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Sports Scholarships and College Athletic Grants

If you were a star athlete in high school and are committed to continuing with your athletic career in college, you may be eligible to receive an athletic scholarship to fund your college education. Athletic scholarships and sports scholarships are awarded based on the student's athletic track record, academic history and career goals.

College athletic placement service organizations, recruiters and scouting agencies work hard to find students who meet the criteria for certain athletic scholarships and some match students to various colleges and universities based on what coaches are looking for. You may be eligible to receive athletic grants or a sports scholarship when you are ready to go to college, and will need to learn about eligibility requirements early on in your high school career.

Applying for an Athletic Scholarship

Any student interested in competing in college athletics may be a good candidate for receiving an athletic scholarship. If you are a very good athlete, you can contact the admissions office of the college to speak with an academic advisor about your options and also to meet with coaches. Coaches are committed to the education of their student-athletes, and are looking for the strongest and brightest students to join their teams.

Academic achievement and athletic drive are essential for applying for scholarships and grants. You need to prove that you have what it takes to commit to your educational career while excelling in sports, and will need to maintain a certain GPA and strong academic track record in order to continue receiving funding for your education through the athletic scholarship.

Students who are interested in applying must speak with their high school coach, guidance counselor and career counselor about their options, and learn about deadlines for various scholarship and grant applications. They also need to do some research to find out which colleges and universities are looking for students to join their sports teams. The next step is to reach out to coaches at the schools to find out what type of scholarships, grants and funding options are available, and the requirements for applying for an athletic program.

Types of Athletic Scholarships

The most competitive, and perhaps most widely-known athletic scholarships, are those granted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA). Other national organizations that provide athletic scholarships include the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

The NCAA is the largest collegiate athletic association in the United States and has over 1,000 schools in its network. Eligibility rules and requirements for these scholarships vary depending on the division the school falls in and the size of the athletic program. The NCAA provides about $1 billion in scholarships each year in the form of either a partial or full scholarship. It's important to note that the amount awarded and type of scholarship awarded is granted directly through the college or university, and not through the NCAA.

Eligibility requirements for students applying for an NCAA scholarship include the following:

  • Clearance through the NCAA Eligibility Center
  • Student release form
  • Transcripts
  • Proof of initial-eligibility status

The NCAA, NAIA and the NJCAA set limits on the number of full and partial athletic scholarships that can be awarded by any given school.

Information About Athletic Grants

Athletic grants provide funding for elite athletes and sports professionals to cover expenses associated with traveling for conference games and activities, clinics and certain types of training programs. Unlike scholarships that pay for the student's college education, athletic grants pay for the expenses associated with maintaining an athletic career through college.

Eligibility requirements vary by type of grant and the institution awarding the grant, and most are designed only for advanced athletes and elite performers who have demonstrated that they are professional athletes throughout their college career. Athletic grants do not need to be paid back, and can be awarded as a lump sum payment.

More Tips for Getting Sports Scholarships

Many students who apply for sports scholarships need to successfully complete try outs or test games to prove their athletic competence. This testing period can be very physically demanding but allows the college and coach to select only the best athletes for their program. Some colleges do not require a try-out session, and will accept students with walk-on opportunities.

Some other ways you can increase your chances of getting scholarships include:

  • Making sure your high school coursework meets the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse requirements
  • Preparing a sports resume and professional cover letter
  • Making a short video about your sports performance and skills
  • Practicing your interviewing skills
  • Creating a solid list of goals about your college and athletic career


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