With campuses closed to visits from prospective students, the Indian SCENE is bringing the college experience to you. This week, in a slightly different installment, The Indian SCENE spoke with Tej Munshi, a soccer player and aspiring doctor, about the recruitment process and the demands of being a college athlete. Munshi, a sophomore pre-medicine major, was recruited to play Division I soccer at the University of Maryland, and is transferring to Davidson College to continue his academic and soccer career.
The Indian SCENE: Tell us about your high school experience (what clubs you were involved in, awards received, sports etc.)
Tej Munshi: I attended Woodward Academy for the entirety of my school career. At Woodward, I was a 4-year member and 2-year captain of the varsity soccer team. I was a 4-year MVP, 4-year All Region Selection, United Soccer Coaches All-State Selection, Top Drawer Soccer All-American, 2018 DiVarsity Student Athlete of the Year, and 2019 DiVarsity Player of the Year. I also hold the all-time goal scoring record at Woodward.
Academically, I graduated summa cum laude and was on the high honor roll throughout high school. I am a member of the National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society. I was also involved in peer leadership, serving as a peer mentor for a group of 12 to 15 freshman and assisting in their transition to high school life, and the student athlete advisory council, a group of 12 student athletes who work with the athletic director to attend to issues facing student athletes.
IS: When did you begin your college search? What aspects of a college were important to you?
TM: I knew from a young age that I wanted to play collegiate soccer, so my college search process began fairly early. I started to reach out to coaches during my freshman year, but the search really took shape the summer between my junior and senior year due to NCAA recruiting restrictions. During my college search, a couple aspects were very important to me. I was looking for a school that would not only allow me to continue my soccer career, but also provide me with the resources to complete a pre-med “major.” Additionally, I am very close with my family, so I wanted to go to a school that was not far from family.
IS: Did you visit campuses? If so, when did you start? What were your takeaways from these visits?
TM: My family and I started to visit schools during the summer between sophomore and junior year. We tried to visit schools that would cover all the different types of campuses that I would potentially be applying to, so I could get a sense of what they are all like. In my opinion, the biggest takeaway from a campus visit is to get a sense of what kind of campus feel you are looking for. It is very hard to get a sense of what actual campus life is like from a visit alone but finding out what your preferences are (big vs. small, city vs. suburban) can be very helpful later on in the process. I think that the biggest takeaways I gained from these visits were the ability to stand on a college campus and just see what each different kind of school was like.
IS: Tell us about the application process.
TM: My application process was very much centered around my recruitment. Recruiting is a slightly different process at the beginning because you are in contact with the coach while submitting the application. However, I did send in early action applications to the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech in case something unforeseen happened with my recruitment. In total, I applied to eight schools.
IS: How did you eventually decide to attend your college?
TM: I came to my decision to attend the University of Maryland based on a couple of factors. My big requirements of a school were the ability to play soccer (Maryland was the reigning national champion when I committed), my desired major (Maryland has a medical school which made shadow and practical experience opportunities very available), and proximity to family (my dad grew in Baltimore and my grandparents live about 45 minutes from College Park). Maryland met all three of my major requirements the best out of my potential options, so it was an easy decision in the end.
IS: Tell us about your recruiting process to play soccer in college.
TM: One thing I learned during my recruitment process is that no one’s story is the same. All six of my best friends from high school are now playing collegiate soccer, and each of our stories is different, so I think that is something important for aspiring athletes to understand and keep in their mind as they go through the process. College recruiting for soccer is all about visibility from college coaches and this visibility can drastically alter your options as you go through the process. I think my story shows the fact extremely well. At the beginning of my process, I was in conversation with a couple of Ivy League schools, but due to visibility issues, nothing materialized. Later on, I was approached by the United States Naval Academy, but I was not ready to make that commitment as a senior in high school. Towards the end, I was speaking to one of my former coaches at a College ID camp, and he told me there was a potential opportunity for me at Maryland. He asked me to send a couple of highlight clips that showed my style of play to send to them. This clip created interest and dialogue with these coaches, and I eventually committed to the University of Maryland.
IS: Tell us about campus life (e.g. ease of joining clubs/Greek life, diverse population, ease of meeting with professors, workload, getting registered for classes, anything else you’d like to include).
TM: My campus experience at Maryland was centered around my responsibilities as a player on the men’s soccer team. We would practice for about 4 hours a day. After practice and classes, there was not too much time for many other extra curriculars. However, I was a member of the Indian Students Association and I worked as a sports medicine intern. Despite my time limitations, I was able to get involved with what I was interested in very easily, which I think highlights the ease of joining clubs in college very well. Maryland has something called the “First Look Fair” where all clubs have tables to learn about what they are. This is a perfect time to explore and join really anything that you are interested in. With respect to professors, I had mixed experiences with ease of meeting with them. All professors have office hours, so it up to the student to attend these office hours and seek out the help if you need it. My trouble came from schedule conflicts with my professor’s office hours. Registering for classes can be a stressful time, so I found the best way for me to go through the registration was to make my own “schedule” on paper or on one of the various programs online to create my ideal schedule with times and then go from there. This made it easier to find where there were holes due to full classes and make alternate plans and still keep a schedule, I was happy with. While many of the things I mentioned are specific to Maryland, I am pretty confident that they can be applied to many different schools, especially larger schools.
IS: How do you balance both academics and athletics in college?
