Playing sport at college is an exciting and fulfilling experience that can open plenty of doors for you, keep you fit and healthy, improve your brainpower, and help you to make some lifelong friends on the way. Not only that, it could even help you to support yourself financially. In the US, sports scholarships are some of the most prestigious awards you can get for college. As well as helping with the cost of your studies, they can also ensure that you have access to the very best facilities and training whilst you’re at university.
If you or your child are a high school athlete this probably sounds very appealing, but you might be confused about what exactly these scholarships are and how to go about getting one. So here’s a quick overview to help clear this up.
What is a sports scholarship?
A sports scholarship is an award of financial aid to help support student athletes whilst they are at college. It is intended to enable them to both fulfill their academic potential and perform at a top athletic level, so they can represent their school in their chosen sport. Some scholarships are awarded on a yearly basis, whilst others last for the entirety of your studies provided you continue to meet the eligibility criteria. In contrast to student loans, the money you get from any kind of scholarship does not have to be paid back.
What does a sports scholarship cover?
The variety of sports scholarships available is extremely diverse, and each one will differ in precisely what it covers. The most generous—and hence the most competitive—are full scholarships. These are also known as “full-ride” scholarships, and cover all of your tuition fees in addition to accommodation costs, food, books, plus any equipment or kit you need for your sport. They don’t cover other costs such as travel from your home to college, visas for international students, entry exams, or NCAA registration fees. Partial scholarships might cover tuition fees only, or provide a certain amount of money that you can use towards tuition or accommodation.
Which sports can I get a scholarship for?
Scholarships are available for a wide range of sports, and not only the most popular ones such as football and basketball. There are awards for everything from tennis and golf to fencing and gymnastics, so wherever your talents lie you’re sure to find there’s a scholarship that suits you. Bear in mind that full scholarships are also the rarest, and may not be available for every college in every sport. However, it is possible to be awarded multiple partial scholarships, which can still add up to a substantial amount.
Who is eligible to get a sports scholarship?
There are a variety of requirements you will need to meet in order to be eligible for a sports scholarship, with each one potentially having slightly different criteria. These will cover both your sporting and academic ability. For instance, when it comes to academics, you will need to take certain core courses and maintain a minimum GPA throughout your studies. In terms of your athletic ability, bear in mind that only amateur athletes can receive a scholarship—not professionals.
Most sports scholarships are open to everyone regardless of which city or country you come from, so even international students can apply for them (just remember to check the equivalencies to see if your academic qualifications are high enough).
How good of an athlete do I need to be to get a sports scholarship?
This depends on which type of scholarship you are applying for, so be sure to check the relevant criteria. As a general guide, if you are hoping to get a full scholarship you will need to be competing at a national or international level in your chosen sport. You’ll be required to have national or international rankings, plus verified results. Those who are looking at partial scholarships will need regional, state, or provincial results and rankings, in addition to verified sport specific statistics.
What do I need to do in order to get a sports scholarship?
Firstly, be aware that the process of applying for and being granted a sports scholarship for college—particularly a full-ride scholarship—can be long and complex due to the highly competitive nature of these awards. This is one of the reasons why many student athletes sign up with agencies such as asmscholarships.com to give themselves the highest chance of success.
If possible, you should be preparing to apply right from your first year of high school (but don’t worry if you’re already older than this, as it’s not essential). Start building up a portfolio of achievements in your chosen sport to create a sort of athletic resumé that you can send to recruiters. These days, having video footage is key, and most student athletes create a short film of their sporting highlights to market themselves with.
Then it will be time to start making contact with coaches at the colleges that you’re interested in. Be sure to always keep this personal and professional in order to get the best response. Plus, if you are interested in Division I or II schools, you will need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center so that you can go on official school visits and receive scholarship offers.
What other factors will recruiters look at?
In addition to your sporting ability and academic achievements, recruiters will look at references from your coaches to get a better idea of your personality. For example, they will see if you have a criminal record, and assess your general attitude towards achieving your goals. Any additional awards, certificates, or accolades that you have will also count in your favor.
Coaches want to make sure that they choose the right players for their team. They will want to see that you have certain necessary traits such as confidence, hard work, leadership, dedication, and the ability to learn from your mistakes. You should also be a good sportsperson, and of course, be passionate about your chosen sport!