Things You May Not Know About Athletic Scholarships in 2023/2024

Athletic scholarships are financial awards granted to student-athletes by colleges and universities to support their education while participating in sports programs.

These scholarships are highly sought after by talented athletes as they provide an opportunity to pursue higher education while showcasing their athletic abilities.

Athletic scholarships can cover various expenses, such as tuition fees, room and board, textbooks, and other educational costs. They serve as a means for colleges and universities to attract and recruit talented athletes to enhance their sports programs and achieve success in intercollegiate competitions.

Types of Athletic Scholarships

Athletic scholarships can be categorized into full scholarships and partial scholarships, depending on the amount of financial aid provided to the student-athlete.

  1. Full scholarships: Full scholarships cover the entire cost of attending college, including tuition, fees, room and board, and sometimes even books and supplies. These scholarships are usually awarded to highly talented athletes who can significantly contribute to the college’s sports program.
  2. Partial scholarships: Partial scholarships cover only a portion of the expenses associated with attending college. The amount of financial aid provided varies and can range from a small percentage of tuition to a more substantial portion of the costs. Partial scholarships are often awarded to athletes who show promise and potential but may not meet the criteria for a full scholarship.

Division I, II, and III scholarships

The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) classifies member colleges and universities into three divisions based on their size, athletic programs, and financial resources. Each division has its own set of rules and regulations regarding athletic scholarships.

  1. Division I scholarships: Division I schools are generally larger universities with extensive athletic programs. They offer the most competitive athletic scholarships and have the highest level of visibility and exposure for student-athletes. Division I scholarships often cover full or substantial portions of the cost of attendance.
  2. Division II scholarships: Division II schools are typically smaller institutions with fewer resources than Division I schools. They offer athletic scholarships but at a lower level of financial aid compared to Division I. While not as competitive as Division I, Division II scholarships can still provide significant financial support for student-athletes.
  3. Division III scholarships: Division III schools prioritize academics and do not offer athletic scholarships based on athletic ability. However, Division III schools can provide financial aid packages based on academic merit, need-based aid, or other forms of grants and assistance.

Emerging opportunities

eSports and niche sports scholarships: In recent years, the landscape of athletic scholarships has expanded to include emerging opportunities in eSports and niche sports.

  1. eSports scholarships: With the rise in popularity of competitive video gaming, many colleges and universities have started offering scholarships for eSports players. These scholarships can cover various aspects, such as tuition, gaming equipment, and travel expenses for competitions.
  2. Niche sports scholarships: Niche sports refer to sports that may not have the same level of popularity or widespread participation as traditional sports like football or basketball. However, there are scholarships available for student-athletes involved in these niche sports, such as fencing, rowing, skiing, or surfing. These scholarships may be offered by specific colleges or organizations dedicated to supporting those sports.

Athletic Eligibility Requirements

Student-athletes must meet certain academic standards and maintain a minimum GPA (Grade Point Average) to be eligible for athletic scholarships and participate in college sports. The specific GPA requirement can vary depending on the college, athletic association, and division. Typically, a minimum GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale is required, but higher GPAs may be necessary for more competitive programs or divisions.

Eligibility center registration

Student-athletes who aspire to compete in college sports, particularly at the Division I or Division II level, are required to register with the appropriate eligibility center. For example, the NCAA has the NCAA Eligibility Center, which serves as a clearinghouse for evaluating the academic and amateur eligibility of prospective student-athletes. Registration with the eligibility center involves providing necessary academic information, such as transcripts and standardized test scores, to assess eligibility for participation in college athletics.


Standardized test scores (SAT, ACT)

Standardized test scores, such as the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) or ACT (American College Testing), play a role in determining athletic eligibility. Most colleges and universities require prospective student-athletes to submit their test scores as part of the admissions process. The minimum required scores can vary depending on the institution, division, and sport. Higher scores are generally expected for more competitive programs or divisions. It’s important for student-athletes to prepare for these exams and aim to achieve scores that meet or exceed the minimum requirements.

Core course requirements

To be eligible for athletic scholarships and college sports, student-athletes must complete a specific number of core courses during their high school years.

Core courses are classes that are considered essential for college preparation and typically include subjects like English, math, science, social studies, and foreign languages. The exact number of core courses required varies depending on the athletic association, division, and specific sport.