TM: Being a student athlete in college is very difficult and does take a lot of hard work, but with practice it becomes manageable. Effective time management is crucial to success as a student athlete. Coaches require you to be at your best at the field and professors expect you to be at your best in the classroom, so falling behind is not really an option. I was lucky to have learned how to manage my time effectively during high school due to my commute to and from school, so the adjustment to college was not as difficult. Even though I was able to adjust personally to life as a college student athlete, the biggest reason I will be transferring next year is to continue to keep this positive balance between school and soccer. As a school Maryland was a very good fit for me, but I had some difficulty aligning my view of the student athlete with those of many of my teammates. Maryland Soccer is a very prominent and successful program in the world of college soccer, and many of the players in the program have the desire and ability to play soccer professionally post-college. For me, while I would welcome the opportunity to play professionally if it presents itself, I am also ready to move on to the next stage of my life following my time in college and needed a better balance between academics and athletics. I am looking to enter the medical field and start that journey, so my priorities were slightly different than many of my Maryland teammates who were pursuing a professional contract. I felt that Davidson would offer me that balance and a better fit with more teammates that have similar goals post-graduation as I do while still competing every day at the highest level of college soccer.
IS: Give us an overview on housing as a freshman and how you found your roommate.
TM: I lived in a suite-style dorm with five of my teammates. Our suite had three double bedrooms, a small common area, and two bathrooms. For a freshman, this was a pretty great set-up, as the majority of our building was upperclassmen. I was placed in my room by the coaches and they assigned our roommates based on location to help with the adjustment to college life (my roommate was also from Georgia). From conversations with friends, I have learned this is not a typical process for athletes at other schools. My other friends went through the housing process as normal (personality surveys, roommate preferences, roommate requests if applicable).
IS: What’s some advice you would tell students going through the college application process or interested in playing sports for a college team?
TM: As I was going through the college application process a second time as a transfer, something one of my professors said really stuck with me. She said, “There is no such thing as the perfect job, only the perfect fit.” To me, this is the perfect way to describe the college world as well. While reputations and rankings are definitely important during the application in their own way, your college is going to be much more than just your school; it is your home for the next four years. This will be your community you interact with on a daily basis and it is extremely important to find a community that fits you and what you are looking for. It is difficult to keep this idea in mind while applying, but I think it is extremely important to find this fit to allow you to truly thrive as a student and a person. I wish this was something I had been told earlier. On the athletic side, I would encourage kids to keep your head down and work for your goal. As I mentioned before, each athlete’s story is different, so there is no one way to get recruited. I wish I had been told to just focus on my recruitment and do whatever is in my power to reach my goal and not worry about what is happening to other kids. College sports are a grind and require a lot of dedication and personal sacrifice, but also yield tremendous experiences. I would advise kids looking to pursue collegiate athletics to discuss their goals with their parents, be prepared for sacrifice and compromise but to follow their desire. The exposure and experience I gained will serve me well throughout life.
IS: Tell us about your major and what you hope to do with it.
TM: When I was born, I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. Specifically, I was allergic to all of the major food groups including dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree-nuts, and more. This made it very difficult for my parents, as my list of what I could eat was shorter than what I couldn’t at a time when not much was known about food allergies. Despite this setback, I was able to overcome my allergies and go on to thrive and even achieve my goal of playing a college sport. My parents talk about how during one of my first doctor’s appointments at Hopkins, Dr. Silber brought an older child in and told my parents his story. This motivated them and showed them it was possible. As I mentioned, I am a pre-med major and I want to eventually enter the field of allergy. I want to learn about what has affected me my entire life. I want to be on the other side and help other kids like me see that it is possible to control your allergies and not let them control you.
IS: What advice would you give parents of high school students if their child wants to be part of a collegiate team?
TM: Some advice I would give to parents of high school students who are aspiring to play college sports would be to understand the difficulty that comes with trying to be recruited. The recruiting process is on par with the application process to elite schools. Getting on a college team takes the same level of commitment and effort as getting in to an elite school, and I think that is something important for parents to understand.
Another piece of advice I would give to parents is to give a level of independence to the student. Something that my parents did that I really appreciated is allowing me to pursue my goal of playing soccer, but also holding me accountable. They were there to support and keep me on track, but the majority of it came from me. College sports require an incredible amount of personal drive, so it is important for the desire to come from the student and not the parents.
IS: What has it been like to be an Indian-American student athlete? Did you ever feel any discrimination?
TM: Maryland is a very large school, so the student body was extremely diverse in every sense of the word (location, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic). Additionally, the team was also pretty diverse as well. There were kids from Australia, Taiwan, Slovenia, Germany, and all over the United States. Davidson is a much smaller school, but prides itself on diversity in different ways.
Throughout my soccer career, I cannot remember a specific instance that I experienced outright discrimination, but I have had to deal with stereotypes my entire career. As an Indian Division-I athlete, I am doing something very different and unique. As far I know, I was the only player of Indian descent in the Big Ten last season.
Within our own culture my athletic achievements were never fully recognized. Everyone commended my induction into National Honors Society or my graduation with honors, but failed to understand the level of effort it took from me to be named player of the year and an All American my senior year. Whenever I talked to adults about my athletic pursuits, the follow up conversation always made sure I was not neglecting my academics.
…favorite thing to do with your family? I am very close with my family, so what we are doing is really not very important. It is more just about being with everyone.
…favorite type of food? Pasta and meat sauce or pani puri
…favorite artist (actor, singer, author, painter, etc.)? I am a big fan of A.R. Rahman as well as Lil Baby, being from Atlanta.
…favorite vacation spot? My family and I are Disney World fanatics