Whether you are a talented athlete looking for a full-ride scholarship to your dream college or you are more of a club sport athlete looking to play at a more recreational level, there are scholarships for both types, and everyone in-between. Based on your sport, there may be more or less competition which will affect the amount of scholarship money and awards that can be disbursed. For high-visibility sports such as football or basketball, it may be harder to break into a program and land a full-ride scholarship. Even though college and universities are the most sought-out for athletic scholarships, there are organizations and businesses that reward student-athletes. Know your skill, worth, and do your research when looking into possible athletic scholarships.
For the Serious Athlete
Athletes pay the most attention to scholarships offered by their intended college, and award value increases if you have more skill, rank, and desirable athletic qualities. These students should be actively contacting coaches at the schools they're interested in, as even the best athletes can be overlooked if they don't market themselves well. College coaches recruit heavily and as much as they may seem to want you on their team, they are most likely giving the same, if not more attention, to other athletes. Always remember your competition. To put yourself out there more, make yourself a portfolio - a personal athlete profile, featuring your statistics, times, top plays and moments - especially if you have been featured in a newspaper, online, or elsewhere.
As you are preparing your profile, also make a list of schools you're interested in and start with a college search; don’t sell yourself short, but be open to possibilities at smaller schools and those outside of the top tier Division I athletics. Be mindful also of what's expected of you to be eligible for those top prizes. And don't forget one of the most important rules about applying for scholarships: apply early and apply often. Many athletes catch college coaches' eyes during their earlier years in high school, so don't wait until the end of your senior year to start communicating with coaches. By that same token, if you had a rough first couple seasons in high school, take the time to better your standings and stats to appeal to scouting coaches. Know your skill set and realistic opportunities for playing at the college level - whether it be DI, DII, or DIII (remember, DIII cannot award scholarship money to athletes.) While many people seek to play/compete on a DI team, the reality is that other divisions house just as many talented athletes.
For the Recreational Athlete
Landing an athletic scholarship isn't all about being the best basketball player, wrestler or bowler on your high school team. There are many awards available for athletes who play not to make a career of a sport, but because they enjoy the game. Local leagues and organizations in sports like baseball and golf, for example, offer many scholarships just for playing on a team, no matter how good you are. Although it helps to be talented in a given area, don't be discouraged if you're not cut out for the lifestyle required to make yourself a marketable athlete at the top level of play. You don't even have to play on your college's team. Many rewards require an interest in a sport and the intention to continue playing it when you go to college, even it's on a club or intramural team. Since these scholarships tend to not be performance-based, other criteria such as financial need or proven academic success may be required instead.
Explore our examples of school-based and sports scholarships from outside organizations. Don't rule out academic scholarships when applying for funding, as you won’t be playing on the team if you can't pay the tuition. For additional information about sports scholarships and awards based on different criteria, try conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.