The same endurance and drive used to run long distances can also be applied when searching for scholarships. Long-distance runners are known for being in it for the long haul, and college coaches scope for talent and drive when recruiting and offering cross country scholarships. When recruiting, coaches tend to come watch championship meets or big invites if you possess the skill they want for their collegiate team. However, the competition is heavy, as thousands of runners compete at the college level, so improving your 5k time, as well as maintaining a strong academic record is crucial for impressing coaches.
Since cross country is an equivalency sport when it comes to scholarships, the NCCA limits how many scholarships are allocated per school. Some students may receive only partial scholarship while others may land a full scholarship, and this is based on athletic ability and academic success. Each school has their own time standards, so if you want to know if you're fast enough to run at a particular college, check the school's team website and see what times their current college runners are posting. Coaches often want an impressive cross country team, so most of the scholarships you would be offered by the college will be partial scholarships so that the college is able to entice more than a handle of athletes with scholarship funding.
Check out some examples of where to find cross country scholarships below. For additional information about awards based on different criteria, try conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.
To supplement that financial aid package, don't forget about scholarships based on other criteria. You'll need to have and maintain a minimum GPA not only to land a scholarship but to be on a team, according to NCAA regulations, so seek out awards based on your academic achievements, as well. Don't rule out looking outside your college, either. Are you part of a long distance running group outside of your high school already? Try contacting them to see whether they provide any funding for cross country runners looking to land money for college. Look locally and to your state, and you may find several awards just for participating in cross country in high school. You don't need to have the best running time to land scholarship money to supplement that financial aid package.
Although the NCAA is the most well-known association when it comes to collegiate sports, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) also awards full and partial scholarships to talented athletes. If you're a runner interested in community college, consider contacting those schools about potential scholarship opportunities in cross country. If you're at a high level of skill with a decent academic record, consider your options on the junior college level, but know that if you transfer to an NCAA college after two years, the GPA and standardized test score requirements may be stricter. Just like the NCAA or NAIA, the NJCAA has its own time standards for men and women to increase their chances in winning athletic scholarships. For these specific time standards, make sure to check out the NJCAA's website or talk to your coaches.
If you plan on running cross country in college, your intended college could have funds and endowments for the sport, often set up by alumni who played the sport when they attended. Some colleges may require their runners to compete in track as well so be sure to do your research and talk to your financial aid office and athletic departments about local and college-based awards you could be eligible for. And don't forget to keep on track with scholarship deadlines while you are out on the track trying to cut your 5k time.
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