Advancing Toward College

advancing_graphicInformation for fencers and parents about fencing in college

You take your fencing seriously. You are going to apply to colleges where you hope to continue to fence, but where do you begin? This page is for you and your family.

College is a great adventure. Your academic history, your volunteer work and your athletic achievements are all a part of your path to college. Being a talented athlete can help you get into some colleges, but the most important factor will still be your academic history. Once admitted to a college, being a college athlete gives you an immediate sense of belonging and camaraderie with your teammates. At some colleges, college athletes are provided additional advising, travel, some equipment and of course, vigorous training in their sport. But how do you know which college is right for you? How do you get into a college, so you can be a college fencer?

Academics and life skills

College is primarily about academics. In middle school and high school, learn how to learn. Make sure your learn how to study, to write and to think critically. Being an excellent fencer can help you get admitted to a college, but only if you have a strong academic history. Learn how to manage your time. Collegiate fencers in the United States usually train about twenty hours a week, and more during fencing competition season. Selected college fencers travel for competitions and still have to take exams and turn in papers on time. At college, teachers and parents will no longer be around to help you stay on top of your school work. Before you finish high school you need to learn the life skills to manage your time, care for your health, your belongings and your money. Ask your parents or a trusted adult for help if you need to learn more, but learn now.

Keep a record

Your high school will provide you a record of your academic history. The testing companies will send your test score to the NCAA and the colleges you identify. Prospective college fencers should begin to keep a record of their athletic achievements as soon as they begin to compete. You should document your fencing progress and achievements, such as the names, dates and locations of tournaments, your seedings and results. If you do not have all your records you can look them up at http://www.usfa.org or AskFred, but it is better to keep your own records. It will save you (or your Mom) a lot of work. When you request it, your high school will usually send your school records to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the NCAA. If you fence with a club rather than at your high school, you might have to double check to make sure that your high school sends your records.

Be aware of regulations

College sports are regulated by the NCAA. The NCAA regulations are an effort to protect student athletes and to keep college athletics fair, safe and legal.The regulations also keep athletes and their coaches focused on the balance of athletics with academics. The regulations are the same for all college sports and might not always seem reasonable. Nevertheless, all athletes as soon as they begin high school, coaches, parents, volunteers must abide by them. Prospective athletes and their families should go to http://www.ncaa.com and read the regulations that apply to them. There are certain times when college coaches are not supposed to initiate conversations with prospective students and their families. You will want to plan your visits to college campuses at times when coaches are free to talk with you. You and your parents can send information about your achievements to colleges coaches. You can even send video clips, but they might not e-mail you back or return phone calls if your contacts begin before a designated date. Remember, a college admissions office makes the decision to admit you to college, not the coach! Some coaches at strong academic schools will ask you to send a transcript directly to him or her, in addition to the one you send to the admissions office. The coach wants to make sure that your academics are strong enough to be considered eligible for that college before he or she invests much time in evaluating your as an athlete. At tournaments, college coaches might observe your fencing and your sportsmanship.

Athletic divisions

College athletics are divided into Divisions. Division I is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. Sometimes athletic scholarships are offered to cover some college costs. Division II is the next level. Division III is the largest division; but no scholarships are offered. Because there are not a great many Division I and II programs in the United States, sometimes fencers from all three divisions fence against each other in some tournaments. Some colleges have club fencing. Club fencers compete against other clubs. They usually have a volunteer coach, or fencers coach each other. Sometimes the clubs are partially sponsored (funded) by the college and sometimes the fencers pay all their own expenses. On the other hand, there are no demands for a record of high achievement in fencing, no regular demands on student time, and anyone who wishes to fence can participate. College clubs can join the USFA as a club, and compete in USFA team tournaments. Go to www.usfa.org for information.

If you want to fence at a Division I, II or III college, as soon as you finish junior year of high school you should register with the NCAA at www.ncaa.com. You will need to have your school send your official transcript to them. You will need to have the testing services send your test results, as well. After junior year, college coaches begin to meet with athletes and their families. You can visit the colleges, talk freely with the coaches and see the fencing facilities. Coaches at Division I and II programs are usually most interested in “A” and “B” fencers. Division III programs are sometimes more flexible. Be sure to “do your homework” about the colleges in which your are interested. Make sure the college has the academic program in which your are interested. If you want to be a geologist, don’t apply to a college with a good fencing program, but no geology department!

Choosing the right school

Some colleges have College sponsored (varsity) fencing for women, but either no fencing for men, or club fencing for men. This is unfortunate for male fencers, but it has occurred as Title IX increased options for women’s sports and athletic budgets have tightened. Male fencers need to make sure that a college has the kind of fencing program they want before interviewing or applying. This information is easily available on the athletic website of each college. Not all colleges have equally strong coaching in all three weapons. Ask the coach about the opportunities for continuing training in the weapon of your choice. Sometimes coaches have several strong fencers in one weapon, but need to recruit in a different weapon. The athlete applicant might be asked to change weapons in order to be recruited. Be aware that being on a college fencing team does not guarantee that you will be selected to travel for college competitions. The number of fencers who travel to represent the college at tournaments is often limited by cost.

Paying for college

Paying for college is a challenge for almost every family. There are few fencing scholarships. Ivy League colleges and universities do not grant athletic scholarships. You can read about fencing scholarships at http://www.college scholarships.org. As your research colleges. read about the financial assistance that each college can provide. Ask the Financial Aid office about academic, merit, and need-based scholarships. Ask about leans, work-study, and campus work opportunities. Talk with your high school college advisor about resources for college assistance. Register with http://www.fastweb.com. Start financial research early. Families need to find records and documents in order to file financial aid paperwork on time. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for financial aid! Most students will need some assistance.

And now…

This article cannot cover everything the prospective college fencer (and his or her family) needs to know, but hopefully it will begin to assist you as you “advance toward college.” You can find a list of colleges that offer fencing on the NCAA website. Be sure to talk with your current coach about your interest in fencing in college. Your coach might know some of the college coaches. Your coach might, or might not, be familiar with college recruiting, but might be able to direct you to someone who is. When college fencers come back to your club during vacations, ask them about their experiences at their colleges. Ask them what they wish they had known when they were applying. Ask them if they are happy with their college and their fencing program. Practice good sportsmanship. Study well. Look for leadership opportunities. If possible, attend fencing camps at or near colleges that interest you. Don’t believe rumors and don’t spread them. Don’t count on verbal promises or “hints” about admission! Good luck in your fencing and in finding the right college for you!

Melody Matthews Lowman, M.A., Psychology, Family Life and Educational Consultant

V70 Sabreur, USFA Collegiate Taskforce Member, USFCA Associate, fencing mother and grandmother

Safe Sport Certified and a member of the Positive Coaching Alliance