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Types of College Offers

Types of College Offers

Explore the differences between "full-ride" and "partial" scholarships, what it means to be a "walk-on", and why redshirting may be a good fit for you.

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It may surprise many families how few student-athletes receive a full-ride athletic scholarship to play their sport in college. It’s important to know that while you may not receive a full-ride athletic scholarship, you can still receive other offers from the programs you are interested in. 

What’s important to note is that when evaluating the different offers, you choose the school that is the best fit for you holistically, not just where you are receiving the most money. 

Let’s break down the different offers you can receive from college programs as you narrow your list. 

Full-Ride Athletic Scholarship Offers

Full-ride athletic scholarships, also known as “head count” Scholarships, are only available at the NCAA Division I level in the following sports:

  • Men’s Basketball - Each team has 13 full-ride scholarships available.
  • Football (FBS Only) - Each team has 85 full-ride scholarships available.
  • Women’s Basketball - Each team has 15 full-ride scholarships available.
  • Women’s Gymnastics - Each team has 12 full-ride scholarships available.
  • Women’s Tennis - Each team has 8 full-ride scholarships available. 
  • Women’s Volleyball - Each team has 12 full-ride scholarships available. 

The number of headcount scholarships available to each DI program is set by the NCAA and is identical across all teams within the sport. This number is unchangeable, regardless of the team’s budget or athletic performance. Due to the limited availability of scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance, the competition for these scholarships is quite high.

A full-ride scholarship will cover student tuition, fees, room and board, and course-related expenses such as books. If you receive a full-ride scholarship in your first year, it’s important to understand that there is no guarantee it will apply the following years. Your coaches must renew your scholarship every year.  

Partial Athletic Scholarship Offers 

Partial Athletic Scholarships, also known as “equivalency scholarships”, are athletic scholarships available at the NCAA Division I and Division II Levels. 

Each team has a specific amount of money to be offered that can be divided amongst as many players as they want. Some student-athletes may receive more than others. College coaches can decide how much they want to offer their student-athletes. Below is a list of NCAA equivalency sports and the amount of scholarships available per sport broken out by NCAA Division:

To illustrate how partial scholarships work, consider Division II women’s basketball. According to the chart, Division II teams get a maximum of 10 scholarships to divide across what is typically a 15-person roster. If each scholarship is worth $20,000, then the staff has the option to allocate $200,000 ($20,000 x 10 scholarships) across 15 athletes. They may choose to spread the entire $200,000 evenly across their top 10 recruits, though many coaches will instead opt to spread it more evenly across the entire team.

With Partial Scholarship offers, you can combine other types of aid to help cover the remaining cost of college. Student-athletes can combine financial aid, academic scholarships, merit-based scholarships, etc. Learn about the other ways you can pay for college in “Paying for College.” 

Features of Partial Scholarships

  • Partial cost coverage: Recipients receive a portion of the total cost of attendance, meaning they may need to supplement the scholarship with other forms of financial aid.
  • Divisible scholarships: Coaches can divide the total scholarship amount among multiple athletes to create a balanced team roster within the allocated budget.
  • More opportunities: Due to the divisible nature of equivalency scholarships, more student-athletes have access to financial aid in sports with larger rosters.

Walk-On Offers 

Not all student-athletes will earn an athletic scholarship when they receive a roster spot. Some student-athletes will also be offered walk-on positions. Knowing the differences between walk-on offers and athletic scholarship offers is essential as you narrow down your target list. 

What is a Preferred Walk-On Offer?

This offer means you will receive a roster spot but no athletic scholarships. If you start as a preferred walk-on, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will never receive any athletic scholarship. Preferred walk-ons can earn athletic scholarship money for their second, third, or fourth season. Earning a scholarship will depend on how well you are playing and if your program has allotted money to give. 

Being a preferred walk-on does not guarantee that you will receive a spot. If you aren’t performing up to the athletic standards of the team during tryouts, there is a chance you will be cut from the team. It’ll be crucial leading up to tryouts that you stay on top of your training to ensure you are in the best shape possible for tryouts! 

What is a Recruited Walk-On Offer?

A recruited walk-offer means that there is interest from the coach, but you will need to earn a spot on the roster through additional tryouts. 

What is an Unrecruited Walk-On Offer?

This type of offer is usually when a student is admitted into the school through academics and then reaches out to the coach to see if there are any open tryouts. If you are accepted into a school and are interested in playing for a program there, take the time to reach out to the coach and let them know you have been admitted and are interested in playing for their program. From there, the coach will be able to let you know if there are open tryouts. 

Walk-On Offers and National Signing Day

As a preferred walk-on, you do not need to sign anything on National Signing Day. However, if your school or club is having a signing day, and you want to join, ask your future coach if there is anything you could sign! 

The Different Color Shirt Types of College Sports

Many student-athletes are familiar with the term “redshirting,” but there are several different color shirt terms that signify a student-athlete's eligibility status. Let's break down the different color shirt statuses and what each means.


Redshirting is when a student-athlete sits out for an entire season to extend their eligibility to play for an additional year. With a redshirt offer, student-athletes can play in 4 seasons over 5 years while being on scholarship, giving them an extra year of eligibility.

A redshirt is offered for various reasons, such as injury recovery, developing skills, or having more time to adjust to college life. During the redshirt year, the athlete can still practice with the team but cannot participate in games. If a student-athlete is “academically” redshirting, they are not academically eligible to compete.

Scholarship athlete? Allowed to play in games? Allowed to practice?
Yes No Yes


A greenshirt offer is extended to student-athletes who graduate from high school early, starting their Freshman Year in December rather than the typical Fall start. The benefit of green shirting is that student-athletes can join the team early, get ahead in classes, and begin to practice and compete with their team. 

If a student-athlete greenshirts their first year, they can compete that year. They are also able able to redshirt. They will have 5 years to play 4 seasons.

Scholarship athlete? Allowed to play in games? Allowed to practice?
Yes Yes Yes


A “blueshirt” athlete is not formally recruited and is considered “unrecruited.” This offer rewards the student-athlete with an athletic scholarship starting the first year. They will have 5 years to play 4 seasons. Like a redshirt, you can practice with your team but cannot compete in games or events. This is uncommon and helps a program that signed too many student-athletes. 

To receive a blue shirt offer, you must be an unrecruited student-athlete. To be considered an unrecruited athlete, the following must be true:

  • You do not go on an official visit
  • You do not have a coach visit you at home
  • You do not sign a National Letter of Intent
Scholarship athlete? Allowed to play in games? Allowed to practice?
Yes No Yes


A "grayshirt" athlete delays receiving their scholarship until their second semester, allowing them to spread 4 years of eligibility over 5 calendar years. Athletes may choose to grayshirt to allow them additional time for development. Once enrolled, you will receive your athletic scholarship, however will not be able to participate in games, practices, or other team activities until the following semester.  Like many other offers, student-athletes who grayshirt will be given 5 years to complete 4 years of eligibility.

Scholarship athlete? Allowed to play in games? Allowed to practice?
No No No

What about NCAA Division III?

NCAA Division III programs are not able to provide athletic scholarships. However, Division III student-athletes may still be eligible for academic scholarships, need-based financial aid, and other forms of non-athletic aid offered by the institution. DIII coaches can also extend walk-on offers or preferred walk-on offers. Although NCAA DIII programs do not require student-athletes to sign a National Letter of Intent, the athlete may choose to sign a non-binding celebratory form upon acceptance to the college.


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