing a college as a student athlete. He also offers some questions for students to engage with as they consider their options.

McCann, who is a Bethel alumnus, was drawn to the university because of the interest coaches showed beyond his ability as a student athlete. He realized that the coaches cared about who he was as a young man and his character. They helped him see how he could grow as a student, an athlete, and member of the Bethel community by practicing the values that the athletic programs are rooted in.

Whether you’re considering Bethel or you’re exploring all your options, here are several questions to ask yourself that can help you choose the best college as a student athlete.

1. Does this school and athletic program align with my faith values?

Expression of faith is an important aspect of self-expression during the college years. Research from recent years has shown that there are growing concerns among some students that colleges can be indifferent toward faith expressions and development. Of course, this does not mean that Christian student athletes should only apply for and attend Christian universities. But, knowing that your faith values are affirmed in a college setting can be helpful in the decision-making process.

Faith is a cornerstone of the Bethel experience, and Bethel University Athletics works hard to integrate faith in the student athlete’s day-to-day experiences. Coaches pray with their teams before games and meet one-on-one with student athletes to have conversations around faith. Morning Bible studies in the atrium are a common sight as student athletes are encouraged to take ownership of their own spiritual journeys.

2. Will I be encouraged to give my best in everything?

Coaching styles can greatly impact a student athlete’s performance on and off the field. A Ted Lasso approach to coaching sports has become trendy, redefining the meaning of success for sports teams everywhere. Coaches are now integrating the fictional coach’s techniques and famous phrase, “Be a goldfish,” into their own coaching styles. The best kind of coach is not one who demands excellence without regard of the cost, but encourages and guides their student athletes to give their best both on and off the field.

Every student athlete at Bethel is familiar with the words of athletics director, Greg Peterson, “Excellence is worship.” Whether it is athletics or academics, student athletes are encouraged to pursue excellence as a way of glorifying God. Success as a student athlete at Bethel is not measured by points or wins, but by a well-rounded character.

3. Can I find belonging within this community?

College is an exciting time—but it can also be a challenging time. Through all the highs and lows, it’s important to have a community of peers, professors, and coaches who truly support you and your passions. It’s important to find a place you can belong, with your teammates and also with the rest of the college community.

Game days are a big deal at Bethel. The whole community rallies behind the teams and don the Bethel Royals’ colors. Come watch a game and see just how passionate are student athletes are about their sport. Coaches and staff work hard to foster unified team dynamics, helping student athletes to find belonging on their teams.

Choosing the best college as a student athlete can be hard, but it is a worthwhile process to engage in. Be open to new possibilities and opportunities, and remember to always stay curious!

In striving for competitive excellence, Bethel University Athletics seeks to mark the student athletes who have been entrusted to us with gratefulness of heart, authenticity of relationships, and a love of discipline required for a lifetime of service to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.