How to Get a Sports Scholarship
By Tucker Cummings
, last updated December 22, 2011
When it comes to paying for college, sports scholarships can be a lucrative way to offset the costs of tuition at your school of choice. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average college sports scholarship is between $8,700 and $10,400. It’s also worth noting that the only college sports that offer full tuition assistance to their athletes are football, women’s volleyball, and men's and women's basketball.
U.S. News and World Report adds that there are roughly 138,000 athletic scholarships available for Division I and Division II sports. However, there are far more players than scholarships available, so setting yourself apart from the crowd can be tough. If you are determined to get a sports scholarship to help you pay for college, here are some steps you should follow.
Pick Your Sport
As outlined above, the only college sports that offer full tuition assistance to their athletes are football, women’s volleyball, and men's and women's basketball. Certain schools may focus on other sports like lacrosse or tennis and can also offer financial aid to qualifying team members. Select the sport that you are best at, but also give consideration to the sport that can give you the largest potential scholarship benefit at your particular institution.
Pick Your School
The majority of big sports teams at the college level are under the purview of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA). If you plan to apply to an NCAA school, registering with the NCAA by your junior year of high school is a smart way to indicate that you're serious about playing in college. Filling out an NCAA Student Release Form enables the NCAA to share your data with college coaches in Divisions I and II.
In addition to the NCAA, 300 small colleges around the nation are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), running 13 national championships in various sports. These member schools also offer tuition breaks to qualified student-athletes.
Get Good Grades
At its core, a sports scholarship is about academics first and athletics second. That means that your performance in the classroom is just as important as your performance on the field. You must graduate from high school with at least a 2.0 GPA for Division II, while the scores for Division I vary from school to school. You will also need to do well on the SAT or ACT tests, with the minimum score needed to pass for Division I depending on each school’s admissions requirements. For Division II, the minimum ACT score is 68.
Excel (and Publicize)
To break into NCAA Division I and garner the highest-valued sports scholarships, you must stand out from the rest of the high school athletes out there. To do so, you need to get the attention of coaches around the country. In many cases, this can be accomplished by word of mouth, but extensive media coverage is the most effective way to sell yourself. You can also reach out directly to coaches in a letter or email. Provide them with your bio, stats, and newspaper clippings or video clips of your best moments on the field. You can also put together a website that highlights your stats and footage of you playing.