Student-athletes should consult the eligibility requirements of the athletic association they plan to compete in to ensure they are meeting the necessary core course requirements.


It’s crucial for student-athletes to stay informed about the academic eligibility requirements set by the athletic associations, colleges, and universities they are interested in. Adhering to these requirements helps ensure eligibility for athletic scholarships and the opportunity to participate in college sports while pursuing higher education.

Changes in NCAA Regulations

The NCAA regularly updates its recruitment rules to ensure fairness and integrity in the recruiting process for student-athletes. It’s important for aspiring college athletes and their families to stay informed about these updates. While I don’t have specific information about the latest changes beyond my September 2021 knowledge cutoff, here are some examples of common areas where recruitment rules may be updated:

  1. Communication: The NCAA may revise rules regarding when and how coaches can communicate with prospective student-athletes, including phone calls, emails, text messages, and in-person visits.
  2. Official and unofficial visits: Changes in regulations may affect the number of official visits a student-athlete can take, the timing of visits, and the expenses that can be covered by the college or university.
  3. Contact periods: The NCAA sets specific contact periods during which coaches can have face-to-face contact with recruits. Changes in these contact periods may impact the timeline and frequency of interactions between coaches and prospective student-athletes.

Impact of NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) on scholarship opportunities

The NCAA’s implementation of NIL policies has had a significant impact on scholarship opportunities for student-athletes. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the NCAA had announced its intention to allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness, which was a departure from the previous restrictions on such activities.

The NIL policy changes mean that student-athletes can now benefit financially from endorsement deals, sponsorships, social media promotions, and other opportunities related to their personal brand. This opens up additional avenues for student-athletes to generate income while still competing in college sports.


However, the specific implications for scholarship opportunities will depend on how individual colleges and universities adapt to the new NIL landscape. It is important for student-athletes to understand the rules and regulations set by their institution and comply with them while pursuing NIL opportunities.

Transfer rules and implications for athletes

The NCAA has made changes to transfer rules, allowing student-athletes more flexibility in transferring from one college or university to another without penalty. These changes provide student-athletes with greater control over their academic and athletic careers, giving them the ability to explore new opportunities or address personal circumstances.

The transfer rules and their implications can vary depending on the division and sport. It is important for student-athletes to understand the specific regulations set by the NCAA and their respective athletic associations, as well as any policies established by their current and potential future institutions. Compliance with transfer rules ensures a smooth transition and eligibility to participate in college sports at the new institution.

Competition and Scholarships

The competition for athletic scholarships has been steadily increasing over the years. More student-athletes are vying for limited scholarship opportunities, especially at the higher levels of college athletics. Several factors contribute to this heightened competitiveness:

  1. Growing interest in sports: The popularity of sports, both at the high school and youth levels, has increased, leading to a larger pool of talented athletes competing for scholarships.
  2. Specialized training and resources: Athletes now have access to better training facilities, coaching, and resources, allowing them to develop their skills at a younger age. This has resulted in a higher level of competition among student-athletes.
  3. Increased exposure: Advancements in technology and the rise of social media have made it easier for coaches and recruiters to identify talented athletes. This has led to more student-athletes being scouted and recruited, intensifying the competition for scholarships.

To navigate this increased competitiveness, student-athletes should focus on developing their skills, maintaining academic excellence, and actively engaging in the recruiting process to enhance their chances of securing athletic scholarships.

Balancing athletic talent and academic performance

Balancing athletic talent and academic performance is crucial for student-athletes aiming for athletic scholarships. While exceptional athletic abilities are important for attracting the attention of coaches, academic performance is also a significant factor in the scholarship selection process. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Academic eligibility: Student-athletes must meet certain academic requirements to be eligible for athletic scholarships. Maintaining a strong GPA and completing the required core courses demonstrate academic readiness and eligibility.
  2. Academic and athletic time management: Balancing academic and athletic commitments can be challenging. Student-athletes should develop effective time management skills to excel both academically and athletically. This may involve creating schedules, prioritizing tasks, and seeking support when needed.
  3. Long-term career planning: While pursuing athletic scholarships, it’s essential for student-athletes to plan for their academic and career goals beyond college sports. Prioritizing education and exploring academic programs aligned with their interests and future career aspirations can provide a solid foundation for post-athletic endeavors.

