The Road to College Pt 1: Understanding Who You Are and What You Want

Embarking on the journey to college is an exciting and crucial step in a high school cheerleader's life. The decision of where to continue your education and cheerleading career should not be taken lightly. There are numerous factors to consider to ensure the best fit for you. In this article, we will explore the key aspects every prospective college cheerleader should think about when deciding where to attend school. By the end of this article, you'll be better equipped to make an informed decision that aligns with your athletic goals, academic aspirations, and personal preferences.

Know Your Athletic Identity


Before diving into the college selection process, it's essential to understand your athletic identity. Are you a flyer, a base, or a tumbler? Do you thrive in stunting or excel in dance? Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a cheerleader will help you identify programs that align with your skill set and preferences.

Skill Level and Goals

  • Consider your current skill level and how you envision your cheerleading skills evolving in college.
  • Are you aiming to compete at the highest collegiate level, or do you prefer a less competitive atmosphere?
  • Determine if you want to continue with competitive cheerleading or prefer a sideline cheer experience.


  • Think about any specialized skills you have, such as stunting, dancing, or tumbling, and find programs that value those skills.
  • Some colleges may have strong stunting and tumbling programs, while others may excel in dance and choreography. 


Program Expectations 


Every college cheerleading program is unique, and understanding what you want out of a program is crucial. Your experience as a college cheerleader will be heavily influenced by the culture, coaching staff, and goals of the program you choose.

Competitive vs. Sideline Cheer

  • Decide if you want to be part of a competitive cheerleading team that competes nationally or if you prefer sideline cheer, supporting other sports teams.
  • Competitive cheer often requires more time and dedication, while sideline cheer may offer a more balanced schedule.

Coaching Staff

  • Research the coaching staff at potential colleges and learn about their experience, coaching philosophy, and success with previous teams.
  • A strong coaching staff can significantly impact your growth as a cheerleader.

Team Culture

  • Reach out to current or former team members to get insights into the team's culture and camaraderie.
  • Consider whether you prefer a more relaxed, supportive atmosphere or a highly competitive environment


Academic Goals


While cheerleading is an important aspect of your college experience, academics should also be a priority. Find a school that aligns with your academic goals, interests, and strengths.

Academic Interests

  • Consider your intended major or field of study and research colleges known for their excellence in those areas.
  • Think about whether you want a large university with diverse academic offerings or a smaller college with a more personalized education.

Academic Support

  • Investigate the academic support services available at potential colleges, including tutoring, study resources, and academic advisors.
  • Determine if the college has a strong emphasis on student-athlete success.

Balancing Cheer and Academics

  • Evaluate the cheerleading schedule and commitment to ensure it aligns with your academic responsibilities.
  • Find out if the program offers flexibility for athletes to excel both in cheerleading and academics.

Location Preferences


The location of your college can greatly impact your overall college experience. Consider whether you want to be close to home or venture farther away.


Distance from Home

  • Think about how far you are willing to travel from home. Do you want to stay close or explore a new city or state?
  • Consider the ease of travel back home for holidays and breaks.


  • Factor in your preference for climate, as it can vary greatly depending on the college's location.
  • Decide if you are comfortable with the climate of the area for four years.

Urban vs. Rural

  • Determine whether you prefer the vibrancy of an urban campus or the tranquility of a rural setting.
  • Each setting offers a unique college experience.
  • Academic Performance


Your academic record, including your grades and standardized test scores, plays a significant role in the college admissions process. Be realistic about how your academic performance may affect your college choices.

GPA and Test Scores

  • Assess your high school GPA and standardized test scores and compare them to the admission requirements of colleges on your list.
  • Determine whether you need to improve your academic profile or if your current qualifications meet the criteria.

College Admission Requirements

  • Research the admission requirements of potential colleges, including GPA, standardized test scores, and any additional application materials.
  • Consider applying to a mix of reach, match, and safety schools based on your academic profile.


Choosing the perfect college for your cheerleading journey is a multifaceted decision that involves assessing your athletic identity, program expectations, academic goals, location preferences, and academic performance. By understanding yourself as a cheerleader, your aspirations, and what you want from a college, you can make a well-informed decision that sets you up for a successful and fulfilling college experience.

Remember that the college selection process should be a collaborative effort between you, your family, and your high school counselors. Take the time to visit campuses, talk to current students and cheerleaders, and gather as much information as possible to make the best decision for your future. Whether you choose a powerhouse cheerleading program or a smaller college with a supportive community, the right fit will enable you to excel academically and continue to shine as a cheerleader.

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