Prep schools an option for football players who don't sign on National Signing Day

By Keith Grabowski

While National Signing Day has come and gone, there are players still looking for their opportunity after not receiving an offer. Division I spots may be hard to come by, but there are plenty of ways an athlete can continue their career in college and even receive that desired scholarship.

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Other options exist for players looking to compete at the next level:

  • NCAA Division II, Division III or NAIA
  • Junior college
  • Postgraduate school

A student-athlete who was close to an offer, but just missed out, can still work toward creating that opportunity at a postgraduate school. Also called prep schools, they have several advantages:

  • The scholarship-capable athlete can go to school for one more semester to find a scholarship option.
  • Choosing a postgraduate preparatory school preserves eligibility. It's one semester of school compared to two at a junior college. At the junior college level, two years of eligibility are used.
  • It allows for a mid-year enrollment at a four-year school.
  • The athlete can play a position different than what they did in high school. Maybe they were in an offense that didn't showcase their talents, and the prep option might do that.
  • They can develop maturity by being in a college setting and be prepared to take on the schedule of a college athlete.

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Ryan Williams of Jireh Preparatory Academy (Matthews, North Carolina) indicates all postgraduate options aren't the same. Specifically, he said the notion that postgraduate schools are strictly for student-athletes with academic or behavior issues is a myth.

"The fact is, you don't really know why each kid is there, because it's different for each one of them," Williams said. "He may be there because he suffered an injury and he needs another year to show his ability. Another kid might be there to improve his test score. It's different for everyone."

Williams identified the following types of postgraduate programs:

  • Club junior college teams: These play under a community college name but are private teams. Eligibility is based on whether the student takes a full course load. Once that happens, the eligibility clock starts. Club teams typically play other club or junior college teams.
  • High school preparatory team: These schools usually take in high-aptitude students looking to attend an Ivy League or higher academic institution. They're there to improve their test score or grades to be able to have that opportunity. These are one-year programs and the student doesn't lose eligibility.
  • College preparatory school: These are one-semester programs. Eligibility is preserved. They typically play a college junior varsity schedule and college prep teams.

Williams noted that his school creates an opportunity the student-athlete didn't have out of high school. Between 75-80 percent of his roster finds placement on a four-year college roster.

While this isn't the traditional track, it gives an option to those who were close to the opportunity they wanted on Signing Day but came up just short.

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