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Is a Junior College the right step to play college soccer?

Junior colleges, also known as community colleges, play a crucial role in College Soccer in America. For international soccer players, it can be an excellent stepping stone to continue their soccer and academic careers across the ocean. In this blog, we explain everything about Junior Colleges and why it could be an interesting option for you.

Written by

Christoph Willemsen

In this blog, we will discuss the following topics:

  • What is a Junior College?
  • Playing soccer at a Junior College
  • The benefits of a Junior College
  • Progression from Junior College to University
  • Success stories in Junior College
  • Why is Junior College an interesting step for you?

What is a Junior College?

In the American education system, a junior college, also known as a community college, is an educational institution that offers two-year programs. There are various fields of study with the goal of earning an associate's degree.

The programs are designed to provide students with a foundation of academic knowledge and basic skills in their field of study. Therefore, after two years, students can directly enter the workforce or continue their studies at a university.

Stepping stone to a university

Junior colleges are fundamentally seen as a sort of stepping stone in higher education in America. Students who plan to pursue a four-year bachelor's degree can spend their first two years at a junior college, then transfer to the third year of a four-year university or college.

After two years, a student earns an associate's degree, which is a recognized diploma that falls between a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree in terms of level.

Why not go directly to a university?

The goal for many students studying in America is to earn a bachelor's degree.

So why take an extra step at a Junior College and not start directly at a 4-year university?

Although four-year universities and junior colleges are options for higher education, they differ in several aspects. It is often academically easier to get accepted into a Junior College, and the costs are generally much lower than at a 4-year university.

Finally, Junior Colleges are smaller in size, which means you have smaller classes and can more quickly form personal relationships with fellow students, teachers, and staff at the school.

Eastern Florida College Campus

Playing soccer at a Junior College

There are many junior colleges with soccer teams in America. The different teams are divided into three divisions within the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA):

Division I, Division II, and Division III.

In addition, the state of California has its own competition: the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).

Differences between divisions

Each of these divisions has its own characteristics and level of competition, with the best teams generally found in Division 1, primarily due to favorable scholarship rules.

Scholarships in Division 1 can cover the total cost of school, including tuition, housing, food/beverage, and books. In Division 2, this only applies to the school's tuition fees, and in Division 3, there are no soccer scholarship opportunities.

These rules automatically make Division 1 much more attractive to play in, resulting in more talent being found in this competition.

The level of soccer in Junior College

The level of soccer at teams in Junior College soccer varies greatly. Looking at the top teams in the different divisions, the level of soccer is very high. At the top teams, you often see that most players come from a professional academy or similar background.

Often, the reason for choosing the Junior College route is the academic background of a player. They might not have the right grades to go directly to a four-year university, or they choose a more affordable option.

Examples of top teams in the NJCAA

Examples of junior colleges with historically strong soccer teams include Monroe College and Tyler Junior College. These two teams faced each other in the final for the national championship in Division 1 last season.

Last season, our soccer player Aidan made the transition from the youth academy of Hercules to Monroe College. Here you can find more about Aidan's background and his recruiting video.

Every year, junior colleges produce many talents for top universities in America, promoting themselves as the ideal springboard for players to eventually reach the highest level.

Monroe CC Men Soccer

Benefits of playing soccer at a Junior College

Choosing to go to a junior college can bring several benefits for soccer players that are academically, athletically, and financially advantageous. This makes this step an attractive option for many soccer players to start their American adventure.

Academic benefits

Many students do not immediately qualify to study at a four-year university. You need to have completed certain core courses, have earned a high school diploma with good grades, and have a high GPA. For these players, a Junior College is an ideal intermediary step. Here, you can also enroll with, for example, a vocational diploma and later earn your bachelor's degree.

Athletic benefits

Playing soccer at a Junior College also offers many athletic benefits. You play at a Junior College only with Freshmen (first-year students) and Sophomores (second-year students), so you don't have to compete with players who have been there longer. We also often see that soccer players at an NCAA or NAIA do not always start in their first year.

At a Junior College team, the chance of playing time is much greater. Playing time is, of course, an important factor in the development of a soccer player, but it also helps you get noticed for transfer to a 4-year university.

Financial benefits

Junior colleges also offer financial benefits. Generally, the costs of attending a junior college are lower than those of four-year universities.

This can be an important consideration for students and their families, especially when looking at the total costs of a four-year university.

By spending the first two years at a junior college, players and families can save significantly on tuition and other related costs, while still having the opportunity to play soccer in America and eventually earn a bachelor's degree. The importance of a GPA and the financial benefit of this will be further explained below.

Salt Lake CC: NJCAA Champions

Transfer to a university (NCAA/NAIA)

The transition from junior colleges to four-year universities is an important aspect for many soccer players who want to continue their academic and athletic careers. There are two factors that are important in supporting this 'transfer'.

Grades are important

Achieving a high grade (or a good GPA) is crucial for players who want to transfer from a junior college to a four-year university. It is rare for soccer players to receive a scholarship based solely on their soccer skills.

Achieving a good GPA is an essential condition for admission to many universities and to qualify for the soccer team. Coaches have a limited budget and are therefore looking for talented players who can qualify for an academic scholarship (scholarship), so they can combine it with a soccer scholarship.

Suppose you can already get 30% of the costs covered with a scholarship, then your profile is much more interesting for a coach because less comes from his own 'soccer budget'.

American soccer experience and video material

Although international (youth) soccer is becoming increasingly well-known to American college coaches, the Junior College competition is the first player pool coaches look at when they are searching for new talent. Playing for a junior college can therefore expose you to a wider range of coaches from NCAA Division I, Division II, or NAIA schools. Many coaches regularly visit junior colleges in search of talent.

Also, every game in the Junior College competition is filmed, allowing you to review every game, cut the best clips from your games, and add them to your highlight video. This increases the chances of making a good first impression on a scout or coach

Success stories in Junior College

In recent years, we have guided several talented Dutch soccer players in their transfer from Junior College to a D1 or D2 university.

Gijs Hovius - Coffeyville Community College to Missouri State University (D1)

Gijs played in the Netherlands in the youth teams of Go Ahead Eagles, Vitesse, and FC Utrecht. In his last year, he was part of the TEC squad but saw little playing time. The move to a Junior College earned him a nice transfer to a top D1 school. Check out his story here.

Gijs Hovius
Gijs Hovius

Jesper van Halderen - Casper College to Missouri State Kansas (D1)

Jesper played in the Netherlands for the successful youth academy of Hollandia. During his time at Junior College at Casper College, he became the top scorer of his team and conference two years in a row, earning him a nice transfer to D1 school UMKC in the million-city Kansas City. View Jesper's background here.

Jesper van Halderen

Samantha Hulstaert - Tyler JC to Lincoln Memorial University (D2)

In the Netherlands, Samantha played for the women's team of Excelsior Rotterdam. At the Junior College level, she won a National championship with Tyler Junior College. As captain, she earned a transfer and a nice scholarship at Lincoln Memorial University.

Is Junior College a good step for you?

Are you a talented soccer player and are you curious whether playing and studying at Junior College is a suitable step for you?

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