Though lacking athletic scholarships, DIII still has plenty to offer.

If you’re a track and field athlete who wants to compete in college on an athletic scholarship, you may primarily be looking at NCAA Division I and Division II schools. Since NCAA Division III schools don’t award athletic scholarships, it’s also likely there are no DIII schools on your list. But, if you’re not getting much interest from DI or DII coaches or you still haven’t found the school that fits you, maybe you should consider Division III. Here’s why:

There Are Ample Opportunities

Division III schools actually boast far more track and field programs than DII schools. In fact, there are actually more Division III track programs than there are in DI, however, with larger rosters, DI teams boast more athletes. And if you’re not one of the 1.7% of all high school track and field athletes that winds up competing in Division I, you may find many more opportunities to compete at the collegiate level in Division III than you would in DII, the NAIA, or at a junior college or community college. Plus, since the roster sizes are smaller in DIII, you may get more opportunities to compete in more events. And given the smaller nature of Division III athletics, you may also have the opportunity to compete in other sports beyond track and field.

In addition to athletic opportunities, many Division III schools are seen in the same academic class as Ivy League schools. And that could open doors and create more job opportunities when you graduate.

The Competition Is Comparable

The common perception is that the competition level at Division III is several notches below DI or DII, but that’s not necessarily true. Yes, the track athletes with world-class speed and strength are likely tearing it up in DI, but in DII, you’re still lining up against the top 5% or 6% of all the track athletes in the country and there are a number of Division III track programs with comparable talent to DI and DII schools. And, depending on the event, you might even match up with an Olympic contender who could one day bring home gold. In fact, it’s happened before.

It May Offer A Better Lifestyle Mix

With no athletic scholarships at stake and a more relaxed attitude in general, competing in track and field at a DIII school could provide you the chance to enjoy a better mix of school athletics and social activities. Since DI and DII constantly have to perform to keep their scholarship and spot on the team, competing at that level can become a full-time, year-round pursuit in itself, and that’s before you consider your academic coursework. What it doesn’t do is offer much time for a social life or opportunities to enjoy other activities outside of athletics.

In Division III, however, you can have it all; college-level athletic competition, an opportunity to pursue a college degree, and the time to do both whiles also having the chance to enjoy social activities, internships, or even semesters abroad. In addition, while many DI and DII athletes live and breathe their sport 24/7/365 from the comfort of an athletic dorm, competing in Division III also offers the time and space to be a part of the college community. That said, you still need to train and prepare for DIII competition just like you would at a higher division. However, when you cross the finish line in Division III, you’ll still have time to simply enjoy being a college student.

What’s The Catch?

As noted above, many high school track and field athletes don’t even consider Division III schools owing to the lack of athletic scholarships. However, most Division III schools do offer abundant amounts of academic scholarship money as well as need-based scholarships or grants. If you’ve got the grades, DIII coaches can often assemble packages of academic and or need-based scholarships to cover some or all of your tuition, meaning your academic record could be your ticket to competing athletically in college on a scholarship.

Opportunities to compete for a college track and field team aren’t limited to Division I or Division II. At a Division III school, you can find more teams, top-level competition, ample academic scholarship availability, and a better student-athlete mix. So before you limit yourself to Division I or II, see what else Division III can offer you.

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