Recruiting process and how to get noticed by coaches

The recruiting process plays a vital role in securing athletic scholarships. Getting noticed by coaches requires proactive efforts from student-athletes. Here are some strategies to increase visibility and attract the attention of college coaches:

  1. Build a strong athletic profile: Develop skills and consistently perform well in your sport. Participate in competitive leagues, tournaments, and showcases to showcase your abilities. Highlight your achievements, statistics, and accolades in your athletic profile, including videos of your performances.
  2. Maintain a strong academic record: Academic performance is a significant factor for coaches. Aim for excellent grades and take challenging courses that meet the NCAA or respective athletic association’s core course requirements.
  3. Engage with coaches and recruiters: Reach out to coaches directly through email or phone calls to express your interest in their program. Attend college camps, showcases, and combines where coaches may be present. Utilize online platforms, such as recruiting websites or social media, to showcase your abilities and engage with coaches.
  4. Seek recommendations: Ask your high school coaches, club coaches, or trainers to provide recommendations or references to college coaches. Positive recommendations can strengthen your profile and give coaches additional insight into your abilities and character.
  5. Attend college visits: If possible, visit colleges of interest to meet coaches, tour the campus, and get a sense of the athletic program. This demonstrates your genuine interest and allows you to evaluate the fit between your athletic and academic goals and the college’s program.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Athletic scholarships and need-based aid are two different types of financial assistance available to students, including student-athletes. Understanding the distinctions between them is important:

  1. Athletic scholarships: Athletic scholarships are awarded based on an individual’s athletic ability and potential contribution to a college or university’s sports program. These scholarships are typically merit-based and can cover various expenses such as tuition, room and board, and other educational costs. Athletic scholarships are often renewable on an annual basis, contingent on maintaining eligibility and meeting specific criteria set by the institution and athletic association.
  2. Need-based aid: Need-based aid, on the other hand, is awarded based on a student’s financial need. It takes into account factors such as family income, assets, and other financial circumstances. Need-based aid can come in the form of grants, loans, or work-study programs. Unlike athletic scholarships, need-based aid is not dependent on athletic ability but rather financial need as determined by the institution’s financial aid office.

It’s important for student-athletes to consider both athletic scholarships and need-based aid when exploring their financial options for college. They should engage with the financial aid office at their prospective colleges to understand the specific aid packages available and how they can combine athletic scholarships with need-based aid if applicable.

Understanding scholarship renewal criteria

Many athletic scholarships are renewable, meaning they are awarded on an annual basis and can be extended for multiple years. However, scholarship renewal often comes with specific criteria that must be met. These criteria can vary depending on the college, athletic association, and specific scholarship terms. Some common renewal criteria include:

  1. Maintaining academic standards: Student-athletes may be required to maintain a minimum GPA and make satisfactory academic progress to qualify for scholarship renewal. This can involve meeting specific grade requirements and completing a certain number of credit hours each semester.
  2. Athletic performance and participation: Scholarship renewal may be contingent upon continued participation in the sports program and satisfactory performance on the field or court. This can include meeting team expectations, attending practices and games, and demonstrating improvement or contribution to the team’s success.
  3. Compliance with rules and regulations: Student-athletes must adhere to the rules and regulations set by the college, athletic association, and their specific sport to maintain scholarship eligibility. This includes maintaining amateur status, following code of conduct policies, and complying with drug-testing protocols.

Understanding the scholarship renewal criteria is essential for student-athletes to ensure their ongoing eligibility for financial aid. They should carefully review the terms and conditions of their scholarships and communicate with coaches and the athletic department to clarify any questions or concerns.

Exploring alternative sources of funding

While athletic scholarships can provide significant financial support, it’s important for student-athletes to explore alternative sources of funding to supplement their college expenses. Here are a few options to consider:

  1. Academic scholarships and grants: Many colleges and universities offer academic scholarships and grants based on academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, leadership skills, or other specific criteria. Student-athletes should research and apply for these opportunities alongside athletic scholarships.
  2. Merit-based scholarships: Beyond athletic and academic scholarships, there are various merit-based scholarships available from private organizations, community foundations, and businesses. These scholarships often have specific eligibility criteria related to leadership, community service, or unique talents.
  3. Work-study programs: Colleges often provide work-study opportunities where students can work part-time on campus to earn money for their educational expenses. Work-study programs allow students to gain work experience while earning income to help cover costs.
  4. Student loans: While loans should be approached with caution, they can be a viable option to supplement financial aid. Student loans, both federal and private, can provide funds to cover remaining educational costs.

