Athletic Scholarships: The Basics

Athletic Scholarships: The Basics

Are you considering playing your sport in college? Find out if you could qualify for an athletic scholarship.

During the fall of your junior year, meet with your guidance counselor to find out if your grade point average (GPA) is on track and you meet the other academic requirements for this kind of college aid.

Athletic scholarships may be some of the most recognized and coveted of all college scholarships. Although many people dream of receiving this kind of financial aid, very few do, but that doesn't mean it's not possible! While only a limited number of schools offer this type of money for college, and the competition to receive an athletic scholarship is incredibly high, learning all you can about these scholarships can help increase your chances of getting one.

To get yourself in the best position to receive an athletic scholarship, you need to find out what’s required of applicants. What's on the top on the list of things to know? You can't slack off on your academics. Talented student athletes with good grades are the first to get scholarships.

Many athletes make the mistake of thinking they don't need to excel in sports to receive one of these college scholarships. Unfortunately, given the volume of college applicants and numerous athletes, you’re expected to perform both on the field and in the classroom to receive athletic scholarships. Colleges and universities want students who will get a solid college education and play well for their teams.

Top Athletic Organizations for Colleges

Athletic scholarships are primarily awarded by three national athletic organizations. They are:

  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
  • National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
  • National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)

The NCAA is the largest of the three organizations. Smaller colleges and universities are part of the NAIA, and, as the name indicates, the NJCAA is the association for junior colleges and community colleges.

The Five Primary Types of Scholarships:

  • Full four-year scholarship – a full ride, the most coveted athletic scholarship
  • Full one-year renewable contract – your scholarship is automatically renewed at the end of the school year if you’ve met the conditions of the contract
  • One-year trial grant – this is offered as a full or partial scholarship and involves a verbal agreement between the student and the school that the grant will be renewed at the end of the school year if the student’s academic and athletic performance are considered satisfactory by the school
  • Partial scholarship – this college money pays for any part of the student’s college costs, such as tuition
  • Waiver of out-of-state fees – this allows out-of-state applicants to complete their college program for the same cost as an in-state student

How Do You Receive an Athletic Scholarship?

First of all, you need to excel in a sport that awards money for college, such as: basketball, crew, cross country, fencing, field hockey, volleyball, football, golf, sailing, skiing, soccer, tennis and wrestling.

During the fall of your junior year, meet with your guidance counselor to find out if your grade point average (GPA) is on track and you meet the other academic requirements for this kind of college aid. Your counselor can also help you find schools that offer scholarships in the sport you excel in.

Once you’ve found the schools you want to apply to, contact the head coaches and ask to be interviewed by them or by a local recruiter. Be sure to confirm the academic and athletic requirements for their school’s scholarships and find out what athletic position you could be considered for.

You will also be asked to submit an athletic portfolio (also called an athletic scholarship résumé) to show off your qualifications. To highlight your athletic skills, include a summary of the positions you’ve played, the years of you’ve played each one, any athletic awards you received, letters of recommendation from your coaches, newspaper clippings highlighting your best moments and a short video of you in action. Some schools will also require a highlight reel. Highlight reels are also a good way to market yourself to prospective colleges with the help of your high school coach.

Additionally, you’ll want to include your GPA, scores on standardized tests and any academic awards or other achievements you’ve earned. Also, be sure to include your work experience, community organizations you belong to and any other significant extra-curricular activities you engaged in.

Quick Tips

  • Attention, female athletes! Federal laws have been established to ensure that women receive their share of athletic scholarships, so there’s a lot of college money available to women seeking financial aid for their sports skills.
  • If you don’t receive a scholarship at your top school, stay in touch with the coach and/or recruiter. Another student may decline their scholarship money, which could open the door for you to get your college education at that school after all.
  • In addition to pursuing athletic scholarships from schools, contact organizations for your sport to see if they also offer college scholarships. Regional groups and associations, especially for less competitive sports, will often offer money for college.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

Scholarship Basics
How to Find Scholarships
How to Apply for Scholarships
Financial Aid by State: Scholarships, Grants and Student Loans

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