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CaptainU Recruiting: Scholarships

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Many players and parents mistakenly believe that if you can’t get an athletic scholarship you can’t play in college. The reality is that the majority of college athletes do not have athletic scholarships. Demand is way too high and supply is way too low. Put simply, there are far more college athletes than there are athletic scholarships.


Unless you’re one of the top athletes in the country, don’t expect a team to give you a full athletic scholarship. In most cases, partial scholarships are more likely. College coaches are strictly limited to a certain number of total scholarships. Being extremely resource-constrained, coaches often divide their scholarships among a number of players. If you aren’t offered an athletic scholarship, don’t give up your college sports dreams. Nor should you necessarily remove a college from your list simply because they don’t offer you an athletic scholarship.

When An Athletic Scholarship Is Not Available

Many schools don’t even offer athletic scholarships. There are no scholarships in the prestigious Ivy League nor in the entirety of Division III. Schools that do offer athletic scholarships are strictly limited by the NCAA to a certain number of scholarships. Whether a school actually funds the full allotment of scholarships is another factor that can work against you. When it comes to tuition, there are usually payment alternatives. You and your parents just have to be creative and persistent. Never write off a college for financial reasons without consulting the school’s financial aid office. With the financial aid people, discuss academic scholarships, minority scholarships, community service scholarships, federal grants, and loans.

Scholarship Limitations

In a given year, a Division I women’s soccer team, for example, is allowed a total of fourteen scholarships. The coach can divide those twelve scholarships among as many players as she wishes. So twelve players may get full scholarships, or 24 players might get half scholarships. Coaches tend to choose the latter course, dividing scholarships among a number of players.

As mentioned before, a college may offer athletic scholarships, but not fully fund the NCAA/NAIA allowance. So there are Division I women’s teams out there that only have, say, eight scholarships. When you factor in the large size of a college team, the outlook for a full scholarship for the average athlete is rather bleak.

Early Research

In your early correspondence with coaches, determine what kind of scholarship money might theoretically be available for you. Find out the size of the scholarship pools from which you’d be drawing. Determine if your candidate teams are fully funded—i.e. if the team you’re investigating has the full allotment of scholarships. This can be a strong indicator of a school’s financial commitment to the team and of the team’s commitment to you. It says a lot if a team is offering you a 75% scholarship out of its pool of four total scholarships.

Later In The Process…

Once you are well into the CaptainU Recruiting process and the coach at one of your colleges has a strong sense of your ability, discuss your scholarship outlook more specifically. Build on your discussions from Chapter 18, where you determined how serious the coach is about getting you on his team. Ask the coach if he will offer you an athletic scholarship—and in what amount. Assess the offer, and what it means your family will have to pay.


There are many rules that govern athletic scholarships. If you’re offered a scholarship, go to the NCAA’s website and familiarize yourself with some of the rules. Download a copy of the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete. Learning about scholarships will prevent you from following dead-end leads and breaking rules that endanger your eligibility.


Institutional financial aid is available at many schools as need-based, academic, minority, and departmental scholarships—to name a few categories. These awards are a great way to deal with skyrocketing tuition, though competition for this money is intense. For each college on your list, research the non-athletic scholarship opportunities through the admissions department and financial aid office.

Questionable Scholarships

In recent years some colleges have found loopholes in NCAA regulations. They offer murky “leadership” or “activities” scholarships that allow them to circumvent NCAA bylaws. Think long and hard if you’re offered a sketchy scholarship. Discuss its legality with the coach, admissions department, and perhaps even a lawyer. If the NCAA determines that it is a violation, you could lose your eligibility.

Stay tuned for more of “Make the Team”, written by CaptainU CEO, Avi Stopper with #MaketheTeam

Create a free CaptainU profile today to get your college athletic search underway!

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