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5 Things You Need to Know About Athletic Scholarships


For many student-athletes, an athletic scholarship allows them to attend a school they might not otherwise be able to afford. However, scholarship spots are in high demand. To help you navigate the recruiting process, here are five important things you need to know about athletic scholarships.

College has never been more expensive. For many student-athletes, an athletic scholarship allows them to attend a school they might not otherwise be able to afford. However, competition for these scholarship spots is fierce. To help you cut down on your tuition and other college expenses, check out these five key facts about the world of athletic scholarships.

Coaches usually offer scholarships during junior or senior year

In many cases, coaches like to offer scholarships during an official or unofficial campus visit. For most Division 1 sports, recruits can meet with coaches on these visits any time after August 1 before their junior year. In addition to official and unofficial visits, college coaches sometimes offer scholarships through a high school or club coach or during a camp or tournament. Keep in mind—D1 scholarship offers aren’t binding until you and your student-athlete sign the National Letter of Intent.

Most athletic scholarships are only guaranteed for one year

Nearly all athletic scholarships are good for one year and must be renewed by the athlete and the coach. Athletes can lose their scholarship due to injury, academic ineligibility, coaching changes or poor performance. Remember—there’s so much more to college than sports. Even if you receive a substantial athletic scholarship, it’s important to make sure the college is the right fit regardless of the team and the coach.

Head count sports always offer full rides—equivalency sports usually offer partial scholarships

The sport you play has a huge impact on your opportunities for scholarship money. At the D1 level, football (FBS only), men’s and women’s basketball, women’s tennis, women’s gymnastics and women’s volleyball are headcount scholarship sports. This means every scholarship given out is a full ride that covers tuition, books, room, board and college fees.

Equivalency sports encompass all the other D1, D2, NAIA and junior college sports. In general, these sports tend to offer partial scholarship opportunities. Coaches have a certain amount of scholarship funds they can slice and dice however they like. While some give all the money to the top athletes, others divvy up scholarships equally or award them to upperclassmen.

Scholarships can be combined—if you qualify

While most athletic scholarship opportunities are partial, student-athletes can add academic aid to the mix if their grades and standardized test scores are high enough. To be eligible for an academic scholarship as an incoming freshman, student-athletes at the D1 level need to be in the top 10% of their high school graduating class, have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and score 1200 or higher on the SAT or earn an ACT sum score of at least 105.

At the D2 level, student-athletes must be in the top 20% of their high school graduating class, achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and score at least 1200 on the SAT or earn an ACT sum score of 100 or higher. As long as you keep your GPA up and stay in good standing with the school, your academic scholarship will stay secure for all four years.

Ivy League schools and D3 colleges don’t give out athletic scholarships

Ivy League and D3 coaches aren’t allowed to offer athletic scholarships. However, many athletes receive merit-based scholarships and need-based financial aid to cover the cost of tuition. Coaches at these schools will often work with the admissions office to offer recruits a favorable scholarship package based on academic standing or family income.

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