Taylor Valentine

Centre College

February 8th, 2023

Best Way To Get An Athlete Scholarship

Getting an athletic scholarship is totally up to you on the work that you put in. It should be your dream to get an athletic scholarship to your dream school. For student-athletes, getting an athletic scholarship can be part of the answer to the question of how to pay for college. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA®), Division I and Division II schools offer more than $3.6 billion in scholarship funding annually.

Getting an athletic scholarship can be highly competitive. Less than two percent of high school student-athletes are offered a scholarship. With those odds, knowing how to get an athletic scholarship requires a solid game plan. These tips can help students and parents develop a strategy for getting athletic scholarships.

1. Start Early

In scouting out athletic scholarship opportunities, the early bird gets the worm. But just how soon do you need to begin your search? High school is the time to hone in and focus on the sport of choice in which you can really excel. It allows being seen by college scouts as you progress through your athletic career from freshman to senior year. College recruiters routinely make the rounds at high schools to canvas for fresh talent. If you join a travel team that participates in regional or national tournaments, then you'll have even more chances to showcase your skills to a recruiter.

2. Make Coaching Connections

Being an all-star on the court or the field won't matter much if coaches aren't aware of you. Getting on a coach’s radar can be one of the first critical steps to recruitment. Before contacting any college coaches, you may want to read the entire NCAA recruiting rules. They are complicated but essential to understand. You may also want to reach out to your high school coach for guidance.

3. Don't Slack Off Academically

Getting an athletic scholarship isn't solely based on athletics; academics also matter. The NCAA requires incoming Division I athletes to have a minimum 2.3 GPA to play their freshman year. After that, you need to maintain a minimum GPA each year, based on the number of credit hours you've earned, for continued eligibility to play. Evaluate where you are academically and how that aligns with what the schools on your shortlist expect from student-athletes. This can give you some valuable perspective on how likely you are to qualify for athletic scholarship funding, as well as academic scholarships.

4. Choose the Right Program

Where you play can be just as important as how well you play when it comes to getting an athletic scholarship. Align yourself with programs, either school or travel, that have placed kids on college sports teams in the past. Those programs may already have coaching connections that can give you a leg up on recruitment.

5. Focus on Fit, Not Numbers

The amount of scholarship money you qualify for matters, but it's not the only important thing. Make sure the school, team, location, campus, and academics are all a fit for you.

How Much Scholarship Money Can You Get?

Fewer than 2 percent of high school student-athletes are offered athletic scholarships, but it adds up to over $2.7 billion annually for D1 and D2 alone, so there’s undoubtedly money out there. However, it’s essential to understand that most athletic scholarships are not full rides. The amount you’re offered has much to do with your sport and whether it is a head count or equivalency sport.

  • Head count sports are always full rides. But they only include revenue sports: for men, that’s D1 basketball and D1-A football; for women, it’s D1 basketball, tennis, volleyball, and gymnastics.
  • Equivalency sports usually hand out partial scholarships. It’s up to the coach to divide their scholarship money among athletes. That could mean they offer a whole ride to one extremely high-level recruit (although that is rare), or it could mean they spread the money out among multiple athletes, which is much more common. Equivalency sports for D1 men include baseball, rifle, skiing, cross-country, track and field, soccer, fencing, swimming, golf, tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, ice hockey, water polo, lacrosse, and wrestling. For D1 women, equivalency sports include bowling, lacrosse, rowing, cross-country, track and field, skiing, fencing, soccer, field hockey, softball, golf, swimming, ice hockey, and water polo. All D2 and NAIA sports are equivalency sports. This article details some ways coaches decide on scholarship amounts.

How Do You Get A Full-Ride Athletic Scholarship?

Most student-athletes do not receive a full-ride scholarship—in fact, only 1 percent do. Still, full-ride scholarships are the goal for many athletes, as they typically cover tuition and fees, books, room and board, supplies, and sometimes even living expenses.

If you receive a scholarship for a D1 headcount sport, you’re guaranteed a whole ride. But there are only six headcount sports. If you play an equivalency sport, you can increase your chances of getting more scholarship money. For example, if you fill a specific and vital role on the team—such as a baseball or softball pitcher—you’re more likely to receive a more extensive offer.

You can also leverage multiple recruiting offers to get coaches to increase the amount they are willing to give you. Sometimes, just moving down a division level will get you more money. A lower-level recruit for D1 might receive a more considerable scholarship at the D2 level.

You can also join a scholarship member program that accepts exceptional student-athletes and provides you with the opportunity to get a scholarship at your desired school. 

What Happens If You Get A Verbal Scholarship Offer?

A coach may decide to extend a verbal scholarship offer at various points in the recruiting process. However, these offers are non-binding; they are unofficial oral contracts between a coach and athlete. Nothing is set in stone until the student-athlete signs their national letter of intent.

Your student-athlete can verbally commit to an offer at any point. Remember, though, that committing too early can put your student-athlete at a disadvantage if they change their mind about a program later. If they do receive an offer, they should, first of all, thank the coach.

If the student-athlete decides to accept the offer, this is considered a verbal agreement and is also non-binding. It is also acceptable to ask for more time to make the decision. The benefit of giving a verbal commitment is that it simplifies your recruiting process. It sends a message to other coaches that the student-athlete has made a decision so they can stop pursuing them.

Depending on what sport you play, it can be easier to get a scholarship compared to other sports. To stand out from other athletes, you have to perform at an exceptional level. Being an elite player takes work, so you have to be ready to commit to improving your game.

Work on your game in the off-season and in your free time as much as possible to become a better player. Develop your skills, condition your body, and spend time perfecting your fundamentals. The jump in talent from high school to college is sizable, so you want to ensure you are ready. S

pend time working with your coaches to figure out what you can improve on. Athletic scholarships are hard to come by, so you have to be willing to work harder and longer than everyone else.

Taylor Valentine Baseball College Coach At Centre College