Scholarships for Non-Traditional Sports

In recent years, there has been a significant rise in eSports scholarships, reflecting the growing popularity and recognition of competitive gaming. eSports scholarships are awarded to talented gamers who demonstrate skill and potential in various video games. These scholarships are typically offered by colleges and universities with established eSports programs. Students can compete in organized eSports leagues and tournaments to catch the attention of recruiters and coaches. eSports scholarships often cover tuition, fees, and other educational expenses, providing opportunities for gamers to pursue their passion while obtaining a college degree.

Scholarships for emerging sports and activities

Beyond traditional sports, there are scholarships available for emerging sports and activities that may not receive as much mainstream attention. These scholarships recognize the achievements and potential of athletes involved in sports or activities that are gaining popularity or becoming recognized at the collegiate level. Examples of emerging sports and activities include lacrosse, rugby, ultimate frisbee, bowling, cheerleading, dance, and more. Colleges and universities may offer scholarships for these sports to attract talented athletes and grow their programs. It’s important for student-athletes involved in these emerging sports or activities to research and identify colleges that offer scholarships specific to their interests.

Exploring unconventional opportunities

In addition to traditional athletic scholarships, student-athletes can explore unconventional opportunities to fund their education. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Arts and performance scholarships: Colleges and universities often offer scholarships for students involved in various arts and performance disciplines, such as music, theater, dance, visual arts, and writing. These scholarships are based on talent and can provide financial assistance for students pursuing their artistic passions.
  2. Academic scholarships in niche areas: Some scholarships are available for students with specific academic interests or career goals. For example, there may be scholarships for students studying STEM fields, environmental studies, journalism, or other specialized areas. Researching scholarships aligned with academic pursuits can provide alternative funding options.
  3. Community and organization-based scholarships: Local community organizations, nonprofits, and businesses may offer scholarships to students involved in community service, leadership activities, or specific programs. Exploring these opportunities can help uncover scholarships that align with personal interests and involvement.
  4. Crowdfunding and sponsorships: In some cases, student-athletes have successfully utilized crowdfunding platforms or sought sponsorships from local businesses or organizations to support their educational expenses. This approach requires proactive outreach and marketing to generate financial support from the community.

Responsibilities and Commitments

Balancing academics and athletics is a key responsibility for student-athletes. Here are some strategies to effectively manage these commitments:

  1. Time management: Develop strong time management skills to allocate sufficient time for both academic and athletic responsibilities. Create schedules, prioritize tasks, and set realistic goals to ensure that both areas receive adequate attention.
  2. Communication with teachers and coaches: Maintain open communication with teachers and coaches regarding academic and athletic commitments. Inform them about your schedule and any potential conflicts in advance, allowing for better coordination and support.
  3. Utilize resources: Take advantage of academic resources provided by your institution, such as tutoring services, study groups, or academic advising. These resources can help you stay on track academically and manage your workload effectively.
  4. Prioritize self-care: Balancing academics and athletics can be demanding, so prioritize self-care to avoid burnout. Get enough sleep, eat well, and make time for relaxation and activities unrelated to academics or sports.

Time commitment and practice schedules

Participating in college athletics requires a significant time commitment, as practices, competitions, and travel can consume a substantial portion of a student-athlete’s schedule. Here are some considerations:

  1. Understanding expectations: Familiarize yourself with the time commitment required for your specific sport. Coaches will typically provide practice schedules, conditioning sessions, and competition calendars in advance. Understand the expected commitment level and plan your schedule accordingly.
  2. Efficient time utilization: Make the most of your time by effectively managing your schedule. Identify gaps between classes or other commitments to complete academic work, study, or seek additional academic support.
  3. Flexibility and adaptability: Recognize that athletic schedules can change due to factors such as weather conditions, game rescheduling, or unforeseen circumstances. Develop flexibility and adaptability to adjust your academic plans accordingly.
  4. Communication and collaboration: Communicate with professors, teaching assistants, and academic advisors to discuss your athletic commitments and potential conflicts. Building positive relationships and maintaining open lines of communication can facilitate understanding and support.

