You want to fund your college experience? Find the grants and scholarships that add up for you.

There are all sorts of ways to cover college costs. Find scholarships and grants based on your athleticism, brains, talents, and needs. Division I and II colleges may have athletic scholarships for you. (Most athletic scholarships are partial, not full—unless you play one of six Division I sports with full rides only.) Check out the NCAA’s non-athletic scholarships and its grant fund. Consider your college’s scholarships based on academics or special skills. See what your high school and community offer. Your total aid can add up to a full ride, but not more—make sure to tell your college’s athletic staff about any help you get. If you have questions or want advice, talk with a counselor from your high school or from CaptainU.

It’s true: college costs a lot. But there’s all sorts of aid to find and combine so you can ease the bill. From athletic scholarships to smaller awards for grades and need, there’s all sorts of ways you can qualify for huge help. It’s just a matter of looking for what’s out there. Athletic scholarships can cover some or all of your costs. If you’re interested in them, then check out most of the programs in NCAA Divisions I and II. (Division III colleges don’t use athletic scholarships, nor do Ivy League schools and military academies in Division I.)

There’s a lot of athletic scholarship money out there. More than 150,000 athletes get more than $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships from Division I and II colleges each year. Some athletic scholarships are full rides, and others are partials. Full rides cover a: tuition, fees, room and board, and course-related books. Partials are based on a percentage figure, not a total number. You might get a 25-percent offer—it will be explained like that, not as $12,000 per year or whatever the value might be. Your shot at a full ride depends on the sport you play.

Some sports, “head count” sports, use only full rides. It’s all or nothing—at least for athletic scholarships. There are six of these sports, and they’re all in Division I: men’s and women’s basketball; men’s football; and women’s gymnastics, tennis, and volleyball. Other Division I sports, and all Division II sports, are “equivalency” sports and use partials. It’s possible but to get a full ride in one of these sports, but it’s rare because coaches are trying to help as many athletes as possible. (In Division II football, for example, coaches split 36 full rides among roughly 85 players.)

Athletic scholarships aren’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to paying for school. If you don’t get a full ride or even a partial, you have plenty of options to combine or use instead. The NCAA has more than just athletic scholarships, so check out its resources. Each year, athletes and colleges are awarded more than $10 million in NCAA non-athletic scholarships.

There’s also the Student Assistance Fund, a pool of money that Division I athletes apply to use for not only tuition, but also costs such as emergency travel or clothes. Those funds are awarded based on the specific situation and your financial need. Your college has scholarships too. Some of them are academic—they’re based on your grades and your SAT or ACT scores. Others are based on merits. If you have a creative talent, like music or visual art, then you may find special scholarships for you. Need-based aid is what you get based solely on your family’s finances. These grants aren’t given based on your grades or athleticism, just the cost of your college and the amount that your family can afford.  Federal Pell Grants are a popular need-based award, and your college is likely to also offer grants based on need.

Combine different types of aid—there’s no limit to how many sources of help you get. Find out if your high school and your town have resources for college students. Check out some of the many national competitions for scholarships. Talk with your high school guidance counselor, who can help you discover a lot of aid opportunities. Even once you’re in college, you’re allowed to look for new scholarships and grants. The key is to get as close as possible to a full ride.

But there is a limit to how much aid you can get. The rule is that you’re allowed to get however much it costs for an average student to attend your program. If you’re getting more than that, then you’re putting your eligibility for college sports at risk. That’s why you’re supposed to tell your college’s athletic staff about aid you get and how you qualified for it. This keeps both you and the program out of trouble with the NCAA.

Don’t let all the numbers and forms overwhelm you. Stay organized and ask questions. Have coaches explain how their athletes afford school. Ask your high school guidance counselor about all of the ways you and your family can get help. If you still have questions about how grants and scholarships work, then email a CaptainU counselor at

Learn More: Student Assistance Fund


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