8 Top Athletic Scholarships

Many people believe that having a son or daughter who does well in soccer or throws a mean hammer on the field will be enough to get them a fully paid athletic scholarship for college later on. Sorry to be the one to break this to you, but, that’s probably not going to be the case. Over 1 million boys played high school football alone in the US in 2014 and nearly half a million girls played volleyball or track and field; fighting it out for less than 20,000, 1,600 and 4,500 scholarship places respectively.

The chances of your kid getting an athletic scholarship are not just small then; they’re less than 2%, depending on their sport of choice. Added to that, did you know that the majority of athletic scholarships don’t cover anywhere near a “full ride”? Football and basketball players receive by far the most funding in the States, but take these big players out of the deal and the average athletic scholarship is just $8,707 (and can be as low as $2,000 for track and field).

Think About Your Goals

It’s important then, if you’re hoping to receive an athletic scholarship for yourself or your child, to do your research and find out the best options out there according to the sport you or your child plays, your financial situation and overall goals for college and beyond.

For example, if you’re dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan or Serena Williams and you’ve been recruited (heavily) by NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I schools, competed at Olympic or national trials, and you’re looking for full (or near full) funding, then you should be looking at Division I scholarships from the NCAA, as there are very few other athletic scholarships out there that offer full funding. It goes without saying that competition is fierce and you have to be exceptionally talented and dedicated to what you do.

If you’re an equally skilled athlete, but perhaps in a less popular sport, such as golf or bowling, other options are available to you outside of the NCAA, such as privately sponsored scholarships and local scholarships. The NCAA also offers Division II scholarships to students whose goals in college are not purely sporting. If you actually want to have time to study as well and get a more balanced experience out of college, while still competing at the top of your game, then you should look for a Division II scholarship. Keep in mind that the funding for these is less than for Division I.

And How Much Funding You Need

Finally, if your main focus is on the classroom but you’re still an exceptionally talented sportsman or woman, then you should check out Division III scholarships. The least funded division of the NCAA, you can still expect to get some assistance if you qualify, and some assistance is better than no assistance at all.

Many students directly overlook the option of Division III, assuming that greater financial aid lies within the first two options. However, sometimes a better way of getting higher finance can actually be by applying to schools who don’t award athletic scholarships; as many Division III schools often offer their own individual merit awards that can fund as much as half of your college tuition costs.

Student athletic scholarships are available from many different sources, and you should keep in mind the type of university or college you want to attend, the sport you want to play (and level of dedication you want to commit), as well as how much financial support you need when searching for the right athletic scholarship for you.

8 of the Best to Get You Started

National Associations

1. NCAA – The National Collegiate Athletic Association is without doubt the biggest and the boldest in athletic scholarships. Offering the most financial support to top athletes, the NCAA provides more than $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships annually, and all of the big college-sporting events you see on ESPN are organized by them. The drawback? Well, the requirements for a scholarship are exceptionally high and competition for full ride scholarships is fierce. Decide which division you want to apply for and remember that you’re up against a huge demand.

2. NJCAA – The National Junior College Athletic Association could be a good option for you if you’re planning to go to a community college, and you play on a junior college sports team. With over 500 member colleges and a wide variety of sports covered, from lacrosse to diving and football, the NJCAA offers some full ride scholarships for Division I colleges and part scholarships for Division II.

3. NAIA – The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) offers Division I and Division II scholarships only. The NAIA offers fewer scholarships than the NCAA (there are just 300 member colleges and universities in the US and Canada), but the requirements are less strict and the selection of sports is extensive, from cross country and soccer, football, tennis and golf. Partial scholarships are much more common than full ride ones.

Private Sector

4. Burger King James W. McLamore Whopper Scholarship – If you’re considering this scholarship then you probably don’t eat many of these, but Burger King set up the Whopper Scholarship in 2011 to support young athletes and to serve as a memory to the late Jim McLamore. With only three places available and quite a high GPA requirement for a sports scholarship (3.3), the competition is clearly very high, but so is the reward – up to $50,000. Apply by December 16th of this year if you want to be considered for the 2017 academic year.

5. Footlocker Scholar Athlete Scholarship – Perhaps more of a logical link than a fast food restaurant sponsor, Footlocker offers 20 scholarships annually of up to $25,000 to students from diverse backgrounds who show leadership qualities on the field and in the classroom. You need to maintain a GPA of 3.0 and get involved in extracurricular activities to be considered, but the scholarship can apply to the sport and college of your choice.

Local Scholarships

6. Hood Sportsmanship Scholarship – A great example of a local athletic scholarship, this one applies to New England residents only and is a partial scholarship of up to $5,000. There are 18 awards and the competition process is tough. Not only do you have to demonstrate impeccable sportsmanship and have a GPA of above 3.0, but you need to write a convincing essay and be voted in by judges in an online competition.

7. Balanced Man Scholarship – University Of Washington This scholarship is awarded by the University of Washington to students (you’ve guessed it) who will attend the University of Washington. It’s also only available to boys, and the idea behind this is all about balance, so they’re looking for young men who are not only sporting superstars, but intellectual bods to boot. Every year, Sigma Phi Epsilon awards six scholarships to incoming freshmen who can embody the qualities of sportsmanship and balance. This is a partial scholarship of $5,000.

Minority Scholarships

8. ACF Notah Begay Iii Scholarship Program – Here is one of many examples of a minority athletic scholarship. You must be a Native American athlete attending a New Mexico high school to receive this partial scholarship award of $1,400. Every year two awards are made to the best Native American athletes who can demonstrate how they will give back to the community after college.

There are many more athletic scholarships and college funding options available in the States, and the main thing to keep in mind when researching and applying is to be realistic. If you get turned down the first or second time, you might want to look at sponsorship opportunities from local companies or even multinationals. After all, if you don’t ask; you don’t get.


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