One of the biggest draws to being a college athlete is the promise of an athletic scholarship. Whether it is a football scholarship, basketball scholarship, baseball scholarship, or volleyball scholarship, getting your education paid for by being an athlete is a great opportunity. Scholarships should be seen as a means to acquire a university education, not a stepping-stone to a career in professional sports. Athletic scholarships are the stuff of dreams to a star high school player and his family. For others, however, the experience can become disheartening, discouraging, and depressing- in short, a nightmare.
Here Are Some Basic Facts About Athletic Scholarships
First, they are not automatically the “full ride” many people believe them to be. Full-ride scholarships are actually annual contracts, renewable by the institution from year- to- year, not guarantees of four years of financial support based on past accomplishments. One need only survey the college football landscape to see examples of star players who have been kicked out of the athletic program or, worse, out of school to understand the fragility of full-ride scholarships.
So What Are Full-ride Scholarships, and Who Gets Them?
Full-ride scholarships essentially enable recipients to attend college at little cost. Tuition, room and board, books, and certain fees related to courses are covered. Expenses that may not be covered include other student fees (e.g., late fees and parking tickets), fines, or the premium to be paid for a single dorm room.
These scholarships are however available to those who play what are called head count sports, sports that are considered to be revenue producers. For men, head count sports are basketball and division I football. For women, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and gymnastics constitute head count sports.
All Other Sports Are Classified As “Equivalency” Sports
The difference between the two is in how they are awarded. While scholarships to athletes in head count sports provide a full ride, the monetary value of equivalency sport scholarships can be, and usually is, divided by the university among more athletes than there are scholarships. In other words, if a school has 15 scholarships available for a specific equivalency sport, it can divide those scholarships into as many partial scholarships as it wants, thereby providing support to a larger number of student- athletes.
While Athletic Full-time Scholarships are High Profile, They Are Exceedingly Rare
It is estimated that over 600,000 high school seniors play head count sports. An even larger number play equivalency sports. About $1 billion in athletic scholarship money is awarded annually to approximately 130,000 student- athletes. However, only about 25,000 scholarships are available for incoming freshmen. The math isn’t promising. Therefore, it may not be wise for a family to rely solely on the possibility of their child being awarded a “full ride” to cover the costs of getting a college education.
There are however some other steps a family can take. One is to investigate the availability of academic and merit scholarships offered by each school. The student should also meet with the dean or administrator at his or her school responsible for assisting those seniors engaged in the process of applying for college. There are also research grants and essay contests for additional educational funding opportunities. Finally, to avoid any potential problems, contact should be made with the school(s) being considered and the athletic associations to which they belong for details about the regulations and requirements they may have regarding eligibility and financial aid.
Student- athletes planning on college should not rely solely on “assurances” that he or she should have no problem receiving a full ride. Managing expectations should be a priority for any family who dares to dream that their son or daughter may be awarded an athletic scholarship.
Are you unsure if your sport offers full-ride scholarships? Do you know what the average scholarship amount is for college athletes in your sport? Leave your questions in the comments section below, and we can answer them right away. We are also available on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+!