Ask almost any intercollegiate player, past or present, and they’ll agree: Playing squash in college is a wonderful experience. Whether a student competes for a top team at a large university or learns to play at a small college, the friendships, camaraderie, practices, travel, and matches can make their college experience that much richer.
Below you’ll find information about playing in and applying to college.
PLAYING IN COLLEGE
The Season: College squash is a winter sport. Team matches start in mid-November and culminate in the end- of-season National Team Championships in late February. At many schools, the main part of the season falls during the winter intersession between the fall and spring semesters, with the championships in the first part of the spring semester, making squash a great sport for student-athletes.
Teams: Team rosters typically range in size from 10 to 20 players. In intercollegiate matches, schools play their top ten players against their opponent’s top ten. Only the top nine results count, with the number ten match being played as an exhibition. Most college teams will play anywhere from 10 to 20 matches a year, mostly on weekends. Many schools also offer a full junior varsity schedule for their players in the second ten on their line-up.
Practices: Teams usually begin formal practices by mid-October to early November. Most teams, however, start “captain’s practice” as soon as they return to campus in the fall. Practices are typically for two hours each day after classes, five or six days a week.
PREPARING TO APPLY
Squash is played at some of the top colleges and universities in the United States, and students should be prepared for rigorous academics wherever they play. The best way for any aspiring college squash player to prepare for college is to study. Nothing will increase a player’s chances getting into a top college more than earning the best grades possible in the most challenging courses possible, along with having reasonably good SAT scores. College is an academic challenge, and schools look for applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to challenging themselves academically in high school.
Being a “recruited” squash player may help a student’s chances of being admitted, but it will not make up for a so-so academic record. Unfortunately, many high school seniors realize too late that they didn’t work hard enough in high school and so don’t have the option of attending certain top colleges.
High school students should get in the habit of studying hard and doing their best every year in school. Since most schools require standardized tests, like the SATs, the SAT IIs, or the ACT, students need to prepare for them as well. International students should be prepared to pass the TOEFL if English is not their first language. Most high schools will have resources to help students prepare for standardized tests.
DECIDING WHERE TO APPLY
This site has a list of schools that have squash programs along with coaches’ contact information and links to schools’ and teams’ websites. The site also has team rankings and results along with articles about many teams. Students can use this information to help them decide which schools might be the best fits academically and athletically.
Even if a school doesn’t have a varsity squash program, it can still be possible to play squash in college. A number of schools have well-established club teams that compete in Nationals. If a school doesn’t have a squash club, starting one can be a great experience. The CSA has an emerging teams division at the National Team Championships for new teams, and it also has resources to help schools and students start squash programs.
Visiting Schools: Visiting a school can be one of the best ways to determine whether it is a good fit or not. Students should try to visit schools during the spring of or the summer after their junior year or the September and October of their senior year. Students can arrange to meet with a school’s coach and ask questions about the squash program, and they can meet with a member of the admissions staff and get a feel for the campus.
Another option for students interested in squash is to play a tournament or participate in a camp at a school they are interested in. These options can help students get a better sense of a school’s squash program and can often help them get to know the coaching staff.
If a student can’t visit a school, they should still try to do a much research about it as they can. Schools’ websites are great places to start, and contacting a coach can be a good way to learn more about a program. Admissions offices are also useful sources of information, and they can often set up phone interviews or meetings with local alumni even if students can’t travel to campus.
Colleges try to have a well-rounded undergraduate student body with students representing a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. Strong academic performance is the key criteria for admission. However, colleges give credit to students who have demonstrated success in extracurricular activities on a national or international level. If a student is ranked #5 in the country in squash, it has clearly taken a lot of time away from studying to accomplish it. If that student has a strong academic background as well, they may be admitted before a student with only a strong academic background.
A coach is expected to inform the Admissions Office of any applicants that have a national or international level of success in their sport, so the Admissions Office can include that information in their overall evaluation of the candidate. Almost all colleges take into account the extracurricular contributions, including athletics, that applicants are likely to make to campus life.
Some colleges hope to enroll anywhere from three to five squash players a year, while others may hope to enroll only one. Coaches primarily use national rankings as the first source of information for evaluating high school players. If a student wants to be recruited, they should make sure they play enough tournaments to get a good ranking, whether they play through their high school or on their own. The US Squash website is a great source for information about tournaments for junior players. Students can also send videos of themselves playing to coaches. The more information a coach receives, the better able they will be able to make a good decision about whom they will support with admissions.
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from calling students on the phone until the July 1 before their senior year in high school. They can send students letters and e-mails starting in their junior year, although questionnaires can be mailed to students any time in high school. Students can visit a school any time, but a coach can only provide a student with an expenses-paid “Official Visit” one time for a maximum of 48 hours after their first day of senior year. Each high school senior may accept no more than 5 official visits over the course of their senior year.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
Most high schools will have useful resources to help students with applying to college. In general, students should continue to work hard on their academics throughout their senior year; attempt to get the best standardized test scores they can, even if that means retaking tests; and do a quality job on the application itself. No matter how good a squash player a student is, a hastily or poorly done application can hurt their chances of being admitted.
Students interested in playing squash in college should also try to stay in touch with coaches throughout the application process. They can send coaches their tournament results, visit schools, and watch college matches. Students should also continue to work on improving their squash game.
Early Admissions: Many schools offer early admissions, and for students who have a strong academic profile and are sure of which school they want to attend, applying to one school and finding out if they are admitted by mid-December can be a good choice. If a student decides to apply early, they should be prepared to apply to other schools in case they are not admitted to their first-choice school. If they are deferred early admission, they can talk with the coach to see if they can get any feedback on why they didn’t get in (although coaches will probably not have much feedback). As students apply for regular admissions, they should continue to work hard in school, play in tournaments, and contact coaches at other schools.
Applying to college can be a stressful process for many students. The good news is that students seem to be very happy wherever they wind up going to school, even if it wasn’t their first choice. Students should also keep in mind that if they are unhappy where they end up going – even if it was their first choice – transferring is always an option. There are excellent squash programs with wonderful coaches at a variety of schools in the United States, and students should be able to find a college that will be a good fit for them academically, athletically, and socially.