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Roundtable: How to Choose a College

For many teenagers, choosing a college is the first big decision they make in their young lives, and the decision process can be a difficult one. Big university or small college? What factors should come into play? How to narrow a list?

When you add athletics to the equation, the process gets even more interesting. How do you balance athletics and academics? How important is the coach - or your future teammates?

With so many questions, we thought it best to engage a group of young women who have recently finished up their college tennis careers. Take a look at what they had to say...


Q) Hindsight is always 20-20, and wisdom comes from experience and learning from mistakes. You went through the recruiting process just a few years ago, and now you have the college experience fresh in your mind. What were the most important factors in your college decision when you chose your college and tennis program as a high school student? If you had to do it over again - or if you were advising a younger sibling - what would your most important factors be today?


Danielle Lao, Southern California

Playing for a university that I loved was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am lucky to be able to say I would go back and do it all over again, but there was still struggle and a lot of thought that went into my college decision. At the age of 17 and being recruited by many exceptional schools, I was given the biggest dilemma of my life. Weighing out the pros and cons, I realized each university had so much to offer, but a few key things were vital in my decision. I was looking for was a program with a culture of high ambition on and off the court - and an environment where I could surround myself with people who would make me feel important because they believed in me.

While I was thrilled with how things turned out I wish I had reached out and made connections to college coaches earlier on in my junior career. The best and most highly-desired recruits tend to make early commitments. I was a special case - I made my decision a week before signing day. USC had a last minute spot open for scholarship because a member on their team had no plans to return the following year, and so I made a game-time decision to commit to USC instead of the other colleges I was considering.

Although my last-minute decision worked out fine for me, I would advise others not to leave their future to chance by waiting for the coaches to reach out to them. Sometimes you need to be the first to catch their attention so that you can get the communication started before you are crunched on time. There are many cases where making a timely decision is out of one's control, but do not make that the case because you failed to take the initiative. From what I hear from my coaches over my four years at USC, they love recruits who show their excitement by being proactive.

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Page updated on Friday, June 16, 2017
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