On Money, Scholarships, and The College Decision

The following was written by Coach Brown in December of 2016:

Don’t let money make this decision for you. Its not that long ago that I was a college golf recruit so I know how it feels. I get it. Getting a “big” scholarship comes with pride, prestige, and a certain feeling that you are being rewarded for the dollars, hours, and strife that you and your family put into your golf game. I also know that college is expensive, incredibly expensive, and that it is difficult to afford. It all makes sense—I really do understand. But let me encourage you to take a step back and think about this decision from another perspective. Money is a powerful distracter from what really matters. Money is an important part of your college choice—but it is not everything. Let me suggest three higher ideals for you to make this decision based upon: personal development, relationships, and vocation.

Personal Development:
College is a temporary experience. It is a stop along the way. It is by its very nature an investment. It is a means to an end. You are on a trajectory towards something; who you are today is constantly changing into who you are going to be. And in our culture, college is one of the most significant shapers of your trajectory. That means that college isn’t just a line item on a budget—it’s a formative piece of who you become. So here is my advice: think about the kind of person you want to be 20, 30, 40 years down the line and then work backwards to making your college decision. If you want to be a parent someday, you might want to consider what college golf program is going to help you develop into the kind of parent that you want to be. If you want to be a CEO someday, think about the kind of boss you want to be and what college golf experience might prepare you for that. Think about the things that you can’t see on paper.

At the end of the day, our relationships are what we hold most dear and what guide us. The primary relationship you need to think about when making your decision is your relationship with the coach. Your coach is going to have a massive impact on four years of your life. College athletics isn’t restricted to the 20 hrs. a week that NCAA allows you for practice time. What is happening with your coach and your team stays with you all the time. You want to be in an environment with a coach that cares for you and about what is happening to you. Secondly, you need to think about who else you are going to meet in college. You will probably make many of your lifelong friends there. Who are the people on the golf team? Are they the kind of people you want to spend the rest of your life in relationship with? Who are the faculty? These are going to be people you need to come back to for recommendations, career connections, and more. They are important to know. And who else will you meet as a part of the institution’s golf program? Its no secret that relationships often lead to jobs. Think beyond.

Mark Twain famously said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why." At your age, you probably don’t know your vocation, or in other words, what you want your mission in life to be. But, when you do, there is a profound satisfaction with finding the thing that you feel like you were made to do and doing it. You want a college experience that is going to help you uncover your passions and prepare you to follow them. If you already have a sense of what your passions are, then try to find schools that are going to foster them and develop them. You want college to put you in a place to spend the rest of your life doing what you can’t not do (read carefully).

You likely didn’t get to the level of competitive athlete you are by taking the cheapest option. You probably don’t have the cheapest clubs in your bag, you probably haven’t played in the cheapest tournaments possible, you probably haven’t gone to the cheapest instructor, and you probably don’t play at the cheapest golf course. Now is not the time to cash in. I encourage you to ask other former college athletes what their perspective on the financial aspect of college athletics is. On the other side of being a college athlete, things look quite a bit different.

Don’t be afraid to make an unorthodox decision. We should see more people with DI offers turn them down to go to school at lower divisions. And perhaps more non-DI offers turned down in favor of a walk on opportunity at the right DI school. Being in a good fit is invaluable. Think about value in terms beyond dollars and cents. You may not attend Goucher (statistically speaking, most people who read this won’t) but I encourage you, wherever you decide to go, to not let money make this decision for you. You have to be able to afford college and be wise about what you take on financially, but also think about what you can’t afford to sacrifice: your self, your relationships, and your passions. Make this decision from a different paradigm of thinking.

Hunter Brown