What Sports Do Colleges Give Scholarships For

What Sports Do Colleges Give Scholarships For

Over a thousand colleges and universities in the United States provide opportunities for talented students to play for the college team as a way of paying for their education.

The key to finding athletic scholarships is to meticulously research your options and look for the right opportunities.

What Sports Do Colleges Give Scholarships For?

Colleges give scholarships to a range of sports. The disappointingly low number of full-ride athletic scholarships available is one of the first surprises for many student-athletes and their families. What may be equally surprising is the wide range of offers that athletes can receive from schools. Here are a few key facts to understand the fundamentals of athletic scholarship offers:

  • The majority of offers are for one-year contracts. Although multi-year contracts are becoming more common, they are still uncommon.
  • Verbal offers from a coach are not legally binding.
  • The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a legally binding contract between an athlete and a college or university.
  • It is critical that you fully understand the agreement because it is a contract.

Full-Ride Scholarship Offer

Athletic scholarships are a big part of the recruiting process and an incentive to try new things. Unfortunately, receiving a scholarship is more difficult than most people believe, and the funds available are not distributed evenly across different programs. Division I and Division II are the only schools that offer athletic scholarships; Division III does not, and Division I has the most scholarship money. Furthermore, athletic scholarship money varies greatly depending on the sport.

  • Football
  • Men’s Basketball
  • Women’s Basketball
  • Women’s Gymnastics
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball

These are referred to as headcount sports, and they generate revenue for the school. A full ride covers all of the major expenses associated with attending college, such as tuition, room and board, books, and some course fees. The phrase “full ride” does not refer to the “full four years.” Full-ride scholarships, like all offers, are one-year contracts that can be renewed or not.

Partial Scholarship Offer

The remaining sports, or “equivalency sports” in NCAA Divisions I and II are where coaches essentially have a pool of scholarship money that they can divide up amongst their teams. While not a full ride, a partial scholarship offer can still cover a significant portion of college costs or very little. It may be that one student-athlete on a team gets a scholarship that covers tuition, while a teammate may only get offered a scholarship that covers the costs of books.

While a partial scholarship might not be enough to compensate for an athlete’s financial needs, NCSA’s Senior Recruiting Manager David Kmiecik shares how student-athletes can leverage scholarship offers and find additional resources to cover the cost of college.

Covering your bases with an athletic scholarship

You must communicate openly with your coaches about the nature of your scholarship agreement and the security of your scholarship. Scholarships are one-year commitments that must be renewed each year. Here are some topics to discuss with coaches when it comes to scholarships:

1) What happens if I get injured? The competition level in the top college programs is so high that coaches frequently cannot hold scholarships for injured players. Athletes may prefer the security of a smaller program where they know that if they get hurt, their education will still be paid for.

2) What if I improve? It is common for coaches to bring in freshmen athletes as walk-ons or on very small partial scholarships in equivalency sports. Coaches will then award you more scholarship money based on your performance. This is an important early conversation to have with coaches; you’ll want to know what kind of scholarships they offer to their best players.

3) How will I be supported? Receiving a scholarship can be a huge relief when faced with the enormous costs of college. However, the demands on your time are equally high, and you will want to ensure that you receive some sort of academic support because you will be traveling and missing class time.

4) Will the coaching staff remain? A coaching change is one of the most difficult things for a student-athlete to go through. Each coach brings in a completely new staff, program style, and recruits. When it comes to scholarships at the top level, where sports are big money, current athletes in the program are frequently left out in the cold. Make certain that the coach and his staff intend to remain at the school you select.


The availability of athletic scholarships varies depending on the sport, the NCAA division, and the individual school. However, there are many opportunities for talented athletes to receive financial assistance for college through playing sports. In addition to traditional revenue-generating sports like football and basketball, scholarships are also available for a wide range of men’s and women’s sports, including swimming, track and field, tennis, and golf.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the most common sports for college scholarships? The most common sports for college scholarships are football, basketball, baseball, softball, and soccer. These sports are considered “revenue-generating” for colleges, as they bring in a lot of money from ticket sales, TV rights, and merchandise. As a result, there are more scholarships available for these sports than for others.

  • How many athletic scholarships can a college give out? The number of athletic scholarships that a college can give out varies depending on the sport and the NCAA division. For example, Division I football teams can give out a maximum of 85 scholarships, while Division II baseball teams can only give out 35 scholarships.

  • What are the academic requirements for athletic scholarships? To be eligible for an athletic scholarship, you must meet both the NCAA’s academic requirements and the academic requirements of the school you are attending. The NCAA’s academic requirements are based on your high school GPA and your SAT or ACT scores. The academic requirements of the school you are attending will vary, but they will typically be similar to the NCAA’s requirements.

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