What are the benefits of attending a JUCO?
Junior colleges (JUCO) are a fantastic option for many student athletes. They provide opportunities and options that four year colleges are not able to provide. They are a great stepping stone to a four year college. Getting an associate’s degree from a junior college can also be an end in itself.
We are going to look at the type of students who can best take advantage of what JUCO’s have to offer. After that, we will explore the benefits of a JUCO instead of a four year school. You will hear directly from junior college coaches about why they believe junior colleges are the best option for many students athletes.
JUCO athletics have certain stigmas associated with them. For example, the level of athletics is low. Or, the kids at a JUCO are bad students. I hope to convince you today that these things are not true. JUCO’s serve a great purpose. There are incredible benefits of attending and competing at a JUCO for two years. For the right students, JUCO’s are the right choice.
What type of students benefit the most from a JUCO experience?
There are three types of student athletes who make up the majority of JUCO athletes.
- Athletes who need more time to develop as students.
- Students who need more time to develop as athletes.
- Student-Athletes whose financial situation does not allow them to play at a four year college.
Academic, athletic, and economic issues often overlap. Nobody falls neatly into one category. If your child falls into one or more of these categories you should strongly consider a JUCO. If they fall into two or three of the categories, junior colleges may be the best option for them.
“We get two kinds of student athletes at TJC. There are some that need to develop in the classroom in order to have a chance to play at the NCAA level and there are also those that need to develop on the tennis court to reach the correct level to play in the NCAA. Both kinds of athletes can use junior college as a great stepping stone to their next four year school.”
10 major benefits of choosing a JUCO
- Your child is struggling academically in high school
Junior colleges are often places of academic redemption. Many young people don’t take their classes seriously in high school. They get caught up in their sport and their social life. At 16 it can be hard to realize how much your life will be affected by not doing well in the classroom.
As graduation approaches and reality starts to sink in the young boy or girl you have raised begins to start thinking more like a young man or woman. For some young people, it takes a bit longer than others. Junior colleges give the gift of 2 years to mature and become better students. These two years can be an incredible blessing and opportunity to the young person who is ready to take some responsibility for their lives.
Junior colleges are also an amazing place for students who have a learning disability or struggle with academics no matter how hard they work. For these students, junior colleges play an important role as a stepping stone to a four year college classroom.
- Students who are not NCAA qualifiers have the ability to compete at a JUCO immediately
All students wishing to play for at the NCAA Division 1, Division 2, and NAIA levels must register with the NCAA and NAIA eligibility centers to make sure they are eligible to compete. NCAA Division 3 schools each have their own individual standard, but these are usually higher than the NCAA and NAIA requirements.
JUCO’s do not have the same eligibility standards that have to be met upon enrollment. Consider Junior Colleges a second chance or a start over for athletes who neglected to be good students in high school.
Junior Colleges are not a free for all where athletes don’t need to go to class or maintain their grades. While at a JUCO, students do need to maintain certain grades to be eligible to continue competing.
“Often players’ academic grades need improvement or do not transfer into four year colleges and these students may need to get their Associates Degree from a junior college before matriculating on to other divisions.”
“To play at an NCAA Division 1 or 2 school, students must meet certain requirements. To play sports at a Division I or II school, you must graduate from high school, complete 16 NCAA-approved core courses, earn a minimum GPA and earn an ACT or SAT score that matches your core-course GPA.”
Here are the links to the eligibility requirements:
“I believe the biggest draw is giving students who are not NCAA qualifiers out of high school the ability to play, earn an education and possibly get on track to move on to a four year school. Smaller class sizes and a more one on one approach to help those students.”
- Academic opportunities specific to JUCO’s
Junior colleges often have many benefits to help students succeed. They generally have smaller class sizes. Students have greater access to instructors and there is more of a one on one approach. The instructors are not going to hold your child’s hand, but they will help them work from dependence (high school classes) to independence (college classes). A coordinated effort of the instructors and the student can enable a motivated student to transform themselves into a student who can succeed academically in college.
“Athletes should consider NJCAA schools because of the size of the institutions. Most classrooms are small, and therefore better access to instructors and a greater opportunity to participate in their prospective sport. Most facilities and coaches are good, and the opportunity to be recruited to NCAA or NAIA level when two years of competing is done.”
Two years at a JUCO will give your child an Associates’s degree. Whether or not they decide to go on to a four year college, they will come out with a 2 year college degree.
Having an Associates’s degree is much better than ending up with nothing. Many freshmen at four year institutions end up with nothing. There are a lot of students who are not ready for a four year college who attend for a year or two and then drop out with no degree and often with debt.
- Two more years to decide what to study
If your child doesn’t know what they want to study, a junior college gives them two more years to figure out what they want to do while they get core subjects out of the way.
Most 18 year old kids have no idea what they want to do with their life. This includes the majority of incoming freshmen who have picked a major and say they know what they want to do. Young people mature and grow a lot between the ages of 18 and 20. A 20 year old still may not know exactly what they want to do, but two years removed from high school and two years of college under their belt will certainly give them a better idea.
- The ability to compete right away for playing time at a JUCO
The biggest reason to go to a junior college is to be able to get playing time as a freshman. At four year colleges, many athletes spend their freshmen and sophomore years being groomed for positions. They may receive only small amounts of playing time or even no playing time their first couple of years.
JUCO’s have two very distinct advantages for athletes. First, they typically have smaller rosters than four year schools. With fewer players on a roster, more playing time per player automatically follows.
“We keep a smaller roster than many 4-year colleges, which means more opportunity to contribute on the field as a freshman. We look for athletes that will play immediately not in a season or two after they have been exposed to our system of play and developed more.”
