Last week, we caught up with Sean Cleary, who is nearing the end of a 2 year full-ride golf scholarship at Kirkwood College, Iowa. In this interview Sean discusses how his time in the USA has changed him, what he has achieved, and what advice he has for anyone currenlty considering an athletic scholarship to the USA:
1. Can you tell us a bit about your sporting background pre-scholarship?
Pre-scholarship I used to play a variety of sports, as well as golf, e.g. hurling and gaelic football, which are the main amateur sports in Ireland. I obviously also played golf very competitively and always dreamed of going stateside to play college golf but did not know if I was good enough or not.
2. How did you find out about FirstPoint USA and what made you apply for a scholarship?
One night I was randomly searching online about golf scholarships in the USA and I found a link to FirstPoint USA. I filled out the application not thinking much of it but after a couple weeks I got asked if I was interested in meeting a consultant for an interview and it all went from there. I knew after my meeting that this company was the real deal and that they could help me get to the USA.
3. Were you happy with the offers you received? What made you choose the Junior College route?
I didn't get too many offers as I was only a 5 handicap at first but then I dropped to a 3 which still wasn't really good enough to play at a high level in the states. But when I got an offer from Kirkwood Community College and I looked into what the Junior College route was all about, I knew that this was the right way to go. I would have 2 years to develop my skills and at a college with a golf program as well recognised as Kirkwood with Coach Darin Pint.
4. Are you still glad you chose to go to Junior College?
I could not be happier that I chose this route. It is the best decision I could possibly have made and I am improving every day and getting new offers from 4 year schools on a daily basis!
5. How did you find the FirstPoint process?
The FirstPoint process was very good. You definitely get your money's worth and no stone is left unturned. The consultants stay in touch regularly, through emails and phone calls, and are very professional about it all. I have no complaints at all and I couldn't have done it without you.
6. How has your life changed since you moved to the USA?
Since I moved to the USA, so much has changed. I have obviously become more independent and learned to live on my own. I have learned to manage my money better and all the usual stuff involved with living in college, including washing your own clothes, and cooking your own dinner etc. One of the biggest changes is my body type. I started lifting for the first time since I got here and have increased my body weight by 2.5 stone of mostly muscle, I'm in the best shape of my life, which reflects on my golf game also.
7. What have you achieved since you moved to the USA?
I have achieved so much since I've been here. I have played number one on the team for the two years so far. Our team has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the two years and I finished 3rd place in the regional tournament. Our team won the regional tournament qualifying for the national tournament where we finished 9th as a team. This fall I lead the team and the region in scoring with a 74.6 average. I have had numerous top 10finishes and rarely finished outside the top 20. I just couldn't have asked for a better 2 years so far!
8. How have you managed your time between academics/athletics/social life?
Our schedule is built around golf. Therefore we schedule classes to start around 8am or 9am to finish around 12pm or 1pm depending on how many credit hours we have and what sort of classes we need to take. Then we normally practice at 1:15 or 1:30pm and if we play we don't get done until about 6pm and if we are in off season and lifting we normally get done around 3pm. My day is really busy until golf practice is over but then I can come home, relax and get some homework done and hang out with my friends, go to a movie or bowling etc. Its a great life i wouldn't change it for the world I love staying busy.
9. Have you had any opportunities to work/make some money, while at college?
My Visa requirements only allow me to work on campus for 20 hours a week and luckily part of the offer that Coach Pint made me was a work study job that I get approx 12-16 hours a week of work and its really simple. I am very lucky to have this job along with a full ride scholarship, it basically helps me to pay off my rent.
10. How does the focus and popularity of college athletics differ in the US to in the UK?
There are no comparisons between college sports here and at home in Ireland. The focus on college sports here is huge and in most communities here your college team is the main team you support where as that is irrelevant at home. You don't get a lot, if any, scholarship money at home. Maybe a couple thousand in the UK and Ireland, but over here you can get as much as $30,000, it's crazy! You often see more people at a college event than you would see at a professional event. It's mind blowing to me, really amazing, and I'd love to see college sports at home put on that sort of pedestal.
11. What are the facilities like at your current school?
At my current school the facilities are fantastic. They just built a new state of the art gym with a huge weight room, cardio room, 2 racketball courts, indoor putting green, hitting nets and mats for the winter months. Also 4 locker rooms and 2 training rooms with a full time trainer on hand all the time and of course the basketball court, which is really nice. We play on a top class golf course also that tests our game day in and day out.
12. Do you have any advice for those considering a sports scholarship?
I would say go for it if you're considering a scholarship over here. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and there are so many contacts to be gained and people to become friends with. I don't have a bad thing to say about my experiences, definitely go for it!
13. Would you recommend FirstPoint USA?
I would definitely recommend FirstPoint USA as they are a world renowned company who know what they are talking about. They will help you find the right school to fit you, and I am proof of this. Their success rate is incredible and their attention to detail is like no other recruitment company out there. Thanks so much for helping me out and allowing me to live my dream!
For more from Sean about his time in America, check out this video interview from Source M G News:
We would like to thank Sean for taking the time to answer our questions, and wish him the best of luck for the future!
Do you think you have what it takes to secure a scholarship to study in the USA while playing your favourite sport? Apply now for your assessment!