Over the course of my recruiting process, I heard some of my teammates say time and time again that they wanted to play Division I soccer. They said things like, “There’s no point to playing college soccer if I can’t play Division I”, or “Division III is the worst of the divisions.” I thought some of these things as well until I realized what Division III schools had to offer. The common misconceptions about Division III athletics, no matter the sport, have driven many student-athletes towards the Division I and II atmosphere. I decided to play for Emerson College, a Division III soccer team, leading me to excel in both my academic and soccer career.
Division I (DI) schools are popular because they are the big schools with the big names. Colleges like Duke, Harvard, and Boston College are the schools that draw big crowds and get the most attention, making them extremely competitive. Many people assume that Division III (DIII) schools lack a competitive nature that DI schools have, but it’s actually just the opposite. While DIII schools are smaller and don’t necessarily have the big names that everyone has heard of, they are just as competitive as DI schools. I’ve met several DIII soccer players who told me that their team could easily defeat a DI team. Knowing this, I wasn’t worried about getting into a DI or even DII school because I knew wherever I ended up, I was going to be challenged.
Many students are concerned with juggling their academics with their athletics. In big DI schools, this is very difficult to manage. It’s a serious time commitment that the athlete has to keep for the next four years of their life, making the sport their life. DIII schools definitely require a time commitment; however, they do not consume nearly as much time as DI schools do. With that being said, there is more time for students to pursue their academics and explore life outside of a college sport. Some think that DII schools provide a happy medium because it’s right in the middle. This is true to an extent. DII athletes are able to find a balance between their athletics and academics, but the time commitment still remains as intense and rigorous as if they were on a DI team. In the end, it comes down to the student to decide which lifestyle best fits their wants and needs.
Choosing the right school is important, whether it be Division I, II, or III, but it is also crucial to consider the financial circumstances before making any final decisions. DI and DII schools offer athletic aid towards their recruits, persuading particular athletes to join their team. (For more college soccer scholarship statistics, click here). Another big misconception about DIII schools is that they don’t offer aid for incoming athletes. This is also completely false. While DIII schools are not allowed to offer any athletic scholarships to athletes, they can give out non-athletic scholarships to student-athletes who are academically qualified. These scholarships are presented in the form of grants and need-based scholarships. As a matter of fact, about 80% of DIII athletes receive academic aid. So parents, stop worrying about DIII schools costing too much money; there is always financial support available.
Even with the financial circumstances taken care of, I believe that many students think that DIII soccer players have less of a bond than players on DI and DII teams because they spend less time with each other. This couldn’t be more inaccurate. My team is my family. The bond between all of us was and still is extremely strong and I know that I can rely on them for anything. If we weren’t strong, we wouldn’t have been able to work together as a unit. This should be true for any team in any division if they hope to be successful. It doesn’t matter how much time they spend together, or how far they travel, there is always a strong connection between teammates.
Even though I am currently still only a freshman on the Emerson Women’s Soccer Team, I truly understand the value of companionship and friendship when it comes to being on a team. What’s better is as a DIII athlete, I had the privilege to form these friendships on and off the field, giving me a peaceful balance between my academics and my athletics. Instead of being on a tight-knit schedule where my life consists of soccer 24/7, I had the chance to get involved with other academic clubs, extracurricular activities, and study abroad opportunities. I made strong friendships with other students through these extracurricular activities. For instance, some days I was going to the gym with my teammates, and other days I was participating in film festivals with my fellow film major nerds. I was happy that I got to meet people and explore outside the soccer bubble.
As a prospective college soccer player, it is important for the athlete to think about the college experience they want to have before settling on a school. Some students really want the DI or DII life. I’ve heard from several DI and DII alumni that they wouldn’t trade their college experience for anything in the world. But for any athlete who is unsure of what they want, DIII might be a safer and more clear option. Not every high school athlete is good enough to make it to the college level. So no matter what division the athlete chooses, they will endure a tiring yet fulfilling experience on their chosen team.
By: Madeline Leto