Graduating from secondary school is a difficult time in anyone’s life.
a time of great change when you are forced to make some important and often confrontational life decisions.
up to this point, life has probably been pretty sweet.
school, sports, social life… everything has been relatively easy.
but now it’s time to get down to business and make some important calls.
the greatest being of all:
Should you continue your education or go into professional sports?
yes, that’s right,
As a high school graduate, you are often forced to choose between two options:
- take risks and pursue a professional sports career
- reconsider your sports dreams and go to college
well, here’s some good news for high school athletes:
In the United States, you can do both.
That’s right, you don’t need to give up on your sports dreams.
“but how?” I can hear you asking
The answer is simple:
with a sports scholarship!
A college athletic scholarship allows you to play the sport you love at an elite level and earn a college degree at the same time.
hell yes! sign me up.
Good news for you and even better news for your parents!
how do you get one?
what do you have to do?
what if your grades aren’t that good?
what if you’re not even that good at your sport?
well, never fear:
chances are there’s a place for you…somewhere.
let’s take a look.
- 1 collegiate organizations
- 2 split standards
- 3 scholarships
- 4 sports that give you the best chance of securing a place in college:
- 5 likelihood of competing beyond high school in more popular sports:
- 6 most popular sports for international students
- 7 how to get discovered
- 8 division i & me
- 9 division iii
- 10 division i, ii and iii
- 11 final thoughts
There are several governing bodies for collegiate athletics in the United States, the largest of which is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
This NCAA governs more than 1,100 universities and colleges, more than 19,000 teams, and nearly half a million college student-athletes.
Being a student-athlete at an American university is basically what it sounds like.
Not only are you a student in college, but you compete as an athlete from your college against other colleges in your division.
governance bodies make sure everything runs smoothly.
There are a total of three divisions within NCAA sports: Division I, Division II, and Division II…makes sense, right?
chances are you’ve heard of famous division i colleges like duke and north carolina, whose football and basketball teams attract huge followings.
division i athletes in these sports are often treated like professionals.
traveling the country, signing autographs, playing to packed stadiums… the only real difference is that you don’t get paid (that’s a topic for another day).
however, this professional athlete lifestyle is not for every division i school.
Some Division I colleges, like Yale and Harvard, focus more on academics.
so while they’re still strong athletically, they don’t attract as much attention for their sports.
regarding division ii and iii:
Although many division ii and iii colleges are very competitive when it comes to sports, they tend to put more emphasis on academics than sports for their student-athletes.
student-athletes are expected to give the same, if not more, attention to their academics during their time on campus.
This is definitely not the case at the big Division I schools, where you’re expected to train more than six days a week, including games!
Between all that, you have to attend classes and get good grades.
Being a student-athlete can be very hard work, and you need to be extremely disciplined and organized to strike the right balance.
However, these are great skills to learn and will come in handy for your chosen career, whether it’s on the court, field, pool, or the office.
In fact, a study by ey women athletes business network and espnw surveyed more than 400 female executives in five countries (20% were American women), and of these top female executives, more than half (52%) played a sport at a college or university level.
yes, you read that right:
More than half of the top female executives were college athletes.
Despite the positive impact college sports can have on your life, there are still a lot of buzz about the student-athlete lifestyle, the different NCAA sports divisions, and college sports in general.
If you really want to apply for a scholarship, you need to understand the nuances between the different divisions and each school, as they could affect where you decide to study and play.
Most people think that Division I, Division II, and Division II are nice and well structured, with Division I being the best quality of sports and Division III being the worst.
however, this is not necessarily true.
while the best schools in division i are easily the best in the country and the worst schools in division iii rank much lower, there is still a lot of overlap between the three divisions.
The best Division III schools can be as good, if not better, than many of the Division II schools, and may even be as good as some lower-end Division I schools.
This may be because they have applied not to move up in division and have chosen to put more emphasis on their studies.
They understand that people will want to attend their college regardless of their NCAA division or sports reputation.
Knowing where a school stands in terms of academic and athletic success, regardless of its labeled division, is key to understanding if that school will fit you and your life goals.
You can tell there’s quite a bit of overlap between the splits, so don’t base your decision on how it looks on paper alone.
Once you’ve taken some time to consider the level of sport you’d like to play and what type of college you’d like to enroll in (leaning toward academics or sports), you need to start considering how you can get there.
The main way to get admission is to get an athletic scholarship.
however, this process can be a bit tricky.
Again, there are many differences between the divisions and types of scholarships offered, so make sure you know what you’re doing.
division i and ii
Combined, NCAA Division I and II universities provide more than $2.9 billion in athletic scholarships annually to more than 150,000 student-athletes.
in division i, the average award amount is $14,270.
in division ii, the average is $5,548.
in division i, the average award amount is $15,162.
in division ii, the average is $6,814.
As a disclaimer: Major sports like basketball and soccer tend to get higher scholarship amounts.
for men and women,
NCAA Division III colleges do not offer athletic scholarships.
Okay, this might sound crazy, but your best bet might be at a Division III school.
This will depend on how much balance you want as a student-athlete. Are you more of a student, or more of an athlete?
If your focus is both getting a quality education and quality sports training, you can choose one of the best schools that populate division iii. This means you’ll be under less pressure athletically, but you’ll pay a little more in tuition.
Having said that, there are a few ways around the system.
In some cases, student-athletes at Division III universities may receive significant need-based aid.
or you could even opt for a merit scholarship at one of these schools.
then, depending on your goals and priorities, your best option might not be a full scholarship at a division i school, but an academic scholarship at a division iii school.
