When prospective male student athletes think about playing volleyball at the college level, images of competing under the bright lights at a powerhouse volleyball school often come to mind. On the other hand, many boys are not aware of the options to play at the next level. The truth is that there are several different factors to consider in order to find your best college fit—and level of athletic competition is just one of them.

Fortunately, the NCSA Power Rankings of the Top Men’s College Volleyball Programs are based on a proprietary analysis of academic rankings, IPEDS graduation rates, average cost after aid and NCSA Favorites data, providing a much more balanced snapshot of men’s college volleyball teams that takes into account more than just performance on the court. NCSA analyzed over 150 four-year colleges with men’s college volleyball programs across four division levels (D1, D2, D3 and NAIA) to develop a list of the Best Men’s Volleyball Colleges for Student-Athletes.

With these NCSA Power Rankings, you can make a better-informed decision about where to play and also find colleges that you may not have heard of before. Currently, the NCSA’s top 20 men’s volleyball programs include:

1. University of California – Los Angeles

2. Stanford University

3. Princeton University

4. University of California – Irvine

5. Harvard University

6. University of California – San Diego

7. University of California – Santa Barbara

8. Ohio State University

9. Brigham Young University

10. University of Southern California

11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

12. Penn State

13. University of California – Santa Cruz

14. California State University – Long Beach

15. Pepperdine University

16. New York University

17. Vassar College

18. Lewis University

19. Loyola University Chicago

20. Saint Francis University

These rankings offer a good starting point for your men’s college volleyball team search. Here is a map of all Men’s Collegiate Volleyball Programs to widen your search. The colleges are color coded by division.

As outlined in the 2019 NCSA State of Recruiting Report, college fit matters for academic and athletic success, and overall happiness. In fact, the report states that nearly 45% of college athletes aren’t listed on their team’s roster the next year. In more basic terms, too many student-athletes are choosing colleges that aren’t the right fit and end up leaving the team. The below criteria can help families decide if a school is worth considering.

Athletic fit:
This is less about knowing how good you need to be to play at a certain level and more about knowing what level is right for you. Would you rather be a starter and get significant playing time or compete at the highest level you can, even if you don’t see much court time?

Academic fit:
Having good grades ensures you will have more opportunities at the next level. But you also want to make sure you pick a school that has the major you might want and a manageable academic workload. It is okay if you don’t know these answers initially—like everything in the college search process, they can change.

Social fit:
Even before you have the opportunity to get to know a coach or the team, you should consider location, school size, weather, distance from home and other important factors that may be important to you. Once you get the opportunity to meet the coach and team, ask questions about coaching style, practice philosophies and how playing time is determined. Also, spend time with the underclassmen, since they are potentially your future teammates and friends.

Financial fit:
Getting a full-ride athletic scholarship is far from the norm in men’s collegiate volleyball, as most DI programs only have 4.5 scholarships for an entire roster of 14-18 athletes. Families should expect to cover most if not all of the cost of college, but should also look into grants and financial aid opportunities. Rather than focus on just the sticker price of colleges, learn to evaluate schools on your expected contribution. You should know what you are prepared to pay. Realize that it takes time to understand what your final costs might actually be once you talk to a coach.

When picking the right college you should consider more than just the success of the volleyball program. Consider the points above to help you make the right decision for you and your family. As always, be pro-active and take control of your recruiting process.

For more related reading for boys volleyball athletes and coaches click HERE. For more recruiting education click HERE.

This article was written in collaboration with the JVA Boys Committee.