College athletics aren’t as easy as they look in the movies. You may be number one in your mom’s heart and the captain of the team, but that isn’t always enough to get you into the big leagues. It takes an understanding of how college recruitment works, a fair amount of skill, and sheer determination to get an athletic scholarship. If that’s something you’ve set your heart on, you should consider the following.
1. NCAA Sports Scholarships Are Rare
You may have dreamt of an NCAA sports scholarship since you were in diapers, but it’s good to be realistic and recognize that only two percent of high school athletes gain scholarships at NCAA universities. Unfortunately, that makes the odds pretty low. That doesn’t mean you can’t have hope, but don’t take it too hard if it doesn’t happen.
If you’re looking for a scholarship to college, it’s important to understand exactly who makes the decisions and what they look for in applicants – both on the academic side and the athletic side. You’ll want to look for a college where more than 50 percent of seniors receive college scholarships each year, so you know the school’s college planning team is well-versed in the college planning and placement process.
2. Don’t Bank on a Full Ride
Full-ride athletic scholarships, though commonplace in Hollywood, are just as rare as NCAA scholarships. In fact, the only sports that offer full-ride scholarships for men are football and basketball, and for women, basketball, gymnastics, tennis, and volleyball. If you play one of those sports and don’t receive a full-ride, you probably won’t receive a scholarship at all. But if you aren’t playing one of those sports, your odds are much higher for getting at least $11,000 in scholarship funds.
In order to increase your chances of getting scholarship money, there are a few things you can do. First off, start the process as early as possible. The more connections you can make at the beginning of your high school career, the better off you’ll be when it finally comes time for offers to be extended. Second, you should spend time fully researching the schools you’re interested in and understanding what it is they’re looking for. Relay this information to your references and have them reiterate the idea that you’re a great fit for their programs.
3. Have Academic Goals in Mind
Going to college isn’t just a step closer to the pros. You also need to focus on your academics. Most schools require that you declare a major and get a 2.5 GPA or higher to participate in sports. Some even require a 3.0 or higher. It’s important to know exactly what you’re planning to study and how you are going to balance school and sports in order to stay on top of both.
4. Unless It’s in Writing, It Doesn’t Count
Coaches and recruiters are often full of promises and flattering words, but unless it’s in writing, you don’t have a deal – even if the recruiter shook your hand and gave you a t-shirt. They may flatter you with promises of copious amounts of scholarship money, but don’t believe a word of it until it’s in writing.
5. You Need to Understand the Recruiting Process
Understanding the college recruiting process is half the battle. If you have the talent and grades to match, and can make your way in front of the coaches and recruiters to give them what they want, you have a pretty good shot for consideration.
In general, the recruiting season begins in July during the break between your junior and senior years of high school. From then until you graduate, you’ll be able to market yourself to recruiters, and hopefully, the season will end with you getting an official letter inviting you to their school.
If you come to really understand recruitment, you can begin self-recruiting. According to Scholarship America, “Self-recruiting is all about making yourself known to coaches and can be accomplished by sending introduction letters; filling out questionnaires sent to you by the coach; sending coaches videos showcasing your abilities; and attending specific developmental or showcase athletic camps run by colleges.” Self-recruitment has been the basis of many success stories in college athletics.
When it comes right down to it, the odds aren’t great for getting the athletic scholarship you dream of. But understanding and following the points above will help increase your chances.