Academic support and resources for student-athletes

Colleges and universities often provide academic support services tailored to the needs of student-athletes. Here are some resources that can assist you:

  1. Academic advisors: Student-athletes may have access to specialized academic advisors who understand the unique challenges they face. These advisors can help with course selection, academic planning, and managing academic requirements alongside athletic commitments.
  2. Tutoring and study resources: Many institutions offer tutoring services, study groups, and academic workshops to support student-athletes. Take advantage of these resources to strengthen your understanding of course material and enhance your academic performance.
  3. Study halls and academic centers: Some colleges have designated study halls or academic centers for student-athletes. These spaces provide a focused environment for studying and completing assignments, often with tutors or academic mentors available for assistance.
  4. Time management workshops: Institutions may offer workshops or seminars on time management and organizational skills specifically designed for student-athletes. Attend these sessions to gain valuable strategies for effectively balancing academics and athletics.

Life After Athletic Scholarships

After the conclusion of college sports, student-athletes often face the transition to professional careers. Here are some considerations for a successful transition:

  1. Career exploration and planning: Begin exploring career options during your college years. Utilize career services, internships, and networking opportunities to gain insight into different industries and identify potential career paths. Consider your interests, skills, and values when making career decisions.
  2. Transferable skills: Recognize the transferable skills you have developed through your athletic participation, such as teamwork, discipline, time management, leadership, and resilience. Highlight these skills on your resume and during job interviews to showcase your value to potential employers.
  3. Networking and mentorship: Cultivate and maintain relationships with coaches, teammates, professors, alumni, and other professionals in your field of interest. Networking can provide valuable connections, job opportunities, and mentorship, assisting you in your career transition.
  4. Professional development: Engage in professional development activities such as workshops, conferences, and certifications relevant to your desired career path. Continually develop your skills and stay updated on industry trends to enhance your marketability.

Utilizing network and connections made during college

The connections and network you build during your college athletic experience can be valuable assets in your post-athletic career. Here’s how to utilize them effectively:

  1. Alumni network: Stay connected with alumni from your college sports program. Attend alumni events, join alumni associations, and engage with online platforms or social media groups dedicated to your alma mater. Alumni can provide mentorship, job leads, and industry insights.
  2. Networking events: Attend networking events specific to your industry or desired career path. Leverage your college sports background as a conversation starter and a way to connect with professionals who share your passion for athletics.
  3. Reach out to coaches and athletic department staff: Coaches and athletic department staff members often have extensive networks and connections within the sports industry. Maintain relationships with them, as they can offer guidance, introductions, and support in your career pursuits.
  4. Online platforms: Utilize professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field. Highlight your athletic achievements and experiences in your profile to capture the attention of recruiters and employers who value athletic backgrounds.

Long-term benefits of an athletic scholarship

An athletic scholarship can provide long-term benefits beyond financial assistance. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Education and academic opportunities: An athletic scholarship allows you to pursue a college education, which can open doors to a wide range of career opportunities. Having a degree can enhance your marketability and provide a solid foundation for your professional endeavors.
  2. Leadership and teamwork skills: Participating in college sports develops valuable skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, and resilience. These skills are transferable to various professional settings and can contribute to your success in the workplace.
  3. Character development: College athletics often foster personal growth and character development. The challenges, setbacks, and successes experienced as a student-athlete can shape your work ethic, determination, and perseverance, which are qualities highly valued by employers.
  4. Alumni support and engagement: Many colleges and universities have strong alumni networks that provide ongoing support, mentoring, and career guidance. As an athletic scholarship recipient, you become part of this network, which can offer opportunities and connections throughout your professional life.
  5. Personal growth and lifelong connections: The college athletic experience allows for personal growth, self-discovery, and the forging of lifelong friendships. The bonds created with teammates, coaches, and fellow student-athletes can provide a sense of camaraderie and support throughout your career and beyond.


In conclusion, athletic scholarships offer valuable opportunities for student-athletes to pursue their athletic passions while obtaining a college education.

Throughout this discussion, we explored various aspects of athletic scholarships, including types of scholarships, eligibility requirements, recent NCAA regulations, the competitiveness of scholarships, balancing academics and athletics, and the long-term benefits of receiving an athletic scholarship.

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