Category: athletic scholarships

NCSA: What is a full-ride scholarship?

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Nelson Gord is a former collegiate and professional ballplayer, successful high school head coach and also the founder of the largest travel baseball club in Illinois. Nelson is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, helped create NCSA Team Edition, the free recruiting platform for club and high school coaches.

Let’s get real for a minute. Getting recruited to play sports in college is a tremendous opportunity. Playing college sports looks great on a resume and can be very rewarding. But at the end of the day, the number one reason why many parents and athletes want to play college sports is because they want a shot at scholarship money. College tuition continues to skyrocket and a scholarship can potentially save a family tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a pretty big incentive to go after an athletic scholarship!
However, there are some differences between different types of scholarships, as well as fine print for those that are awarded. Any student-athlete looking to score a scholarship should read on to find out the difference between those that are available.
Athletic full-ride scholarships
While a full-tuition scholarship may offer to pay for the entirety of a student’s tuition, attending college requires more than just paying for classes. There are various other fees, as well as the cost of books and room and board. That’s why a full-ride scholarship does its best to cover all the basic costs of attending college, including said books and living expenses. (Sometimes this can even mean including an iPad that is used in class.) But while “full-ride scholarship” may be a term that a lot of people are familiar with and gets tossed around on TV and in movies, it is actually just limited to just six “headcount” sports:

Football
Men’s basketball
Women’s basketball
Women’s gymnastics
Tennis
Volleyball

In headcount sports, scholarships are given out in all-or-nothing chunks. As a result, only about 1% of college student-athletes receive a full-ride scholarship. The remaining players on the roster are walk-ons, and some are preferred walk-ons that may have a chance at getting scholarship money down the line.
MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Scholarships
Partial scholarships
All other sports where scholarships are given out are known as “equivalency sports,” where the majority of scholarships are given as partial scholarships. Basically, the coach can decide how to break up his or her scholarships among the roster. Each program is different in how they divide their scholarship money up, and while you can find full-ride opportunities in equivalency sports, it is most common that athletes receive partial scholarships.
MORE: What are the Different Types of Scholarship Offers?
Not guaranteed
Another thing to know about athletic scholarships, including full rides, is that they are often (but not always) one-year agreements that need to be renewed each year. In 2015, NCAA Division 1 “Power 5” schools implemented a rule that essentially protected D1 student-athletes from having their athletic scholarship taken away for an athletics-related reason. So, if an athlete is not performing up to the coach’s expectations, they’re not at risk of losing their scholarship. However, this rule only applies to D1 schools in the Power 5 conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12, ACC, SEC and Notre Dame. This rule also applies only to athletes who signed their National Letter of Intent and scholarship agreement after January 2015 and who will be receiving an athletic scholarship in their first year.
Other Division 1 schools may choose to follow this rule but are not required to. At these schools, a coach can choose to not renew a scholarship for performance reasons. Finally, it’s still possible for schools to cancel or not renew athletic scholarships for non-athletic reasons, such as being ruled ineligible for competition, providing fraudulent information on paperwork (college application, letter of intent, or financial aid agreement), engaging in misconduct, voluntarily quitting a team or violating university policies. That’s why it’s important for student-athletes to stay on top of their NCAA eligibility requirements and also pick a school that they’d like to attend even if they were not playing sports there. After all, it’s difficult to predict the next four years of your athletic career.
MORE: How to Negotiate Your Athletic Scholarship Offer
Obtaining a full-ride athletic scholarship is a dream come true for many student-athletes, but it’s also a very difficult goal to achieve. That’s why it’s important to also be educated on the different types of scholarship offers and to have a backup plan in case things don’t work out as expected.

NCSA: How to respond to, and negotiate multiple scholarship offers

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Nelson Gord is a former collegiate and professional ballplayer, successful high school head coach, and also the founder of the largest travel baseball club in Illinois. Nelson is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, helped create NCSA Team Edition, the free recruiting platform for club and high school coaches.

Receiving an athletic scholarship offer is no small feat—for the vast majority of student-athletes it’s a culmination of years spent working in the gym and hitting the books in the classroom. But sometimes student-athletes are fortunate enough to not only receive one or two athletic scholarship offers, but several. And this can also happen seemingly at once for some recruits, causing a lot of stress related to making a life-changing decision. That’s why coaches and parents need to be supportive and student-athletes need to take some steps in order to make the right decision. What are they? Keep reading to find out.
Don’t rush the decision
As I’ve mentioned before, picking a college can be a life-changing decision—it won’t just affect the student-athlete for the next four years, but in some cases, their entire professional career. It’s true that coaches often prefer to get as many of their target recruits committed early so that they can move on to running their program, but recruits need to resist the pressure and avoid making a hasty decision before they’re ready. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell a coach you need some time to think it over and ask them when they need your response. The coach may give you a week or two, and you should use that time to reach out to your other schools.
Use the best leverage you’ve got
The best leverage you have when negotiating your athletic scholarship offer is legitimate offers from other schools. This is why it’s so important to have a large group of schools you’re interested in and continue conversations with coaches at your top schools, rather than narrowing it down to just one school at the beginning of the process. Note that schools are more likely to up their offer if they are competing for a recruit against a rival school. College rivalries run deep, and this can help your recruiting efforts as long as you have legitimate interest from both schools.
READ MORE: The top three drivers for a coach to increase a scholarship offer
Don’t stop your search
Have you visited every school that you’re considering attending? Are you even sure you want to attend a school if you haven’t visited it? Visits are very important—not only get to know the school and campus, but also to get to know the coaches and program. It also helps to talk to the current team members about their experience and determining whether it’s a positive team environment. Finally, having options is great, but it doesn’t mean that you have to limit your decision to those options. If you have several options on the table to fall back on, this is a perfect time to see if you can generate interest from your “dream school” and see if you have a chance at a roster spot–just be smart about it. You never want to call a coach saying “Hey, I just got an offer from School X, are you interested in me?” A better move would be to promote your offer on social media or recruiting media sites like rivals.com or 247 Sports.
READ MORE: Negotiating your scholarship offers
Discuss the decision with someone you trust
Picking a college can be nerve-racking, especially for a teenager. It’s almost unfair to put this kind of pressure on young people, but nevertheless, this is how the system works. That’s why it’s important to talk to a trusted family member or coach about picking the right school and what you want in a collegiate experience. There’s a good chance you’ll get some smart advice, and even if you don’t, it’s helpful to talk through the process. Some things to consider: the geographic location of the school; your academic interests; social life at the college; and your ability to succeed at the school’s division level.
Learn what a verbal commitment means
A verbal commitment may sound like a done deal, but in reality, it’s not actually binding. Many recruits get confused about what verbal offers and commitments really mean, and it’s important to remember that verbal offers are more like agreements between the athlete and coach, and either party can withdraw at any time. A verbal offer is made official once you sign the National Letter of Intent and financial aid papers have been drawn up. So, a verbal offer basically means you’re very close to getting a roster spot but haven’t crossed the finish line just yet.
In the highly competitive world of college sports an athletic scholarship is a significant achievement, but one that comes with a responsibility and will require more research in order for a student-athlete to make the right decision.