I played tennis for as long as I can remember. My father used to go down to the local high school courts to practice with our neighbor, and I would tag along to spend time with my dad – and I secretly think he also took me so that my mom would have some time without me around to pester her! Playing tennis as a weekend diversion eventually turned into taking lessons at the local rec center, lessons at a local club, local tournaments, regional tournaments sanctioned by the USTA, and training over the summers and school vacations at various tennis academies. After progressing up the ladder through the tennis world, when it came time to apply to college the next logical step for me was to continue playing in college.
During the spring of my junior year of high school I began to focus on which colleges I was interested in, and looked more closely at their tennis programs. Our mailbox was flooded with college brochures and letters from coaches, and I took the time to look through most of them just to educate myself and make sure I was considering all my options. I knew that I wanted a school with a strong academic reputation, but also a women’s tennis program where I could play beginning in my freshman year. I spent a lot of time talking to other tennis players I knew who were older than me and had experience with the coaches and teams through their recruiting experiences. I found that I learned a lot more by speaking to other players and coaches at local clubs than I could from brochures or the coaches themselves.
Despite all the phone calls and letters from coaches at various schools trying to convince me to visit and apply to their school, I knew only I could choose what was right for me. I thought a lot about what I wanted not only from college, but also from the tennis program. Since I knew that I was certainly not good enough to become a pro, academics and future career potential were very important to me. Eventually I whittled down my list of potential schools to Columbia University, Georgetown University, Tulane University, and Yale University.
Columbia University was my first choice at that point, so I decided to visit and meet the coach and team in October. I remember walking onto the campus for the first time and realizing that this was the place I wanted to spend the next four years. I loved the school, the people, and of course I loved Manhattan! Everything about Columbia University just felt right to me, and after meeting the team, seeing the tennis facilities, and talking with the coaches, I applied under the early decision program. I decided to hold off on visiting the other schools since I knew that I would be attending Columbia University if I were accepted early.
In mid-December, I was accepted to Columbia University. The recruiting and application process was finally over! That spring I went back for a weekend to meet other recruits and incoming freshmen. In the fall of 1995, I began my freshman year at Columbia University and my first year playing Division I tennis.
Pay attention to your instincts. If something about a school, team, players or coaches doesn’t seem right for you, don’t apply just because you feel as though you should. There are plenty of schools out there that won’t make you second-guess your choice.
Don’t rule out any schools just because you never thought you’d apply there. The time it will take you to research the school and talk to the coaches and players is so minor compared to four years of college. Make sure you always think you made the right choice.
Talk to anyone and everyone you can about the schools and athletic programs you’re considering. The most unbiased advice and information won’t come from the coaches or players, but from others who aren’t affiliated with the school.
Make sure you would like the school even without the athletics. I stopped playing on the team halfway through my sophomore year, and had I not loved Columbia as a school, I would have spent the rest of my time there being pretty unhappy.