How to Get an Athletic Scholarship

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Athletic scholarships are some of the most coveted and competitive forms of financial aid available. As a result, you may not have all of your expenses covered, even if you're awarded a partial scholarship. To cover any unmet financial need, sign up for to begin qualifying for hundreds of unique scholarship opportunities!

In the United States, there are about 8 million students who play sports in high school and just over 480,000 will participate in intercollegiate sports. This means that about 17% of high school athletes will become student-athletes at the collegiate level. Out of this small percentage, even fewer college athletes will receive athletic scholarships.

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The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) awards some $3.6 billion in scholarship money annually to just over 180,000 student-athletes, meaning less than half of all student-athletes receive NCAA athletic scholarships (it is worth noting that NCAA Division III colleges do not provide athletic scholarships, so this only illustrates NCAA Division I and Division II schools).

Athletic scholarships come in two forms: equivalency/partial scholarships and headcount scholarships. In the former, college coaches are given a lump sum of sports scholarship money that they can divide amongst their student-athletes as they see fit. This means that everyone on the team could potentially receive at least a partial scholarship, or it could mean that a few people receive full scholarships while others get nothing. By contrast, a headcount scholarship is when a student-athlete on the team receives a full ride. Coaches are given a set number of full-ride athletic scholarships that they give to players in full.

The type of scholarship a college team may receive depends on the sport. If the sport is a highly popular one that generates a lot of revenue, like football or basketball, then it is more likely to be a headcount sport. Sports that are somewhat less popular are more likely to be partial or equivalency sports.