Most people think that athletic scholarships are only awarded to athletes who are “discovered” by college recruiters. While recruiters do play a part in the selection process for a lot of athletic scholarships, they are by far not the only ones in control of scholarships for student athletes.
In fact, as an athlete, if you are proactive, you can find a number of athletic scholarships beyond the ones that colleges and universities award to their star football, basketball, and baseball players. Federal financial aid through need-based grants and loans through FAFSA can help, but they often do not cover all of your expenses. Furthermore, it is important to note that student loans must be paid back after you graduate, so you’ll want to avoid them as much as possible if you can.
How Can Athletic Scholarships Help You?
Any student athlete can tell you that holding a part-time job to help pay for tuition, books, and other expenses is almost impossible when you have a rigorous training and practice schedule in addition to a full load of classes, homework, and studying. However, without some additional income, most student athletes would be unable to afford living expenses, tuition, etc. Athletic scholarships are often the only way for student athletes to complete their education.
Who Is Eligible for an Athletic Scholarship?
Any student who has tried out and been accepted to play or compete for a sport at their college or university may be eligible for an athletic scholarship. However, most of the athletes on their colleges’ teams don’t get full-ride scholarships from their schools. In fact, colleges often don’t give very much aid at all to most of the team members on their less popular teams. Swimmers, wrestlers, tennis players, and other athletes who love their sports are less likely to get significant scholarships from their schools.
Fortunately, there are actually a lot of private scholarships from local and national businesses and organizations available to student athletes in all types of sports. You can’t just wait around to get discovered, though, as these scholarships don’t usually come with recruiters scouting your games or competitions.
Where to Look for Athletic Scholarships
You can find a highly comprehensive list of scholarships for student athletes at the Department of Labor’s scholarship search site. Just refine your search to include keywords like “athletes” and/or any keywords that relate to your sport. Many of these scholarships are specific to particular high schools and/or colleges, so you may also want to refine your search to include only the colleges you’re interested in.
You can also find athletic scholarship opportunities through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), which awards scholarships for student athletes based on academic merit, professional development, and distinguished service. These awards usually require you to write an essay pertaining to your experience in athletics and how it has shaped your education and continues to influence your future. Basically, rather than being awarded money to play your sport for your college, you’ll be awarded a scholarship based on your academic merits and their relationship to your athletic experiences.
You can also find a number of scholarships for student athletes through companies like Foot Locker, which awards athletes with scholarships based on athletic ability, academic merit, and leadership. The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) awards scholarships to, and sponsors a number of, female athletes every year. Some other foundations, businesses, and organizations that offer athletic scholarships each year include but are not limited to:
- The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHA)
- The National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA)
- The Amateur Athletic Foundation of LA
In addition to searching online, you can also talk with your high school counselor and the financial aid offices at the colleges you’re applying to. They should have the information you’ll need to apply for athletic scholarships associated with your high school and/or university. Some scholarships may be funded by local organizations and businesses that will often give back to their communities through funds for student athletes and other scholarships for local schools and students.
The Application Process
Most of the scholarships discussed here are based as much on academic merit and achievement as they are on athletic achievements. Read through the requirements for each of the scholarships you find, and make a checklist to ensure that you are eligible to apply. For example, many of them will have a minimum GPA requirement, and most will be focused on high school seniors entering college in the next year.
You may also be asked to create a video of yourself playing your sport, practicing, training, and/or otherwise documenting your experience as a student athlete. You can sometimes increase your chances by creating a YouTube channel for your athletic videos, but this is not necessary for most athletic scholarships.
Beyond video documentation of your skills and experience as a student athlete, most independent athletic scholarships require the same application process as other types of scholarships. You’ll need to write a solid personal statement or essay. You’ll also provide your high school transcript and a letter of recommendation from your coach or another mentor.
The Benefits of an Athletic Scholarship
As mentioned earlier, student athletes don’t usually have time in their schedules for part-time jobs to help fund their education. An athletic scholarship can take away the stress of worrying about building up student loan debt while you work hard to maintain your grades and focus on practicing and training for your sport.
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