If your family qualifies for a lot of need-based aid, the coach may make a scholarship offer that relies heavily on grants so that — unlike loans — your family isn’t required to pay them back.
When student-athletes think of DI schools, they often picture full-ride athletic scholarships. DIII? Not so much. And for a reason — DIII programs simply can’t offer athletic scholarships.
However, don’t read that as “DIII can’t offer scholarships.” Because there is definitely money at the DIII level — and it may just cover much of your of your college costs.
The facts behind DIII
NCAA DIII is the largest of the NCAA divisions. There are 442 DIII schools across 32 states, most of which are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
DIII is designed to give student-athletes more time outside of sports. These programs are flexible in ways DI and DII tend not to be — student-athletes have more opportunities to study abroad, participate in internships and attend other school-related activities.
As a part of this structure, the NCAA prohibits DIII college coaches from awarding athletic scholarships. And as a result, many families tend to believe that valuable aid opportunities for student-athletes at this level don’t exist. But the fact is that the athletic department can still play a significant role in your financial package.
How DIII athletes get scholarships
It’s true that DIII schools can’t provide student-athletes with athletic scholarships — or at least they can’t label them that way. Instead, they leverage other types of aid student-athletes may qualify for, such as merit-based scholarships and grants. With DIII being mostly made up of small private schools, they tend to have these types of funds readily available.
Merit-based scholarships: They are awarded to student-athletes for their excellence in academics or leadership. So, if you have a solid GPA and good test scores, the coach can work with the admissions department to offer you a competitive financial aid package made up of merit-based scholarships. As long as the money isn’t for your athletic ability, the coach is in the clear.
Need-based aid. If your family qualifies for a lot of need-based aid, the coach may make a scholarship offer that relies heavily on grants so that — unlike loans — your family isn’t required to pay them back. Even though this isn’t an athletic scholarship, for many families it can still be a very attractive offer.
While Division III doesn’t specifically dole out athletic scholarships, they absolutely can help student-athletes pay for their college costs — if not all — through merit-based scholarships and grants. This is an appealing option for student-athletes who are seeking out top academic programs and a balance between athletics and academics in their college experience.
Maximize your DIII opportunities
Grades always matter — just because you’re a top recruit doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be admitted into the university. And at the DIII level, outstanding academic performance can mean more money to cover tuition.
Think about it this way — being a well-rounded athlete who can make an academic impact at the university gives DIII coaches something to work with when contacting the admissions office. Volunteer, participate in clubs outside of sports and most importantly, focus on your schoolwork. The stronger your GPA and test scores, the more money you can earn to help cover tuition.
To fully understand your scholarship opportunities, remember to ask the DIII college coach recruiting you what grants they offer and how you can qualify. And let the college coach know how much aid your family needs to pay for college.