Are you looking for a college experience where you can have it all? Consider checking out an NCAA Division III program to see if it is a fit for you and your situation. There are more NCAA Division III colleges, 446 in all, and student-athletes playing Division III than any other NCAA division.
Below are some of the advantages of choosing a college that competes at the Division III level.
Division III colleges and universities are often smaller than Division I or II colleges. You may be able to get around campus easier than if you were at a bigger university that requires a map to navigate.
You may feel more at home with a smaller college. Some Division I and II colleges are massive, with student attendance of 50,000 or more. They can be so big you have to take buses to get from one class to the next.
There often is a strong sense of community on small college campuses, which adds value to your experience while in school and after you graduate.
Typically, your academics are prioritized and smaller class sizes offer a better chance to interact and collaborate with your professors. In fact, many will know you are an athlete and will support you by attending your athletic events on campus. Sometimes, whole classes attend.
An athlete’s daily schedule, between academics and athletics, can be very time-consuming and packed. Many professors will understand the value of athletics and really try to help you balance the academic and athletic schedules by adjusting office hours and altering test-taking times.
Of course, there will always be those professors in every college who do not see the benefit of athletics and may be less helpful, but, by and large, you will get the assistance you need to make academics and athletics work.
Depending on your athletic ability, and the talent of the team you are joining, you may be an impact athlete in your first year. That means you may get more playing time early in your college career.
There often may be a greater chance for development over the course of your career, especially if the program has a no-cut policy or no squad-size limitations.
If you are a multi-sport athlete and want to continue competing in more than one sport in college, you may have coaches who support and even encourage it. Some of the very best Division III athletes compete, and are successful, in more than one sport!
Division III colleges have fairly strict rules concerning the time college coaches can spend with the athletes. This allows the athletes more time to play and practice with other teams on campus.
You may find, at the Division III level, more opportunities to become involved in activities outside your sport. Your coaches will often encourage balance by supporting your desire to explore civic engagement, music, theater, leadership programs, etc.
What’s more, there are study abroad opportunities abound on smaller campuses, and they’re often encouraged. You could literally get credit for taking an international trip.
You may also have a better chance of getting networked for your career path earlier in your college career, making it easier to get a job after college. Many student athletes graduate from college with a job already in hand.
NCAA Division III institutions do not offer athletic scholarships. However, there are many options to fund your education.
Many small, private liberal arts colleges provide 100% of demonstrated financial need to all admitted students. Other colleges give a percentage of the total cost. This means colleges will factor in your family’s income level to decide if you qualify for need-based financial aid.
Academic scholarships are sometimes referred to as merit-based scholarships. They are primarily based on good academics and SAT/ACT test scores. Sometimes, colleges offer merit-based scholarships, but there are also private companies and non-profit charities that offer them as well.
There are also scholarships given for leadership, music, arts and certain majors, depending on the college and your situation.
Religious institutions or cultural organizations also offer scholarships sometimes. Explore local and community-based scholarship opportunities in your own community; you may be surprised at what is available to you. It takes some research, and you have to apply for most of them, but it could save a lot of money by doing so.
Grants are money that is given to you that does not have to be paid back. One common grant for college students is the Pell Grant. This is a federal grant given to those with financial need and is determined by filling out a FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it can be found online.
Many colleges and universities offer work-study programs where students can work on campus to help pay for college. Some colleges offer work related to a student’s major area of study or in community service.
Combining scholarships, grants, and work-study can make Division III colleges as affordable as state schools. You just need to do your homework and explore your options!
How do you know if you can play at the Division-III level? This is a challenging question and much depends on the school you are exploring and the level of success the team has experienced. Some sports can allow a greater variety of ability or talent due to roster sizes. For instance, sports with smaller roster sizes, such as basketball, may be more limiting than a sport like track and field. It may be helpful to vet coaches and their programs in the recruiting process. Here are some questions that may help identify if a program is a good fit for you:
What will it take to succeed in the program?
Can I see myself representing this program?
What is the coach’s philosophy on athlete development? Can you get better at this college?
Is there a no-cut policy? How many athletes are typically cut each year?
Does the program have a junior varsity team? How often does the JV team compete? How often does a JV athlete advance to the varsity level?
Aside from having my major, what other opportunities may present themselves at this particular college?
If you are serious about continuing your athletic career but are not sure you can get or want an athletic scholarship, NCAA Division III may be perfect for you.
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