Scholarship and Financial Aid Basics

Getting a college scholarship is on the dream list of most parents of high school student athletes. According to the NCAA, more than $3.6 billion in athletic scholarships are provided to student athletes every year for Division I and Division II universities and colleges.

According to the NAIA, $800 million are spent annually on scholarships to NAIA colleges. Student-athlete aid is controlled by each individual institution and handled the same way that the non-student athlete financial aid is handled, so this number reflects all students, athletic and non-athletic.

Many parents spend thousands of dollars each year to help their children gain the possibility of obtaining a scholarship to college and playing the sport they love.

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Student Athlete Financial Aid Numbers

But here is the reality: According to the NCAA, only about two percent of all high school students athletes receive athletic scholarships for college. This makes the competition for such aid very high.

Division I Schools

  • 182,681 student athletes at 350 colleges and universities
  • 57% of all student athletes receive some level of athletic scholarships

Division II Schools

  • 122,722 student athletes at 302 colleges and universities
  • 63% of all student athletes receive some level of athletic scholarships

Division III Schools

  • 193,814 student athletes at 439 colleges and universities
  • 80% of all student athletes receive some form of academic grant or need-based 
  • scholarship.  
  • Division III colleges do not award athletic scholarships
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Breaking Down the Scholarship Amounts

What is the scholarship actually worth and what does it include? If your child were to receive a full scholarship, the following would be covered at most colleges:

  • Tuition – Cost of the classes she takes
  • Fees – Fees related to going to college
  • Room – Living areas (dorms, apartments, etc)
  • Board – Meals
  • Books – Books for classes

If they were to receive a partial scholarship, the college will offer some part of the above list. For example, your child may receive tuition, fees and books, but not room and board. Each college will have these line items priced differently, so to find out the actual cost of the scholarship, you would have to add up what your athlete is actually being offered.

When you look at this list, it may seem like everything is covered. However, there are other costs, not included, that also can add up quickly. Here are some of those costs:

  • Transportation back and forth from the college campus (gas money, train, plane tickets, etc)
  • Extracurricular activities and social life (movies, plays, other campus or community activities)
  • Extra food or meals out
  • Incidentals such as toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, plastic silverware, etc.
  • Pens, paper, note-taking devices for class

If your son or daughter is moving into an apartment, some are furnished and some are not. If you have an unfurnished apartment, the list can expand very quickly.

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Other Sources of Aid

There are other forms of aid, besides the athletic scholarship, that can also help fund college.

Academic Bonuses

Some Division I colleges and universities are paying student athletes for academic progress. This is a newly passed law that allows colleges to pay up to $5,980 per student athlete. Each institution can assess how they want to spend that money.  


Name, Image and Likeness is another new law that allows student athletes to make money using their own name, image and likeness.  This law holds true for all athletes at all levels. Athletes can now sell the rights to their name, image, and likeness. 

Division I Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund

The NCAA allots money each year to college conferences who, in turn, pass it onto each college. This money is set aside for essential needs that could arise while in college. For example, this money could be used to fly a student athlete home for a funeral.

Also included in this fund, student athletes can receive up to $500 per year to buy clothing or to purchase a laptop.

Cost of Attendance – Division I only

Cost of Attendance is the price tag for attending that particular university or college. The cost is calculated by adding up tuition, fees, room and board, cost of books, supplies, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses, such as the purchase of a computer, etc.

The purpose of these funds, usually amounting between $2,000 and $5,000, is to cover costs outside of the scholarship amount. Student athletes on partial scholarships can also receive a partial cost of attendance amount.

Federal Pell Grant

The Pell Grant is a need-based federal financial aid awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. The intent is to assist eligible low-income students in paying for college costs. Students apply for it using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Academic Scholarships

Most colleges and universities have some sort of academic aid awarded to students with exceptional academic standing.

Student Loans

Student loans typically come in two packages: 

  • Federal student loans – funded by the federal government
  • Private student loans – funded by lenders, like a bank, credit union, or a school

Local Scholarships

Many other scholarships are available to student athletes. Most have application processes and are based on a lot of different criteria, such as leadership qualities, religious affiliation, minority and female qualifications and first-generation college attendees.

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Other Sources of Income

Work-Study Programs

Many colleges and universities provide a work-study program, whereby students can work on campus to offset the cost of attending the university.

Paid Internships

Some colleges and universities allow their student athletes to have summer or out-of-season internships. Many student athletes choose to intern with a job that aligns with their area of study. This not only provides a little extra income, but also may help them network for life after college.

Outside Jobs

There are also student athletes who choose to work, either part-time or full time, during the summer to obtain extra income. These opportunities, though available to all student athletes, are not always accessible as they might require hours that don’t work well with athletic schedules, especially those programs that train year-around.

What does all of this mean? The bottom line is that there is a lot of competition for athletically related financial aid and scholarships. It’s difficult to put into numbers what the chances are and what the final price tag will be, but preparation is key. Understanding some of the basic terminology will help you prepare for the types of aid potentially available to your child.



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