Have you been banking on a full ride athletic scholarship since that day you carried your little league team to victory? Are your parents depending on your sports participation to pay for your college education? Many athletes and their families are counting on sports scholarships, and that may not be the safest plan for funding your education. Any athlete would be wise to have a secure back-up plan if they are thinking on landing athletic college scholarships because injuries can cancel any hope for a sport scholarship of any kind.
Even if you do receive a sport scholarship, keep in mind that a hard earned athletic scholarship can be easily lost. A number of unforeseen incidents could keep you from playing, including illness, injury, character issues, failing grades or any number of other circumstances. Or perhaps you merely lose your desire to play. The school could be facing budget cuts or other financial setbacks. Sometimes not gaining a sport scholarship (or having it renewed) can be a blessing in disguise. Remember, playing on the team is not the reason you go to college. Athletic participation helps you get to college so that you can develop a successful career and a productive lifestyle. Few college players end up in the pros. After college many jocks find that they have to develop a Plan B anyway. It is good to have one going in rather than face graduation with no contingencies.
Below are some things to consider as you plan for sports participation in college. You should be able to find a couple of good suggestions for beginning to develop your “Plan B” if you happen to miss out on that athletic scholarship.
Consider how your sports participation prepares you for the future!
One thing to ask yourself is how much you actually want to play. College sport programs are much more intense than high school. In high school, playing sports enhances your lifestyle; in college, sports becomes your life. You will have very little time left for dating, travel, even studying. If you receive an athletic scholarship, you will be required to ‘work for your money.’ You should also be able to be objective about the level of your talent. Sports scholarships are actually far less common than you might think. There are many more players in all sports than there are scholarships available. Other types of scholarships may get you to college better than an athletic scholarship.
Consider your REAL chances for an athletic college scholarships!
So how many sports scholarships actually exist? It might come as some surprise that there are few “full ride” scholarships awarded. Most only cover part of the costs of college. And the sports scholarships are usually renewed year to year. We’ve done a little research and found that more than one million students play football in high school. However, there are roughly only about 19,500 football scholarships awarded by the NCAA. And that is just football. The numbers have the same wide margin of availability with most other sports.
Consider a smaller college!
When high school athletes think of sports scholarships, usually NCAA schools come to mind. The NCAA (National College Athletic Association) is highly influential on all areas of college athletics, including the distribution of scholarships for athletics. However, it is less widely known that several other athletic organizations exist, and oversee monies for sports scholarships. There are about three hundred smaller colleges whose sports programs are members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. (NAIA) Other college sport organizations include; the National Junior College Athletic Association, the national Christian College Athletic Association and the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. Each of these organizations has a website that lists the names of affiliated higher education colleges and smaller universities.
Try applying to a smaller school that competes in your sport for financial assistance other than an athletic scholarship. Then let them know you can play and that you are good. Many of these colleges have grant money, or work study money available, or merit awards or other scholarships to award students. They may want you on their team, and can help you with college financial assistance.
Consider a community college!
Another alternative would be to attend a two year community college for one or two years and then transfer to university. These colleges typically do not offer athletic scholarships; however they do offer scholarships, grants and merit awards. Even if you do not qualify for a scholarship, most community colleges are much more cost effective than larger universities. If the college has a sports program, you can gain valuable experience in your sport, as well as gain social and physical growth and begin working on a good GPA. This extra year out of high school might result in just enough experience that an athletic scholarship to a university could be within reach.
Consider academic and merit scholarships as alternative for sports scholarships!
Because it is important that student athletes concentrate on academics first, there is a good chance that you can still get to college with a financial aid other than an athletic scholarship. You will still have the opportunity to play – anyone can try out for the team – but it would not be all consuming, and you will be more prepared for life after college.
Consider (gasp!) not being on the team at all!
If you love your sport, there are many other ways to play. Business, church, and community leagues offer ample opportunity to participate in sports, and these organizations often have scholarship programs that are not affiliated with ability, but with participation. Involvement in community leagues also looks good on your resume. If you go to college with other types of financial assistance, you can play intramural sports without the pressure of practices, schedules and performance. I know that many of you don’t want this, but you may not make the team anyways.
Consider all possible scenarios!
Ability to play will not gain you an athletic scholarship if your grades or character will not allow you to attend college at all. Begin a portfolio or resume with all contact information, name, address, e-mail and phone. Include the name of the high school and all athletic team participation. Include academic information, extra-curricular, (other than sports) and community involvement. Keep tangible evidence of all activity, both athletic and non-athletic, including newspaper clippings, awards and certificates. High school transcripts, your ACT and/or SAT scores are absolutely necessary. Include potential plans for the future and your probable major. Let your coach or guidance counselor help and include their names as references. This portfolio will give you all information you need to apply to for a variety of financial assistance as well as for athletic scholarships. When applying, be persistent, be motivated, and be flexible!
Be realistic about your chances for athletic scholarships. Plan for contingencies – have a back-up plan. Merit awards, academic scholarships, grants, money from various interest groups (other than sports) are all alternatives to sports scholarships. Even if you do not receive that athletic scholarship, you can go to college, and you can play sports. Your plan B might even be the best plan, after-all.