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How to Own Your College Athletic Recruiting Process: A Q&A With Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education

Does your GPA matter more than your 40 time?

Advice for how to get recruited for college sports from Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education

Allen Koh is the CEO of Cardinal Education, an educational consulting company.

The mission of Cardinal Education is “to help students maximize their capacities and equip them with the skills to thrive and become successful in and out of the classroom.”

We chatted about all things athletic recruiting for high school athletes looking to make the leap to the college level.

He discussed the importance of academics, how to stand out to coaches in the recruiting cycle, and the ways that Cardinal Education is making an impact in the industry for young men and women around the country.

What should a student-athlete consider before picking a specific university?

A fit with the coach and a culture on the team is really important. Different coaches are for different people. That is something we noticed plays a huge impact on people’s quality of life because the coach determines a lot of things. How intense does he want to be in the offseason?

There are a lot of things that the coach controls. There are some coaches that are known for being hard-charging and they’ll get you to the next level – that’s all that some kids care about.

Others will just want to play their sport, have a fun time, and not be yelled at.

What is the importance of academics in college athletic recruiting? 

Academics are one of the least appreciated aspects of being able to play college sports.

One of the most important things you can do for your college athletic career is get good grades in high school. It’s easier to improve your GPA by 0.3 points than to grow six inches of height in a summer.

Likewise, do you want to raise your GPA by 0.2 or reduce your 40-yard dash time by 0.8 seconds?

Being the type of student who will bring up the team averages and graduate can allow you to go from maybe being a walk-on to actually getting recruited somewhere.

For recruits, this can result in going to a better university with better academics, better job opportunities, and a stronger alumni network.

If you’re a recruited athlete and have great academic numbers, there are additional scholarships available, even if a school has limited purely athletic scholarships. 

Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education on his advice for prospective student-athletes: "No matter how good you are, a coach isn’t going to come find you. You have to keep reaching out and be persistent and own your own recruiting process."

Why exactly is GPA so important for prospective student-athletes?

Even if a prospective student-athlete is talented athletically, if there are other student-athletes on the roster with a similar skillset, they will likely be looked at first if they have a higher GPA.

From there, a coach will likely have a player work on raising his or her GPA so they can get them through the admissions staff.

While you should be encouraged to chase your dreams, you do need to have a backup plan. Graduation rate is something that a lot of families would do well to investigate. 

What is your best advice for the high school student-athlete who is beginning the collegiate athletic recruiting process for the first time?

Sports don’t happen without the mothers of student-athletes getting super involved. People may think dads are the ones into sports, but in reality, it’s the moms handling the logistics, hotels, communication, etc.

Here are my tips for the process: 

  1. Get in contact with mothers who have been affiliated with clubs or local/school teams that you wish to play on 
  2. Get in contact with coaches directly, rather than having your parents do the outreach on your behalf 
  3. Understand what it means to be mature as a teammate and to make good decisions both on and off the playing field on his/her own accord 
  4. Have a “Plan B” outside of athletics

How can we motivate student-athletes who care so much about their sport to put a close focus on the academic side of the picture as well?

America is relatively unique in that we really encourage high-potential young people to play sports, which is unlike many other countries.

But in America, we think that teaching sports teaches you things about grit, perseverance, sacrifice, hard work, being uncomfortable, and asking for help when you need it. These skills all make someone a great athlete, great student, great businessperson, and beyond. 

What is the focus of Cardinal Education?

We think it’s really important for kids to understand that they have to hustle and make it happen no matter how good they are.

No matter how good you are, a coach isn’t going to come find you. You have to keep reaching out and be persistent and own your own recruiting process.

Be curious and talk to people to get yourself recruited. 

We focus on high academic schools where both admissions and coaches have to agree whether to let you in or not. We specialize in helping student-athletes who may need athletics to help them get into a premier university.

Editor’s Note: Big thanks to Allen Koh for sharing his time and insight with us! We are very grateful.

Written By

Muhlenberg College alum based in New York City. Bylines at Joker Mag, Elite Sports NY, and The Apple.

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