Discover your ideal academic-to-sport ratio and go from there.
sports that give you the best chance of securing a place in college:
So now that you have an idea of how it all works, it’s time to evaluate your athletic scholarship options.
Unsurprisingly, some sports are more popular than others, making athletic scholarship applications much more competitive and difficult to obtain.
but some sports are niche.
so specialized, in fact, that the percentage of high school athletes who go on to compete in college is quite high!
However, the sports you’re most likely to continue playing in college vary by gender, so be sure to read up before you pick a weird sport like… curling, for example.
Here are some statistics on the percentage of high school athletes who go on to compete at the collegiate level.
The sport you are most likely to continue in college is fencing.
In 2015/16, there were 2,189 male students who participated in high school fencing and 651 competed at the collegiate level, meaning an impressive 29.7% continue to play.
there are 42 colleges in the united states that offer fencing, eight of which are division i.
The NCAA allows schools to provide four scholarships per team in Division I.
the second most likely sport for male students:
19.1% of male high school students continue to compete at the collegiate level, with almost all competing in division i.
In Division I, the NCAA allows 6.3 scholarships per school. unfortunately, however, fewer programs and schools offer gymnastics.
just like men, fencing will give you the best chance of getting an athletic scholarship in college.
1,774 compete at the high school level and 677 women will compete at the collegiate level. that’s a healthy percentage of 38.2%.
The second best sport for women is:
This might not be good news if you’re an international student from Australia, but 23% of female high school ice hockey players (from countries with colder climates) competed at university in 2015/16.
In addition, Division I and Division II schools offer 18 team scholarships, some of which are academic scholarships.
likelihood of competing beyond high school in more popular sports:
most popular sports for international students
sport men womentennis 32.30% 30.40%ice hockey 21.0% 26.9%ski 17.9% 17.8%squash 14.7% 15.2 %golf 12.2% 15.8%field hockey – 10.2%football 12.1% 4.9%water polo 6.8% 6.9% basketball 6.1% 4.4% swimming 5.9 % 5.8% fencing 4.7% 6.5% ncaa i avg 4.5% 5.6%
how to get discovered
Now that you know some of the most popular sports, it’s time to see how to get discovered. At some of the top sports colleges, coaches can watch you as young as 13.
The earlier you start preparing, the better.
however, for many people, coaches may never get a chance to see them play or even hear their results.
So here are some tips on how you can get noticed at your dream college.
again, the process is different by division and even varies between each school.
division i & me
Most big i division schools will have an entire team dedicated to scouting, both nationally and internationally.
Still, the process for getting noticed and scouting is similar for Division I and Division II schools, as they both offer athletic scholarships and want to make sure they get their money’s worth.
1. make the first contact
Obviously, you need to get the trainer’s attention if you want to be evaluated.
If you’re on the other side of the world, this can be difficult, even if you’re breaking records in your sport!
That’s why it’s not a bad idea to make the first contact.
This is the best way to get a coach to look at your scores and consider you an athlete.
Start by contacting the coaches at your dream schools and let them know you’re interested in being found.
what do you have to lose?!
2. grab their attention
Now that you’ve made the first contact, grab their attention!
a good way to do this is to put together a portfolio of your sports efforts. It could include things like a short video of you playing or competing in your sport, a list of your times, results, and accolades, and a reference from a previous coach.
3. understand that a scholarship is not guaranteed
The coach may love you and your times may be impressive, but you are never guaranteed a scholarship!
as you have read, the amount of scholarships that each school can offer is limited by the ncaa.
So if that means giving up your dream school to attend somewhere with more opportunities and scholarships available, it might be worth considering.
again, this is entirely up to you and what you and your family can afford.
4. be proactive
if this is something you really want, don’t stop until you’re satisfied!
You may feel like you’re picking on the coach, but if you think you’re good enough, don’t give up until you get an answer or a way forward.
In Division III, the process is similar, but it obviously doesn’t depend as much on your athletic results since there are no athletic scholarships available.
1. make the first contact
Same as division i and ii, it’s not bad to make a first contact with a trainer. in fact, it is recommended.
Contact and tell the coaches that you are interested in competing in your favorite sport in college and that you are interested in their schools.
let them know your academic grades and your sports achievements to show that you are serious and worthy of admission.
2. show your passion and interest in college
once you’ve contacted the coaches and staff, let them know exactly why you’re interested in attending their school.
Perhaps it’s because of the facilities, location and size of the campus, or because a particular course is offered.
Whatever the case, let them know why you’re interested. make them feel special.
3. ask how to make it happen and what you need to do
ask explicitly what you must do to be admitted to the university.
Sports coaches have a lot of influence in this regard.
While they won’t be able to offer you an athletic scholarship, they can talk to admissions officers and pitch you as a key candidate if they’re impressed with you.
In addition, they may even suggest offering some type of academic scholarship or financial aid for extracurricular participation.
It is a good idea to have the coach and keep in touch during the admission process.
division i, ii and iii
one last piece of advice, and possibly the most important piece of advice before we say goodbye:
Being watched isn’t just about your ability to run fast, kick a ball, or dunk.
Regardless of how amazing you are at your favorite sport, colleges are always looking for well-rounded students to make their campus a better place.
You need to impress on the court, in the classroom and in your personal life to be considered one of the best candidates!
Now that you know some of the ins and outs of athletic scholarships, start preparing!
Coaches may be looking for candidates as young as 13, so if you’re already in your teens, take yourself seriously.
Talk to the coaches, to the students, to the athletes, and discuss the options with your parents.
It’s not easy, but if it’s something you know is worth doing, make sure you give it your all.