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Truths and Myths of Athletic Scholarships

Every year, millions of parents place their children in youth sports programs in hopes that the child will grow to become a part of the 1% of high school athletes (according to NCAA statistics) to earn the coveted scholarship to pay for college. If this is one of the many dreams you have for your child, take this quiz to see how high your athletic scholarship IQ may be. Some of the answers may surprise you but will hopefully assist in preparing for your athlete’s future.


You must play at a Division I Level in order to receive a scholarship. — FALSE!

When people think of athletic scholarships, they tend to think of Division I schools. It is important to know that athletic scholarships do exist for these schools as well as Division II, some junior colleges and other conferences. Talented high school athletes should keep an open mind when considering all options. Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. However, they do offer other forms of financial aid based on merit, extracurricular activities and sports.

Full-ride scholarships are only available at Division I schools. — TRUE!

There are some sports (head-count sports) that offer full-ride scholarships. Only offered in Division I schools, head count sports are and mean the team is restricted to the number of athletes that can be on scholarship. For example, an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision is only allowed 85 scholarships per year for 85 athletes. That money cannot be divided to give half scholarships to additional athletes. Headcount scholarships are:

      MEN:       Football (D1 FBS only)

                        Basketball (D1)

      WOMEN: Basketball (D1)

                        Tennis (D1)

                        Gymnastics (D1)

                        Volleyball (D1)

Headcount scholarships are only available at the top level of college sports (NCAA D1). These scholarships are one-year contracts and are not guaranteed for all four years.

The average Division I athlete that receives an athletic scholarship receives a free ride. — FALSE!

According to a article published in December of 2021, the average Division I athletic scholarship is approximately $14,270 for men and $15,162 for women. The average tuition and fees at ranked public schools for out-of-state students was $21,184, per data from for 2021-2022. The average cost for ranked private colleges and universities was $35,097.

Athletic scholarships are only for football, basketball and baseball. — FALSE!

Partial scholarships are offered for a wide variety of sports…everything from swimming to fencing to cheerleading (and MORE!).  Students should weigh a partial athletic scholarship against other financial aid offers. It is possible that you could receive more financial aid from a school with a large endowment that can offer merit-based scholarships.

Good grades are a requirement of an athletic scholarship. — TRUE!

When signing a letter of intent to play at a school, an athlete will agree to certain contractual requirements, such as maintaining good conduct and a minimum GPA. Students need to be aware of this when committing to a program.

To receive an NCAA scholarship, incoming students must meet NCAA academic requirements. Students must complete specified core classes and maintain a 2.3 GPA. There is also a sliding scale requirement of GPA and ACT or SAT scores.

College coaches contact athletes directly. — FALSE!

While the best players are typically pursued by schools that have enough money to travel the country in search of talent, college coaches and recruiters will not always initiate contact with student athletes. Some are actually limited by NCAA rules and not permitted to actively contact students. If you are looking to stand out in the crowded field of applicants, here are a few tips:

·  Complete the college’s online questionnaire/recruitment page.

·  Send updated stats whenever possible.

·  Request recommendation letters from your high school/travel team coaches.

·  Contact the coach directly during your junior and senior years to set up a visit and college tour.

·  Send a video to the coach highlighting your specific skills.

·  Some schools offer off-season skills camps. Participation can help let them know that you are interested in their program.

If you are interested in learning more about potential athletic scholarships, here are a few links to get started:





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