Financial Aid For College Athletes

Financial Aid For College Athletes

Far too often, athletes limit their focus on the most obvious source of scholarship money: athletic financial aid, which is awarded by colleges itself.
While that works out nicely for the strongest athletes in their respective sports, that doesn't necessarily hold true for the very large majority of athletes, who are also competitive enough to compete in collegiate sports. It's a good thing there's a lot more than just athletic scholarship money that can be used to bring down the costs of studying.

Let's have a look at where scholarship money typically comes from:

Financial Aid Sources (Scholarships & Grants)

The numbers stated are provided by "collegeraptor": Where Most College Scholarships Come From

Collegeraptor's infographic shows that 48% of the total 123 billion USD of scholarships and grants in 2013-14 were awarded by federal/state governments, 13% by organizations, and 39% by universities.

Federal/State Financial Aid

U.S. citizens* may submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be done here.
Awards are granted by the U.S. Department of Education, based on families' financial need. While the total sum of financial aid amounts to more than 150 billion USD, only some portion of that comes in the form of grants (financial aid, which does not need to be repaid).
Have a look at the below video, which explains the types of federal financial aid in more detail and also offers some insights into federal loan options:

Private Financial Aid

Scholarship money in this category is awarded by non-profit organizations and communities, such as private corporations, religious or cultural organizations.
With more than 10% of financial aid coming from this segment, there are plenty of potential opportunities to look into.

Institutional Financial Aid

And finally, institutional financial aid is awarded by colleges itself and includes three types of financial aid; one of them athletic financial aid:

  1. Athletic Financial Aid
    Depending on the division the schools' teams are competing in and depending on the specific sport, a set maximum amount of scholarship money is available to the teams' head coaches. Note that some divisions award athletic scholarship money (NCAA D1, D2, NAIA, NJCAA), whereas others don't (NCAA D3). Once you get in touch with college coaches, presenting them with your level of play, you will get a feel for their interest very quickly. Do you fit in the team athletically and if so, what scholarship portion would the coach be willing to award to you? Depending on the school, the coach will also know whether you might be able to qualify for academic scholarship money:
  2. Academic Financial Aid
    Many schools have set criteria that would need to be fulfilled by applicants in order to qualify for this kind of financial aid. The criteria are usually a mix of GPA, SAT/ACT scores and other academic merits, whereas TOEFL scores might be used for assessing Internationals.
    Depending on school, receiving academic financial aid may be more selective or less selective.
  3. Need-Based Financial Aid
    The third option within institutional financial aid is of need-based characteristic and applies similar criteria as the above-described FAFSA. Whereas FAFSA is only available to U.S. citizens*, need-based financial aid by colleges may also be available to international applicants.
    Once the dialogue between prospects and college coaches proceeds, schools' admissions offices are included in the dialogue and instrumental in determining your families' financial needs.

We recommend you have a look at three other editions of our Friday Scholarship Guide, which help you understand the institutional financial aid opportunities a little better:

Hopefully, you have come to a bit better understanding of how things work when it comes to securing scholarships and grants for your education. Unless you are one of the absolute top athletes, do not rely on making it work with a sport scholarship alone ...

Give us a follow on Facebook or Twitter or sign up for the newsletter on the right side to not miss out on any college sports-related news in the future!
And for the tennis players among you: are you ready to get your search for financial aid from colleges started? Then get yourself in the best position for doing so by signing up with a free recruiting profile here on Smarthlete. Coaches are already waiting to have a look at you!

*Non-U.S. citizens may also qualify depending on set criteria. Please refer to the FAFSA website for more information.