Playing collegiate sports at a prestigious school is an ambitious goal for any high school student, but it’s not so ambitious that you should write it off as impossible. With the right coaching and the right approach to the college search, your student-athlete can find him- or herself playing college soccer, football, lacrosse or another sport at a highly selective school.

In addition to the nationally recognized Ivy League schools, the top 50 universities in the United States are all excellent places for your student-athlete to be recognized for playing a sport. Being recruited can mean entry into new academic opportunities and the financial means to attend such a prestigious school.

Being recruited is hard, with only 12.5% of all applicants getting into an Ivy League school on average. This number includes students who have an advantage by being recruited for athletics. You can raise your odds if you start the process early and make sure that you know what the college coaches want to see in their student-athletes. Some education on the process can go a long way.

Have an Academic and Athletic Advantage Over the Other Applicants

Being a top athlete and a top student is a must—your student should have a challenging courseload and competitive grades, as well as a promising high school athletics career. Encourage your student to take college preparation courses such as the AP or CP courses, or even honors. Set goals for a 3.5 minimum GPA, or even higher. Score a 1200 or higher on the SAT or a 25 on the ACT and you will be on track to meet the cutoffs for most Ivy Leagues. Score even higher and keep a better GPA to increase your odds.

Additionally, make sure that your student is playing his main sport at the top level possible in his high school. Your coach should be fully ready to tell college recruiters that your student is ready to move to the next level and play as a professional college athlete.

Cultivate Great Relationships with Your Coaches

The recommendation of your coaches is an integral part of the process, so your student should aim to be one of the best athletes on the team and well-rounded. In addition to technical skill, a well-rounded student should have great character and passion for the sport. Your coach should be willing to make connections and chat up college advisors on your behalf, but you need to be the kind of student to deserve it.

Find a Recruitment Counselor or Advisor to Help

A recruitment advisor or counselor will ideally have experience recruiting himself, and will be able to give you inside tips on the experience, at least to an extent that lets you help yourself. Understanding the process a little better can do great things for your odds of being recruited, enabling you to get an edge over some other hopefuls.

Start the Process as Soon as Possible

Finally, it’s most important that you start the process with your student as soon as possible. Being recruited is difficult, stressful and ridiculously competitive. Unless you get started as soon as you know that you are ready, you may lose valuable time and miss a spot on your ideal college’s team. Take the plunge once you have the skill and connections to be considered. The benefits of being recruited are overwhelming, and you’ll regret not trying harder if you give it anything less than your best.