Former Client, Corrie McDonald - Experiences and Advice

10 min read

We recently caught up with FirstPoint USA alumni, Corrie McDonald. Currently in her senior year at York College, Nebraska, the soccer player shares with us her experiences from obtaining a sports scholarship; how she found the move to the US; what life as a student-athlete is like; as well her plans for after graduation.

“I am from Liskeard, Cornwall, England a small-ish town that’s 25 minutes away from the beach. I played for Callington Ladies Football Club during my last year in England (2 other girls have also gone out to the US on soccer scholarship from this team). But, I also played for St. Dominick Ladies Football Club, Cornwall Centre of Excellence, Callington Colts Football Club, and the St. Cleer Youth Football Club throughout my playing career back home. I went to Liskeard School and Community College from year 7 to year 13.”

Corrie tells us that as she was getting ready to sit her A-Levels, university in England was beginning to become more and more expensive, so she began to explore alternative options. Stating, “I looked in to joining the RAF, and I looked into going to college in the US on a soccer scholarship. The more I looked in to the whole soccer scholarship thing, the more I liked the look of it. I would get to play the sport I love at a competitive level, it would help pay for my education, and I would get to experience a new culture… sign me up!

My Step mum was actually the first person to plant the seed of playing in America, because she knew of someone who had done the same thing. But, when I started to get a little more serious in my research, my parents may have had some reservations. They wanted to make sure that I would be able to financially support myself in another country, and that I would be in a safe environment. My parents supported me throughout the whole process, and understood that it was something I really wanted to do. They took me to try-outs with FPUSA and came with me for interviews and showcases.”

With regards to securing a soccer scholarship in the US, Corrie tells is that her parents trusted that she knew what she was looking for, and that she would make smart decisions; asking for help whenever it was needed. The soccer player states, “It wasn’t an easy process. But, it was worth it! I just had to make sure that I stayed on top of completing check lists for both FPUSA and different colleges I was looking in to.”

We asked Corrie what is was about Western Nebraska Community College that made her choose to study there, opposed to any of the other offers she received…

“I had a lot of great offers from schools throughout the US and Canada, and I came close to choosing a couple of other schools. Honestly, I was kind of scared to go to a community college. The American media tends to put a negative stereotype on community colleges, and I was concerned that the transfer process would be difficult. But, I chose WNCC for several reasons. The scholarship offer was very affordable, and the coach showed that he cared about me as a person and not just as a player.

There was a possibility that I may have had to have a minor surgery on my toe before leaving for the states, which would’ve meant that I would have to sit out for at least a week of pre-season. So, I asked the coach what he thought I should do, and if he still wanted me to play for him. He simply said that I had to do what was best for me and my body. If this was going to relieve pain for me and help me in the long run, then I should do it. Plus, the school itself showed possibilities for a bunch of fun, and unique leadership positions.

WNCC’s campus is small and easy to get around, which made my life a lot easier when trying to get used to a new country. But, it was pretty with green grass and flowers all over campus. I loved the community living in the dorms, having a bathroom to share with just my roommate, and having a bank and stores just a 5-minute walk from campus. There was a weight room in the main building, which we could use any time we wanted and the soccer field was obviously very well kept, with a big score board which also looked really cool.”

To start off with, Corrie tells us that it was difficult to find the perfect balance between school, soccer, and having fun outside of the two. “I was used to being okay with getting Bs in my classes, doing minimal studying, and barely any homework. But, the US relies heavily on homework, and if you don’t do it, you don’t pass the class.

And having practice for at least 2 if not 4 hours a day in the blazing heat, with 3 sessions of weight lifting, classes, and homework; it was a lot. (Especially when I was used to having only one practice session and one game a week.)

But, I had professors, coaches, classmates, and staff members at the school looking out for me; guiding me when I started to under-perform.”

After completing her Freshman and Sophomore years at WNCC, Corrie transferred to York College for her remaining two years of studies. She tells us, “the transfer was super smooth and easy actually. I visited York college in the second semester of my last year at WNCC, tried out for the team, was given a campus tour, met with professors ate lunch and dinner and found myself at home there. Every credit I took at WNCC transferred to York. I was able to jump in to leadership positions on campus, just as I did at WNCC, and I can honestly say that both places feel like home to me.

The first year of soccer at York was definitely a building year. The coach had only been with the program since a month before he had recruited me. We won one game, and that wasn’t easy. WNCC was a successful program, so this was a big change. I worked hard on the field, and it was difficult to not see progress from that work. BUT, this year we had the best season York College’s women’s soccer team has ever had. We made it to the semi-final of the conference tournament, and lost to the team that won it. The coolest thing was, this was my last ever competitive soccer game in the US and not only do I get to say that I scored in that game, but also that I got to lead this team in its growth, for both years as a captain.”

Having nearly completed her fourth year in the States, we asked Corrie to tell us what her highlight has been…

“As corny as it sounds, the friendships that I have made out here. I have loved playing soccer, growing as a player, traveling around the US, and even to Costa Rica because of the sport I love. I have loved diving in to activities like theatre, and show choir. I have loved becoming campus activities board president, a member of student government, and working with admissions. I have loved learning about my love for Psychology, and helping and working with others. I have loved gaining the work experience in a campus book store, a campus coffee shop, at camps working with middle and high school children, and as a resident assistant.

But, meeting people from all over the world, and from all kinds of backgrounds that have grown to become my best friends… that’s been really cool! And even cooler, these people have helped me find and grow in my faith, without ever forcing anything upon me. They have helped me become the person I am today.”

“I will receive my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, in May. This is worth the exact same as a Bachelor’s degree in the UK. Therefore, I will have the opportunity to further my education or start a career in the psychology field. I have also learned a lot about soccer through personal experience and having taken coaching classes. So, no matter where I end up I will have the opportunity to coach soccer, at both a club and school level as well as continue to play at a recreational level.”

After her upcoming graduation, Corrie tells us that she plans to continue her education in the US to obtain an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology. After completing this 3-year program, Corrie states she hopes to become a Residence Hall Manager at her current school, before going on to become a School Psychologist within public schools.

Finally, Corrie offers her advice to anyone that may be currently thinking about going to America to pursue a sports scholarship…

“The biggest thing you have to remember when you go to college in America on a sports scholarship, is that you are a Student-Athlete. This means that first you are a student; second you are an athlete. You have to be just as, if not more, dedicated to your studies than you are to your sport. You are required to keep up a minimum GPA whilst you compete on a team, and if those grades slip, you are not allowed to compete for at least a semester, if not a whole year. But, your coach will expect you to work hard on the field, and put the work in during the summer, before heading out to the States, at practice, and in the weight room. It will be super fun and rewarding, and there is honestly nothing like it. But make sure that you’re committed to putting the effort in. Otherwise, for one reason or another you will not stay out here for as long as it takes to get your degree, and it will be a waste of time. 

You might not expect there to be that big of a culture difference between two English speaking countries, but there are lots of little things that add up. Come in to the US with an open mind and depending on what part of the states you go, be prepared to repeat the word “water” on multiple occasions at restaurants. It’s the accent… they’re not expecting it, and don’t tend to hear them on the daily.

This has been the biggest and most important part of my life. I thought it was just going to be soccer, soccer, soccer. But, it has been so much more! And that is something that you can only experience for yourself, not through someone else.”


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