5 Reasons Junior College Might Be Right For You

Written By: Garrett Gordon

"I wanna play at LSU!"

When I ask hitters that I am instructing where they would want to play in college 99% of the time it’s a top tier Division 1 school. Sometimes players will say they just want to bypass school and go straight to the Pros! I really like to keep that dream alive with younger athletes.  I think it’s great to have that mindset so young to help propel them to become better. For kids that are older, who are entering or already in high school should still keep those goals as well. 

When the time comes where you trying to decide which schools to go to you’re going to base that off of how good you actually are. Maybe you have some tools and have some decent stats but the schools you want to go to aren't interested in.  Chances are you need to get better and the only way you can is if you are playing on a team.  

Junior College Baseball Quote

The Background

To give you all an idea on why I think Junior College is a solid route for high school athletes I'm going to share my story.  My senior year of high school back in 2010, I signed a letter of intent to go play baseball at a small NAIA school in Michigan called Spring Arbor University. 

I only had one other offer to play in college which was another small NAIA school. I had some division 3 offers but did not want to pay $40,000+ a year for school.  Therefore I found myself on scholarship at Spring Arbor. I did really well in the fall earning my spot in centerfield. Then ended up having a good season in the spring as well.  I felt that I had gotten so much better in just that one year alone. But I wanted more.

Setting Myself Up For Success

The First Step

I ended up leaving Spring Arbor University after my freshman year because, in my opinion, I did not think I would be able to get drafted out of a small school in Michigan.  Becuase of this, I transferred to Wabash Valley Community College in Southern Illinois. I knew some guys already on the team which made for an easy transition. When fall practice started I noticed a couple of different things. 

First thing was that the amount of time we practiced was much longer, this helped me develop my skills even more. Secondly, we played games whether it was intrasquad scrimmages or versus other colleges at least five times a week.  Lastly, we had showcase games and professional workouts in front of scouts almost every single weekend. Long story short I performed well enough in games and the workouts that I gained some attention from professional scouts and colleges. 

Why It Worked For Me

I then was offered a scholarship to play at the University of Arkansas. After finishing the season with some decent numbers I was really hoping that I caught some attention from some professional teams. Well, my dream came true and I was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 23rd.

Without making the transfer to Wabash Valley the chances of doing what I did may have been slim to none.  For this reason, you may think I’m a little bias towards wanting players to play at a Junior College. I was not the only player to get drafted and many other players from that team went on to top division one schools.  Therefore, if you’re in high school and are wanting to play in college do not rule out Junior Colleges they may just be the right sport for you. Still, need more convincing? Well, keep reading!

#1: Cost-Effective

When choosing a college that's right for you the cost for many will play a huge role in where you go.  If you are not getting a scholarship either from athletics or academics things can start to get pricey real quick.  For tuition and fees, the average price for a Junior College is around $3,500 compared to a four-year school at $9,410. Out of state tuition for four-year schools and private school can triple those costs putting student-athletes further in debt.  The goal should be to play some ball, get educated, and strive to move onto a good four-year school, all without trying to break the bank. I can promise you that if you start your career without student debt, you are way ahead of every who is. 

#2: Academics

Usually your first two years of college you’re trying to figure out your major while taking your general education classes.  Most of the stuff you’re doing in class is stuff you already covered in high school, maybe just a little more in-depth. As I have mentioned before the difference in cost between junior colleges and four-year schools is huge.  Whether you take your general education classes at a two-year school and a four-year school the only real difference is the price. The material itself is still the same if not better. Another good thing about junior colleges is that the class size is smaller.  This is good because you'll be able to talk with your professor and they will probably know who you are. At four year schools especially big ones, class sizes can get huge and you could be lost in the shuffle. Also for athletes who do not have the best grades maybe are ineligible to play at top division one schools.  Junior colleges only require that you have a high school degree. This allows you to get your feet wet and work on building your GPA before transferring to bigger schools.

#3: Greater Opportunites to Play Early

Since junior colleges are only two-year schools usually the players on the team are younger and less experienced.  Since a lot of players are only there for that amount of time, junior college coaches are looking for players that can play right away.   In my opinion, this gives incoming freshman a better chance to earn a spot. The only way you truly get better is being in the line-up playing every day. At four year schools sitting the bench behind juniors and seniors is more likely to happen because they are more experienced and older.

#4: Larger Development Window

Let’s say coming out of high school you didn’t get the exposure you wanted or maybe needed more time to develop.  You wanted to go to some top 10 division one schools but didn't get any offers. You’ve decided you still want to play so are going to play some ball at a junior college.  You may have not been good enough out of high school but now you have two more years to develop into the player you want to become. All while going to school and playing ball.  This is your second chance to get the attention of teams that didn’t know who you were when you graduated. Often times, when division one schools get players from junior colleges they need them to fill some spots there team, is lacking.  Most of the time they go in there and play right. The point I'm trying to make is you may not be where you are right now but in two years you could be playing at your dream school. Therefore the two years a Junior college cannot be wasted and you must get to work and develop your skills.

#5: Draft Eligible Immediately

Now this reason might not apply to most based on how good you are.  But, for those who have tools that professional scouts look for taking the junior college route may be best for you.  I knew once I signed my senior year of high school, my goal was to get drafted. You have to pay attention to the junior colleges that have the most guys drafted.  This year alone there were 103 drafted players out of junior colleges! This is important because those schools already have that reputation. Four-year schools you’re only eligible for the draft is after your junior year. If you attend a junior college you’re eligible starting right after your freshman year.  Getting into professional baseball as early as possible is good because they will give you more time to develop. You will also be able to negotiate more money since you have your remain schools years as leverage.

Final Thoughts

I truly believe that there is a school out there for anyone.  From NAIA all the way up to top division one schools. It comes down to how good you are and finding what school is right for you.  I know I am somewhat biased towards junior college baseball because it worked out for me. The main point is that if you don't go division 1 right out of high school that's not the end of the road!  Find a good junior college where you can develop your tools, your body and mind is something that will provide many opportunities.

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