Having a passion and athletic ability in a niche sport may work to both your advantage and disadvantage. The competition for awards may be less fierce for a low-profile sport like water polo, putting you in a better position to land scholarship money if you’re good at the sport, but water polo programs are still fairly uncommon on college campuses, which also makes it more difficult to land a spot on a team. Most water polo scholarships will be college-based, meaning that you’ll need a minimum GPA to qualify under the NCAA’s academic rules. You’ll also need to keep your grades up to stay on the team, as all those awarded NCAA sports scholarships must maintain a strong academic record to participate in their college sports programs.
Browse through our college search to find schools that have the kind of athletic program you’re looking for. Schools with large aquatics programs will be your best bet, as will schools with established water polo programs like Stanford University. Scholarship money will usually go toward building a team, so you’ll probably be looking at a partial scholarship at best even if you rank high on the scene of top high school water polo players. Another option then is looking at schools where you could both play on a water polo team and be eligible for merit-based scholarship funding. You’ll need a decent academic record to play in the NCAA anyway, so why not maximize your scholarship opportunities by applying for awards based on the GPA you worked so hard to earn?
Check out some examples of where to find water polo scholarships below. For additional information about awards based on different criteria, try conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.
About $1 billion in full and partial athletic scholarships are awarded each year by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to more than 126,000 undergraduate student-athletes at Division I and Division II schools. Although these scholarships are awarded and administered directly by each academic institution, not the NCAA, you’ll be required to meet the requirements of the NCAA to receive any funding. Those requirements include a minimum GPA for both the college-bound and those already on campuses, and qualifying standardized test scores. Contact your intended school’s athletic department for more information if you have the academics and the skill to play on a college team.
If you plan on playing water polo in college, whether on a varsity team or on the club level, your intended college could have funds and endowments for the sport, often set up by alumni who played the sport before you ever set foot on that campus. The University of Southern California, for example, has one of the most competitive but most well-funded water polo programs in the country, for both the men’s and women’s water polo teams. Make sure you do your research, and talk to your financial aid office and athletic departments about local and college-based awards you could be eligible for.
If your love of water polo came from your involvement at a local water polo club, make sure you know whether that club offers any scholarship funding to college-bound water polo players. Many clubs will also have funding available to help you pay for participating in competitions that could get you noticed for generous funding on the college level. The Stanford Water Polo Club, for example, has the Stanford Water Polo Foundation Athletic Scholarship Fund set up to help players in the program participate in the sport who otherwise would not be able to due to financial hardship. While awards from local water polo clubs may not seem like much, don’t rule out looking to your community because every little bit counts in the college funding search.
The Collegiate Water Polo Association offers a number of opportunities to its student members, including the scholar-athlete awards for student-athletes with impressive academic records. To be selected, student-athletes must be active participants on the Collegiate Water Polo Association team and a full-time student at the institution which nominated them. College freshmen through graduate students are eligible for the award, and nominees must achieve a 3.2 cumulative GPA or higher based on their most recent grades (fall semester for men, spring semester for women).
USA Water Polo, the national governing body of water polo, offers opportunities for water polo players to win scholarships or funding for college through competitions or general participation in the sport, both sponsored by the national organization and state-based clubs. If you’re already a part of a USA Water Polo-sponsored club (there are 500 across the country), make sure you know exactly the funding opportunities available to you, as you could be eligible for not only college funding but money to help you continue playing the sport. Most local clubs will have funds set up for those facing financial hardships. The Rose Bowl Water Polo Club in Pasadena, for example, offers scholarships based on water polo players’ family incomes. Know your options early so that you have a good idea of the funding you’ll need to come up with to play the sport in college.
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