3 Must-Knows for College Athletic Scholarships

Monday, March 14, 2011
Cristiana Quinn, GoLocalProv College Admissions Expert

Before we discuss where the money is for athletes, it’s important to point out that according to the NCAA, less than 2% of students playing high school sports will receive ANY kind of athletic scholarship. Athletes coming out of small or less competitive states like Rhode Island or Maine have an even tougher time. So, for parents out there spending thousands of dollars and countless hours on the sidelines: do it because your child enjoys playing a sport NOT because you think he or she will receive a college scholarship.

Also, keep in mind that for those few who do receive Division I or Division II money, the average award is about $10,400 per year-not even close to a full ride. Strong grades, leadership roles and SAT scores are FAR more likely to land a lucrative scholarship for your child than sports. Still not deterred? Here is where you’ll find the elusive dollars in college sports.

Girls Have The Edge

Ever since Title IX began to be enforced in college sports in the late 1970’s, women have been enjoying the same scholarship opportunities as men. However, it’s important to know that only a few women’s sports offer full rides on a regular basis: basketball, gymnastics, tennis and volleyball. Nevertheless, hockey boasts an impressive highest average award of over $20,000 per year. According to college Athletic Directors, many women’s sports scholarships go unused each year. Experts say that in 2009, approximately 10% of women’s golf scholarships and 20% of women’s tennis scholarships were not snatched up. What’s more astonishing is that nationally, there weren’t enough women rowers to fill the spots on crew teams, leaving a treasure trove of scholarship money on the table. What are the other well-kept secrets for female athletes? Emerging sports-those where there aren’t enough teams yet to qualify as an NCAA sport, but colleges are investing in scholarships in order to dominate when the sport is approved. Squash will come off the list this year, but women’s rugby, sand volleyball and equestrian teams remain.

Where the Boys Are and Aren’t

The biggest sports scholarships for men are on the ice, with the average hockey award topping $21,000 per year. However, families should remember that being a hockey player severely limits your choice of colleges since hockey teams are few and far between. Basketball comes in at number two and an average award of about $17,000, but with more than 500,000 boys in the U.S. playing basketball in high school and fewer than 6,000 scholarships, the odds are scant that you’ll be picked. Your chances are much better as a male gymnast, which comes in at number three with an average award of $13,351 and only 3,500 boys participating in high school gymnastics. Football comes in at number four, but only about 2% of high school football players will get a scholarship. As with the women, rowing is once again a sport where colleges are having trouble filling the men’s teams, and at some schools like the University of Texas, walk-on novices can even score scholarships. Other hot sports for boys to garner big money include: tennis, skiing and fencing. En Garde!

Start Early

One of the biggest myths in college sports is “if you are good enough, the coaches will find you." Recruiting budgets have been slashed and students in small or remote states rarely get seen enough to pique a coach’s interest outside of their local area. If you want to get recruited, you are going to need to start contacting coaches and appearing in key events in 9th or 10th grade. You can create your own recruiting page and post video inexpensively at Berecruited.com. Remember that many D1 coaches wrap up their commitment letters and parse out scholarships to students in their sophomore or junior year of high school. You might make a team after that, but it’s unlikely that you will see much money-unless you are a hot PG (post graduate) recruit from a prep school. For more on how to get noticed and the recruiting process, read our article and watch our video.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

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