Understanding Athletic College Scholarships

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Receiving an offer for an athletic college scholarship can be a tremendous help as you determine how you’ll pay for college. However, it’s important to understand some key points about athletic scholarships before you accept any offers:

  • There is no such thing as a Division III athletic scholarship. Only Division I and Division II schools in the NCAA are allowed to award financial aid based on athletic ability. Division III schools can award need-based aid or academically related aid.
  • An athletic scholarship cannot be guaranteed for four years. NCAA institutions offer one-year college scholarships that can be renewable annually. At the end of each year, athletics-based aid may be canceled or reduced for any reason.
  • There may be restrictions on the amount of aid you can receive. There can be limits on athletic aid both for the team and the student. Check with the financial aid office to see if these limits will affect your ability to accept financial aid from other sources. Inform the financial aid staff about additional student scholarships or other aid offers you expect to receive.


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Another step you should take before accepting undergraduate scholarships offers is to learn as much as possible about its restrictions and requirements. Here are some important things to consider:

How much the college scholarship is and what it covers

Ask about the exact amount of the scholarship. Determine whether it will cover all expenses (tuition, room and board, and books) or only partial expenses. Keep in mind that some college costs, such as travel from home to school, cannot be covered by the scholarship.

How long the college scholarships will last

Determine whether the offer is renewable annually. Ask about the requirements for renewal and the circumstances in which the scholarship might be reduced or canceled.

The effect of an injury or coaching change on the college scholarship

If you suffer a career-ending injury and can no longer compete, some institutions will not continue to provide you with an athletic student scholarship. A new coach may not be willing to maintain your athletic scholarship. Check with the athletic department at the college to see what its policy is for each of these situations.

The effect of exhausting eligibility before completing your degree
You may use all of your athletic eligibility before finishing your degree program. Ask whether aid will still be available to you as you complete your degree and if it is, ask about how you can qualify for it.

How to maintain undergraduate scholarships

Some university scholarships may have academic requirements attached, such as maintaining a specific grade point average. Some university scholarships may place restrictions on your opportunities for employment. Be sure to understand the actions you need to take in order to keep the scholarship and the actions you must avoid to prevent losing the scholarship.

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