The second advantage is that everyone on the roster is a freshman or sophomore. This means all of the players are closer to each other in physical development and muscle mass. A two year difference may not seem like a lot, but a 22 year old is almost 20% older than an 18 year old. This is a massive difference in physical, mental, and emotional maturity, plus the added advantage in time of talent development. This difference is most pronounced in young men. Young women, because they develop physically earlier are more on par with upperclassmen.
“The greatest benefit to playing at an NJCAA school is simply everyone on the roster are of similar ages. Everyone on the squad will be freshman or sophomores so the disparity in a physical sense that you see at a four-year college or university are not there as much.
Guys get to learn more by playing, and for us we try to only bring in players who we see as playing for us in the first year or maybe two. Being able to get on the pitch as a freshman or sophomore isn’t always the case and more often than not it’s not at four-year schools. We want our guys to leave as impact players for a four-year school. This means they need to play to truly develop as a soccer player to the fullest potential in two-years.”
“Playing time- most likely you will play right away because we only have freshmen and sophomores on our roster, whereas at a four year school unless you are a special talent most likely you are going to watch upperclassman play for your first year or two.”
There are no guarantees of playing time at a JUCO. They are very competitive. That said, with fewer numbers on the roster and no upperclassmen, your athlete has a much higher likelihood of getting extensive playing time right from the start.
- Playing time is the best way to develop skills
Most coaches believe there is no substitute for game time. Practice is essential, but without actual game time, development is limited. This is due to both the heightened intensity of a game and the motivational factor in practice each week when a player knows they will be expected to perform in the game.
“Because it allows individuals to improve their skill set while playing at a very high level. It improves exposure for kids looking to play at 4 year schools.”
“The NJCAA school offers much more than just a backup plan. I truly believe that the schools in the Junior College ranks are a place where athletes can find themselves as people and also prepare themselves for a four year institution. The development that you see at a NJCAA school is better than any junior varsity program at a NAIA school so to speak.”
- Two years at a JUCO may help an athlete get recruited to a higher level than they could have straight out of high school
JUCO’s offer athletes two years to develop as athletes. If an athlete takes this time seriously, they have two years to:
- Sharpen their skills.
- Improve game performance.
- Lift weights.
- Work on their fitness level.
An athlete leaving a JUCO has the time to become a totally different athlete than the one who entered two years prior.
“Many players develop even more after High School so having a year or two could mean them getting noticed by a bigger or better college than they were getting looked at in High School.”
- Playing at a JUCO improves exposure to 4 year schools
When considering playing at a JUCO, interview the coach extensively about their network with four year coaches. Ask for examples of kids they have placed in four year programs. Don’t go to a junior college where there is no network and few kids go on to play at the next level. However, when you find a coach who places players in four year programs, this is a fantastic situation to be in. This coach can open doors that you were unable to open straight from high school.
- If a family cannot afford college, a JUCO is a great option
Not all families are able to shell out thousands of dollars each year to send their child to college. Nor should parents take on debt that will cripple them or their child. In fact, most families are barely making it month to month as they raise their children. Eighteen years fly by and college bills hit before most of us have started a college fund.
Even if your child is being recruited by several coaches, it doesn’t mean you can afford to send them to any of those schools. Junior colleges are a great financial option.
“If the athletes take their academics seriously, they will open up more doors academically and athletically than they had otherwise coming out as a senior in high school. If economics is an issue with the family, low tuition and or combination with an athletic grant (Scholarship) is a no-brainer.”
JUCO’s offer tuition that is much lower than their four year counterparts. In many states, students can attend junior colleges for free or reduced rates. Here is a link to states that offer free tuition at junior colleges.
“I look at the Junior College as a place for the student athlete to go and get 2 years of college at far less cost than a 4 year school. It also helps them to get playing time right away. After 2 years can then transfer to a 4 year school.”
Division 1 JUCO’s can give full scholarships
It is important to understand that JUCOs are divided into Division 1 and Division 2 schools. This information applies to Division 1 JUCOs. You should be able to find this information on the school website. And you can always ask!
You may be very surprised to learn the number of Junior College athletic scholarships allowed on rosters per sport is higher than the NCAA and NAIA, including NCAA Division I. That is amazing! In fact, several sports allow scholarships that are almost double the amount NCAA Division I allows. For your family, that means there are more total scholarships available.
“NJCAA D1 schools can give full scholarships… I have had a decent amount of recruits tell me they didn’t know junior colleges could give athletic scholarships.”
Many JUCO’s provide the maximum number of athletic scholarships. However, schools do not have to use the fully allotted amount of scholarships per sport. The NJCAA does not require schools to offer fully funded scholarships to players. This means the amount and number of JUCO athletic scholarships vary greatly.
If you are interested, I have written a detailed article on Junior College Athletic Scholarships.
If your child has low high school grades and low ACT/SAT scores, a junior college is a good choice. While there your child can create opportunities for scholarships at a four year school. For students, transferring from junior colleges, colleges have totally separate financial aid package standards than they do for incoming freshmen. A college will consider a student’s high school grades, but they focus on the junior college transcript and GPA.
Generally, if a student has low grades and test scores coming out of high school, two years at a JUCO can improve the scholarship amounts they receive from a four year college. On the flip side, if a student had high grades and test scores in high school and then attends a junior college, their scholarship offers usually decrease.
Maybe the best benefit of all to play at a JUCO
Your athlete can stay close to home where you can see them play for a couple more years. For many families, both parents and child, this is extremely important.
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Here is another great article for parents: Junior College Athletic Scholarships
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