Choosing a College
First, seeing as this is my blog, I figured I'd talk about myself for a little bit. I chose to attend Chico State for a number of reasons. Most importantly, Coach Gary Towne wanted me to go there and did a great job recruiting me. He gave me a $1,000 scholarship which he assured me was more than anyone else was getting and it felt great to be recruited like that (that scholarship was raised gradually to $2,500, but my college experience was worth so much more than any scholarship). I didn't know at the time that other schools had a lot more to offer in the scholarship department but it didn't matter much, in-state tuition at Chico was certainly afordable and I could join Katy Lee (now Laymen), Chico State school record holder and fellow San Ramon Valley High school alumni as well as 100's of other kids that went to Chico from my high school.
There are a lot of questions that you have to ask yourself when you choose a college. You have to ask yourself, Is this where I would like to spend the next 4 to 5 years of my life? and, Will this set me up for what I want to be doing after college? If the answer to either of these questions is no then there is a better option out there for you. Of course neither of these questions is easy to answer and a lot of people will make mistakes but the people that do think these questions through will be much better off in the future.
A lot of people will tell you to choose a school based on academics relegating athletics to "icing on the cake," but, I see no reason to sacrifice either. There are plenty of great academics schools with great athletic programs on all levels. That said, your college experience isn't going to be amazing just because you chose the perfect school, you have to work to make it amazing. Chico State is not known as a top ranked academic school but plenty of kids from Chico go onto successful careers and top ranked grad schools, but it does take a lot of hard work. I can't deny that if all other things are equal that someone from a higher ranked school will win a job or grad school acceptance over someone from Chico but your job is to make sure that all things aren't equal.
If you are like me, your coach is one of the most important influences on your college decision. You will likely see him or her almost every day for 4 to 5 years and he or she could have a huge impact on your life. You have to decide not only, is this a person who will help me to the next level with my running? but, is this a person that I want writing me a letter of recommendation to get into Grad School or to get a Job? I hit the jackpot in the lottery with Coach Gary at Chico, He coached me to a 27:48 10k and a handful of national titles and he is one of my best friends.
There are many more questions to ask, their importance varies greatly from person to person. Does this school offer the major that I want? Is this a place where I could run every day for the next 4 to 5 years? Can I handle the weather? Do I like my future teammates? Is the school too big or too small? I believe that if you want to run in college then there is a school out there for you, no matter how fast you are or what your other interests are.
Many schools out there are dealing with a finite number of roster spots. Don't be discouraged if a coach tells you that he or she doesn't have room on his or her team but please look at your abilities realistically. If your PRs are close to making the cut and you really want to go to a certain school then go improve your times and re-contact the coach, persistence and improvement will possibly pay off. That said it would be a shame for you to go to a school and not make the team when you could be a productive member of another team somewhere else. It happens all the time where a coach will reject a runner and then that runner goes on to do great things, but don't do it out of spite, do it because you love running and want to improve.
Instead of spending a lot of time talking about scholarships I will send a link to a NYTimes article about sports scholarships. If you are lucky enough to get an athletic scholarship, be wary of the fact that a scholarship can be more of a burden then a blessing. It is likely that the schools offering you a scholarship might be a good fit but if the school isn't a good fit then don't go there just because of the scholarship. Scholarships may disappear with injury or poor performance and being stuck at a school that you don't want to be at because of a scholarship is hardly ideal. College Scholarships: New York Times
Good luck with your choices, College is a great experience as long as you work hard and have the right attitude.