If you’re seven feet tall and you can dunk a basketball while wearing a blindfold, chances are you don’t need our help finding an academic scholarship. We’re guessing the colleges come to you.
But what if you’re a stellar athlete from an obscure high school, unknown to college scouts? What if you excel brilliantly in a sport for which few colleges offer direct scholarships? What if you have athletic talent but this is only one focus among many other academic and extracurricular pursuits? Perhaps you plan to attend a small Division III school with a limited scholarship pool?
If any of these describes your situation, your athletic ambition might not have landed you a major scholarship at the college of your choice. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t athletic scholarship opportunities just waiting to be tapped. There are numerous organizations, foundations, corporations, sporting associations, and private benefactors hoping to create an opportunity for somebody in your exact situation.
From small donations for sporting equipment to larger gifts aimed at offsetting the full cost of your tuition, athletic scholarship opportunities abound. Of course, the competition for many of these scholarships is fierce, but you’re an athlete so we know you’re not afraid of a little healthy competition.
As you proceed, take note that deadlines are always passing and new opportunities are always emerging. If a deadline for one of the opportunities below has passed, come back and visit in a few weeks for updates and changes. And if you see anything out of place or are aware of any scholarship opportunities we might have missed, let us know! And of course, good luck in your search!
Before you proceed, there are a few basic facts about athletic scholarships that you should be aware of. According to US News and World Report:
- There are roughly 138,000 athletic scholarships available for Division I and Division II sports (though there are, of course, countless other scholarship opportunities through alternative outlets. We’ll get into that).
- The average athletic scholarship is about $10,400 per year, or $8,700 if you don’t account for the more generous scholarships usually reserved for men’s football and basketball players.
- Only four sports offer full rides: men’s football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball.
- Many scholarships apply to only one year of your education, meaning that you must maintain a certain level of athletic and academic excellence so that your scholarship can be renewed each year.
All of these numbers mean that an athletic scholarship probably won’t reduce the cost of your college education to zero. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t help out there for you. When it comes to financing your education, every little bit helps.
Improve Your Odds
Be realistic in your expectations and take steps to improve your odds. Such steps include:
- Excelling in your studies;
- Contacting coaches at programs that might interest you;
- Creating your own YouTube channel and other online/social media resources to showcase your talents; and
- For more, check out our feature on the Do’s and Don’ts of becoming a college athlete
In other words, don’t want to be discovered. Again, at seven feet tall, scouts will probably find you. But otherwise, you’ll have to do a lot of the legwork. It’s up to you to reach out to coaches and athletic departments to put yourself on the radar. This can improve your odds of landing a school- or sport-specific scholarship.
Don’t Forget about Eligibility Requirements
As long as you strive for excellence in your game and in your life, you might be a candidate for an athletic scholarship. It’s also important to pay attention to the eligibility requirements for college participation in your sport and at your level. College athletic competition occurs under the umbrella of one of three associations, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Each has its own eligibility requirements. Know what these are in advance as you engage the admission process.
The rules that apply to you will largely depend on your sport of choice, the type of college you will attend, and the level at which you hope to play.
An array of additional factors will impact your eligibility for specific scholarship types, including your state of residence, your academic performance, your intended college major, and a host of other personal factors that might be relevant to your athletic and academic success.
Below, we provide a comprehensive list of scholarship opportunities available to athletes, beginning with those most commonly offered by the NCAA and, subsequently, those offered by the NAIA and the NJCAA. Thereafter, you can find a list of miscellaneous scholarship opportunities offered by specific sporting associations, women’s athlete groups, minority advocacy groups, companies, organizations, foundations, private donors and countless others who wish to help you take the next step forward as a student and as an athlete. You should also, of course, reach out to your college of choice and speak to representatives from the financial aid office, the athletic department, or within the scope or your chosen sport to see what opportunities your specific school might offer.
Find the opportunity that makes the most sense for you and apply today. Remember, depending on today’s date, any number of scholarship deadlines will have passed. Fortunately, most of these opportunties are annual. Some even renew their deadlines every semester. The process of whittlin down the price tag on your college education begins here:
NCAA Scholarship Opportunities
Jim McKay Scholarships
NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Postgraduate Scholarship Program
Division I Degree Completion Grants
Division II Degree Completion Grants
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Scholarships
A.O. Duer Award
Emil S. Liston Award for junior basketball student-athletes
Dr. Leroy Walker Award Student-Athlete of Character
Athletic Trainers Association Al Ortolani Scholarship
National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Scholarships
Most NJCAA Scholarship opportunities will be availed directly through the community college where you plan to play. For individual opportunities, reach out to the athletic department at your chosen school. The NCJAA offers the following point of consideration:
Each institution belonging to the NJCAA chooses to compete on the Division I, II or III level in designated sports. Division I colleges may offer full athletic scholarships a maximum of tuition, fees, room and board, course related books, up to $250 in course required supplies, and transportation costs one time per academic year to and from the college by direct route. Division II colleges are limited to awarding tuition, fees, course related books, and up to $250 in course required supplies. Division III institutions may provide no athletically related financial assistance. However, NJCAA colleges that do not offer athletic aid may choose to participate at the Division I or II level if they so desire.
Miscellaneous Scholarship Opportunities
Alabama Golf Association Women’s Scholarship Fund
Alliance Pipeline Scholarship
Augustana College Athletic Grant
Balanced Man Scholarship-University of Washington
Bill Dickey Scholarship Association
Bobby Sox High School Senior Scholarship
Bruce Shelton Scholarship
for a graduating high school student from a Forsyth County public high school who displays the traits of athletic excellence, academic achievement, leadership, and social responsibility for which Bruce Shelton will be remembered by those who knew him