Athletic scholarships at the NCAA Division I and Division II levels are a huge draw for athletes and families. Keep in mind that for NCAA Division III and select Division I schools (notably those competing in the Ivy League), there are no athletic scholarships.
According to the NCAA, about 2 percent of high school athletes will receive some form of an athletic scholarship. Be realistic when exploring your options, and do your research! The NCAA strictly limits the number of scholarships that each school can distribute. Athletic scholarships are divided into two types: headcount scholarships and equivalency scholarships.
The most notable distinction between the two is that headcount scholarships award full-rides, while equivalency scholarships award partial aid. Head count full-ride scholarships are the more favorable award, but also very rare. Take a look at which sports fall under the head count scholarship sports category. You’ll notice it’s limited to only a handful of sports, as opposed to equivalency scholarships, which span a far greater range.
See which sports offer headcount scholarships →
Equivalency sports award partial scholarships to compensate for the fact that scholarship money will be spread among many athletes. Typically, a coach divides the scholarship allotment into several partial scholarships, as opposed to giving only a few athletes full scholarships. It’s a lower risk strategy because some of the scholarship recipients will fall short of expectations, get injured, become academically ineligible, or drop out. Also, realize that the scholarships are not just earmarked for incoming freshmen, but are used for all athletes on the team. It is very difficult for a coach to offer many “full rides.”
See which sports fall into the equivalency scholarship category →
What also may happen is that an upperclassman may have his or her scholarship amount increased in an effort to retain them. A quarter scholarship may be upgraded to a half scholarship. This means that the “extra” scholarship money has to come from another athlete. As a result, thousands of outstanding high school athletes are never offered even partial scholarships. Many don’t even receive passing interest from coaches. Also keep in mind that scholarship awards are on a year-to-year basis. While a coach cannot guarantee you will receive the same award in future years, it is normal practice that it will be renewed at the same level.
This article is an excerpt from the SportsRecruits Recruiting Guide, your friendly roadmap through the recruiting process.
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