Financial Aid //
First and foremost, you are attending college to receive an education. Coaches want players who are
working as hard in the classroom as they are on the field. Less than half of all schools who sponsor collegiate sports offer any form of athletic scholarship money. This means that the majority of athletes playing sports in college right now aren’t receiving athletic-based financial aid. Even at the “fully-funded” programs (meaning they have the full allottment of athletic scholarships allowed by the NCAA), most players on the team will get only partial scholarships and some may have to make the team as walk-ons.
Click here to view the number of scholarships permitted by sport and division.
While every college bound athlete would love to be offered a full athletic scholarship, the percentage who receive a "full ride" is very, very low. Parents and athletes must consider all of their options when deciding how to finance a college education.
The #1 way to increase the amount of grants/scholarship you receive is to insure that you have a strong GPA and test scores. Student-athletes should take the ACT and SAT early and often to improves scores (most college coaches recommend taking it starting the fall of the student-athlete's sophomore year at the latest).
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In NCAA Division I, the following sports are “head-count” sports: men’s and women’s basketball, football, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball. All other Division I sports, as well as all Division II sports, are “equivalency” sports. In equivalency sports, coaches can divide their scholarships up as they desire, as they long as they do not exceed the total allowable scholarship value available in their sport. A few examples in Division I are baseball with 11.7, softball with 12, and wrestling with 9.9 scholarships. One athlete on the team may be provided with 50% of the cost of attendance, a second athlete on the team may be provided with only 10%, and a third athlete on the team may only be provided the value of books.
Any student-athlete who receives any amount of athletic financial aid is considered a “counter” per NCAA rules. Once a student-athlete is considered a “counter” there are situations in which other types of financial aid may be required to be “counted” as athletic financial aid.
Any scholarships that a student-athlete will be receiving from groups such as a Rotary or Kiwanis club, a church youth group, or a high school booster club should be sent to the financial aid office of the college the student-athlete is attending. Most of these scholarships are permissible, but should be sent directly to the college so they can be processed properly.
In addition, if a student-athlete also receives an academic scholarship from their college or university due to their high school GPA or their ACT or SAT test score, the fact that they are already an NCAA “counter” may affect the value or receipt of their academic scholarship. Once a student-athlete is a “counter” all other financial aid received from their institution is required to “count” as if it is an athletic scholarship, unless the student-athlete qualifies for an exemption based on the level of their GPA, their class rank, or their ACT or SAT test score.
There is so much misinformation about athletics scholarships. Here is information that parents and student-athletes need to know about sports scholarships:
1. The odds are remote.
There are roughly 138,000 athletic scholarships available for Division I and Division II sports.
That might sound like a lot, but it isn't. For instance, more than 1 million boys play high school football, but there are only about 19,500 football scholarships. Nearly 603,000 girls compete in track and field in high school, but they're competing for around 4,500 scholarships.
2. The money isn't that great.
The average athletic scholarship is about $10,400. Only certain "head-count" sports offer full rides to all athletes who receive scholarships: football, men's and women's basketball, women's tennis, women's gymnastics, and women's volleyball. If you exclude football and men's basketball, the average scholarship drops to around $8,700.
3. Most scholarships are divided among several athletes.
In "equivalency" sports, the NCAA dictates how many athletic scholarships each sport can offer in Division I and Division II. To squeeze out the maximum benefit, coaches routinely split up these awards. For instance, a Division I soccer coach is allowed up to 10 scholarships, but he or she can dole out this money into smaller scholarships to lure more athletes to their campuses. This practice can lead to some awfully small scholarships.
4. It can be tough to get discovered.
Unless your child is a superstar, college coaches may not know he or she exists. Getting the right type of exposure is critical in improving the odds of receiving an athletic scholarship.
5. Scholarships aren't guaranteed.
If your athlete receives a sports scholarship, don't assume that it's going to be for four years. In most cases, athletic scholarships must be renewed each year and that's at the coach's discretion.
6. The best places for money can be in Division III.
The best way for many athletes to earn a scholarship is to apply to colleges that don't award athletic scholarships. Yes, that's right. Division III schools, which are typically smaller private colleges, routinely give merit awards for academics and other student accomplishments. The average merit grant that private colleges are awarding routinely slashes the tuition tab by more than 50 percent.
Here's the bottom line: Students and parents should be realistic about an athlete's scholarship chances. For most athletes, academic scholarships from the colleges themselves are going to represent the largest percentage of financial aid that they will receive.
Top Secrets to Earning Income-Based Financial Aid
The federal government provides a great deal of grant awards to students based upon parental income and assets. In addition to this, many schools offer need-based grants based upon the federal formula. Parents will need to complete the FAFSA after their child has been accepted to a school. In the meantime, FAFSA provides a forecaster that can help predict and need-based federal grants. You can find links for the FAFSA and the forecaster at the bottom of this page.
Most schools also have an estimator that estimates eligibility for school need-based grants. Contact the school's financial aid department for more information.
Mark Kantrowitz of Edvisors has a new book Filing the FAFSA that provides a wealth of information on how to file the federal student aid form and reap thousands in aid. Here are some secrets that you need to know when filing for federal aid:
* You Should File as Soon as Possible After Jan. 1, even if you think you make too much money. Aid formulas are fickle. Changes in the number of children in college, household size, dependency status and marital status can have a big impact on eligibility for need-based financial aid.
* If You Can Reduce Your Income, That Will Help Your Aid Chances. Financial aid formulas are heavily weighted toward income and cash flow. Reducing income and avoiding artificial increases in income can yield more need-based financial aid.
* Don’t Title Assets in Your Child’s Name. Save for college in the parent’s name, not the student’s name, because student assets are assessed more heavily than parent assets in financial aid formulas.
* Watch Your Capital Gains. Selling assets can yield capital gains, which will increase income and decrease eligibility for need-based aid. Sell bad investments at the same time to offset the capital gains with capital losses.
* Provide Reasons Why You Need More Aid. If there are unusual family financial circumstances, ask the college financial aid office for a professional judgment review and provide the school with documentation of the circumstances. Don’t overlook other sources of financial aid besides the FAFSA, such as scholarships, education tax benefits and private student loans.
* Students should file the FAFSA every year, even if they were only eligible for loans in previous years. The formula is very complicated, so subtle changes can lead to an increase in financial aid.
For example, the number of children in college at the same time can have a big impact on eligibility for need-based financial aid. When the parents’ eldest child enrolls in college, they might apply and get nothing other than loans, especially if they are middle or high-income. The next year they say “why bother” and don’t apply. But that year they would have had two children in college and qualified for much more financial aid, since the parent contribution portion of the expected family contribution (EFC) is divided by the number of children in college. Other factors that can have a big impact on aid eligibility include student income, student assets and capital gains.”
Financial Aid Tools
FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid
FAFSA4caster will help you understand your options for paying for college.Provide some basic information and it will estimate your eligibility for federal student aid.