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Athletic Scholarships: Financial Facts for the Future Athlete

Most student-athletes set a goal to receive a full-ride athletic scholarship to a Division I school. The reality is that only 1% of student-athletes attain that ambitious goal. Everyone else must figure out how to continue their athletic career & education, as well as how to afford it.

Scholarships and the amount of aid student-athletes actually receive is a common topic of mass misconceptions. Understanding how the scholarship process works will help a student-athlete plan their college career without causing undue financial stress.


Athletic scholarships are available to student-athletes competing in NCAA Division I & Division II, NAIA, and NJCAA sports. NCAA Division III schools do not award athletic scholarships. Athletic scholarships are typically 1 year agreements that can be renewed annually. On rare occasions, athletic scholarships can be multi-year agreements.

> More Information about the NCAA Divisions.


NCAA Division I & II schools combine to award over 3 billion dollars in sports scholarships annually, to over 150,000 student-athletes. These scholarships are awarded to various sports, split into two divisions: Head Count Sports and Equivalency Sports.

Head Count Sports offer full-ride scholarships, which cover tuition, textbooks, room and board, and sometimes living costs. Equivalency Sports offer partial scholarships, which typically include some, but not all of the aforementioned costs.

*All Division 2 & NAIA Sports are EQ Sports


Only NCAA Division I schools offer Head Count Sports (Full-ride scholarships), which accounts for 1% of student-athletes. The other 99% of collegiate student-athletes are receiving partial scholarships in Equivalency Sports.

Recruits participating in Equivalency Sports can negotiate their scholarship amounts depending on the importance of the athlete’s role in their sport. An example of this would be a pitcher in Baseball, who is more likely to receive a higher scholarship amount compared to a field player.

Using the recruitment period to leverage a larger scholarship is also a viable option. Once school’s are aware of competing offers, they might be more likely to increase their offer to gain the recruiting advantage. Also, a student-athlete can consider attending a lower division school to increase their scholarship amount. A low Division 1 recruit might receive a higher scholarship from a Division II school.


Ivy League Schools typically consist of Division I sports, but do not offer athletic scholarships. These schools provide alternative opportunities to their student-athletes, with most coaches helping students obtain financial aid awards.

Ivy league Schools have need-based financial aid programs that take a family’s income into consideration. Families whose income is under $65,000 usually don’t pay any school costs, while those with incomes between $65,000 - $180,000 can expect to pay between 10-20% of expenses.

These financial aid options are only available if the student-athlete meets the high standards of an Ivy League school’s admission requirements.


Student-Athletes don’t need a scholarship to play collegiate sports. A walk-on is an athlete who has been offered the opportunity to compete for a team’s roster spot, without the guarantee of a scholarship.

Walk-on’s can vary in their contribution to a team. Some walk-ons are practice squad or scout team players, who never travel with the team for games. Other walk-ons are reliable role players who have the opportunity to eventually earn a scholarship through proven production & performance. Walk-ons often make the difference in most Division I programs, as most teams have more roster spots than scholarships available.


Division I & Division II athletes have to meet NCAA eligibility requirements to participate in collegiate sporting events. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a student-athlete a scholarship, but athletes with better academic standing do have a higher chance of receiving a scholarship.

NAIA athletes must meet their individual school’s eligibility requirements, and register with the NAIA Clearinghouse to participate in sporting events.


An unfortunate reality of college athletics is that scholarships can be lost, for various reasons.

  • Verbal scholarships are non-binding. Verbal scholarships are not formal contracts & can’t be enforced without a signed Letter of Intent. Scholarship availability can change during the recruiting process, meaning a scholarship offered verbally can become unavailable once it is time to sign a legal agreement.

  • Injuries happen. Injuries can cause a student-athlete to lose their scholarship, depending if the injury happened outside of team activities.

  • Coaches can choose not to renew an athlete’s scholarship. Scholarships are 1 year contracts, allowing coaches to decide to renew them or not. Typical reasons for non-renewals are an athlete having trouble on or off the field, a new coaching staff taking over the program, or poor player performance (Most Coaches will remind athletes that they must “Earn” their scholarship).

  • Academic Performance is not optional. When a student-athlete doesn’t meet the school’s academic eligibility standards, their athletic scholarship is typically taken away.


99% of student-athletes do not receive full-ride scholarships, and must utilize additional financial aid to cover the costs of their college education.


Students must possess a 3.5 GPA & have a 25 ACT/1200 SAT score to be eligible to receive an academic scholarship. Exceeding these measurements will most likely increase a student’s chances of receiving an academic scholarship amidst a large pool of applicants.

Academic scholarships are more secure than athletic scholarships. As long as the student-athlete’s grades meet the necessary requirements the academic scholarship will remain, even if the athlete is not playing in their sport.


Students can receive scholarships and financial aid from sources outside of their school. There are four main scholarship contributions outside of Colleges & Universities.

  1. Federal Government - The Federal Government offers a variety of scholarships & grants to students wanting to continue their education in college.

  2. Corporations - Large corporations and companies sponsor college scholarships. Typically, these scholarships are available from large foundations associated with the corporations.

  3. Non-Profit Organizations - Charities and non-profit organizations provide scholarship opportunities, oftentimes as the sole purpose of the organization.

  4. Private Providers - Business owners, Wealthy socialites, and many other philanthropists provide scholarships to help aid in the continual growth of an educated society.


All college students are eligible to receive federal student aid. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) allows students to apply for aid in the forms of grants, loans, and work study funds.

Colleges & Universities use students FAFSA data to determine their federal aid eligibility. Some schools also use FAFSA data to award their own financial aid. Once students fill out their FAFSA form, they will receive a Student Aid Report that gives them basic information about their eligibility for federal student aid.


Podyum Preps is here to help you navigate through the various forms of financial assistance. Our recruitment coaches will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and help you create a successful college recruitment game plan. Schedule an assessment today!!


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