A Guide to College Sports Scholarships (Part 2.)

Dartmouth Yale Basketball
Dartmouth Basketball courtesy: thedartmouth.com

Continued From Part 1.

Here are the top things to keep in mind as the student heads towards the goal to getting recruited as an athlete to college:

  • Which Division is the student interested in playing and/or athletically qualified to play?
  • Are your grades where they need to be?
  • Is your coach savvy to the college recruiting process and capable of working with the student, high school counselor and college coaches to help the process?
  • Have you done your homework researching the schools based on academics, environment, facilities, coaching staff and types of players typically recruited?
  • How do scholarships come into play? What kinds of scholarships are typically available for your sport? how much is typically covered, how many openings are there each year, etc? Are you willing to commit to an NLI (National Letter of Intent) and honor that contract if offered the opportunity?

Athletic Scholarships

Most athletes (and parents!) would love to get a full-ride to the school of their dreams, and while it is perfectly acceptable to encourage your student to try for all they can qualify for (while realizing the fact that most athletic scholarships are NOT full-rides), there should be discussions about back-up plans in case this does not come to fruition.  The most recent statistics show that only 2% of all high school athletes are awarded athletic scholarships to compete in college.

Every sport (and this differs for men’s vs. women’s sports) has an allotted number of scholarships that the NCAA allows each school to give out.  Each institution decides, of the total scholarships allowed, how much money it wants to provide each sport.

In addition, the NCAA has separated sports into “headcount sports” (such as women’s tennis) or “equivalency sports” (such as men’s lacrosse).  It can be easier to get scholarship money in a headcount sport than an equivalency sport, and the student should be aware where his/her sport falls.  When the student is researching their schools and talking with the coach, they should feel free to ask questions about how many players are on scholarship, how much tuition/room/board is typically covered, what are their chances of receiving a scholarship and what they need to do to secure one.

Students should be aware as well that athletic scholarships are not the only form of aid that can be received.  Division III and Ivy League schools (which are DI, but follow different rules) are not allowed to give out athletic scholarships.  However, they are allowed to give out merit aid and often if a coach wants the student badly enough, they will work with admissions and find money in the form of merit aid (assuming, of course, the students’ academics are strong enough to justify outside scrutiny  … yet another reason we find ourselves reminding the student about “ACADEMICS FIRST”!).  Sometimes, such an award will even exceed an athletic scholarship offered at a competing DI school.

If the player receives an offer to join a D1 or D2 team under an athletic scholarship, they will be asked to sign a National Letter of Intent.  This is actually a legal contract that promises the student will play for that school’s team for one academic year (they are renewable each year), assuming the student gains admission into the school.  It is important the student realizes that just because they have signed an NLI does not mean they are admitted into the school or even that they have applied yet.  They need to go through the same admissions procedure as everyone else.  This is typically a technicality, however, since very few coaches would have an athlete sign an NLI without first running their academics past the Admissions office and getting a pre-approval.

Once admitted officially, the NLI kicks in and obligates the player to compete for that school’s team for one year. Typically, barring anything unusual, both the scholarship money and the NLI are renewed each year, but this is definitely something the student should ask ahead of time and be very clear about.

In summary, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to getting recruited as an athlete to college.


Contributor: This article was written by Colleen Heidenreich, J.D. A Former Independent College Counselor



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