Friday, April 16, 2010

Joining the Tigers: Alexandra Valerio

Recruitment can vary from individual to individual, so here is another account of the process, this one from Alexandra Valerio '11, a midfielder and forward on the women's soccer team.

I was never one of those kids who spent their childhood dreaming of attending Princeton University. In fact, the thought of considering an Ivy League school didn’t even cross my mind until the summer before my senior year.

Several months earlier, a handful of coaches at American universities had contacted me in hopes that I might consider their respective women’s soccer programs. A relatively naive kid from Canada, I was unfamiliar with the recruiting process that thousands of aspiring college athletes go through each year. As a result, I was dazzled by offers of full scholarships — opportunities that also greatly appealed to my parents — and the chance to play the sport that I loved at such a high level.

What I didn’t know, however, was that the recruitment process I at first found so exciting would eventually turn into a grueling ordeal. There came a point when the coaches who were offering athletic scholarships started pressuring me to commit. They needed know if I was genuinely interested in their program, so that they could give the spot to someone else if I was not. To be honest, I liked a lot of the universities I visited, but none of them really felt right. Deep down, I knew that I couldn’t yet say yes to any one school.

Time was running out, and I was experiencing major anxiety about the uncertainty of my future. On a whim, I sent an e-mail to Julie Shackford, the head coach of Princeton’s team. Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by the promptness of her response. I had sent e-mails to other coaches in the past, and I was lucky if I received a response at all, let alone a prompt one. I later learned that I had Diana Matheson ’08, Princeton’s soccer legend and star of the Canadian national team, to thank for putting in a good word; I am still grateful for her endorsement, as well as Julie’s willingness to consider me so late in the recruiting game.

From that moment, things just started to come together. Princeton’s assistant coach, Ron Celestin, traveled to North Carolina to watch me play in the U.S. National Cup finals. With this confirmation that I was a pretty decent player, the coaches invited me to visit the campus and see what the University and the women’s soccer team were all about. Right away, I was struck not only by the beauty of the grounds but also by the sincerity of the team and the support of the soccer staff. When the issue of the application process came up, they expressed their faith that my grades were good enough to get me in, but they also made it clear that they could only do so much in terms of endorsing me during admissions. Despite this uncertainty, their encouragement was all I needed to take the leap and apply to the school.

In late October, I got a call from the University saying that it was thrilled to inform me that I would be receiving a likely letter in December. This basically meant that I would become a Princeton student, barring any unforeseen academic self-destruction my senior year. I felt both relieved and elated to know that I would be attending one of the most renowned undergraduate institutions in the world.

Looking back, the recruitment process gave me a valuable insight into the personalities of the people with whom I would be spending the next four years of my life. The guidance and encouragement I received from my future coaches and teammates made it apparent that Princeton was the right fit for me. I inevitably faced challenges when I first came to the University, but, once again, the people whom I had depended on so much during my recruitment were there to support me. My team has never abandoned me when I have been faced with difficulties, and I know it never will. This absolute certainty only reinforces the fact that I made the right decision in choosing Princeton. I can’t imagine being at any other university, or being surrounded by a better group of girls and coaches.