Athletic Recruiting Cost of College Financial Aid

Using A Scholarship Search Tool To Find The Right College

students sit in an empty auditorium after using a scholarship search
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(Flickr – Phil Roeder)

One thing will become crystal clear very early into your college search and recruiting process; there are so many schools out there. Large, small, near, far, public, private. Public or private. From size, to majors offered, to available academic and athletic aid – the differences and varying specifics can be unclear.

But we’re here to help.

One of the biggest messages we impress upon our student-athletes and their families is to keep an open mind when it comes to your collegiate athletic opportunities.

What we mean by this is just because you may not have been aware of a school or a program prior to your recruiting process doesn’t mean you should count that school out.

Let me translate that again.

Don’t overlook the smaller schools and NCAA divisions outside of DI. 80 percent of all roster spots for aspiring collegiate student-athletes fall outside of DI. This 80 percent includes both public and private colleges, which is why it’s important to cast your scholarship search wide and do your research about the specific types of school and athletic scholarship you could receive.

Private schools will have a smaller class size
  • Public: Average student-teacher ratio – 16:1
  • Private: Average student-teacher ratio – 7:1
Their sources of funding are radically different.
  • Public: Funded by the state, offering “in-state” and “out-of-state” tuition
  • Private: Self-funded through tuition, endowment, and donations
Those two factors, and more, translate to the average cost of schooling
  • Public: In-state, $9,139 // Out-of-state, $22,958
  • Private: $31,231

This means that athletic scholarship opportunities vary wildly among schools.

While public colleges may seem to cost less on paper, they actually also have less scholarship opportunities than private schools. A general rule-of-thumb when looking at a college’s sticker price is the higher the number, the more aid available to students and student-athletes.

Some private colleges have athletic teams, but no athletic scholarships. This is true for the Ivy League, where student-athletes, and the rest of the student body, are only eligible for merit-based need.

This does not mean you cannot get a scholarship to play. This simply means a scholarship would come by way of financial aid or an academic scholarship, rather than athletic. And there is still a lot of money to be given away to those who qualify.

About 2 percent of high school athletes will receive NCAA sports scholarships, and of those, the average scholarship is less than $11,000. To compare, Class of 2014 student-athletes who used NCSA Athletic Recruiting to help them find the right scholarship opportunity received more than $18,000 in scholarship and aid, and many of them received well into the $20k’s, depending on their sport.

Remember that there are only six sports that offer a full-ride: football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s gymnastics, volleyball, and tennis.

Look for the bottom line in your scholarship search.

Public or private, it’s most important to explore all options, and not to count a school or program out before really getting a feel for what it’s all about.

This is why we stress looking for the right fit in three different areas: academically, socially and athletically. A student-athlete with good grades will win out over an equally talented student-athlete with bad grades every day of the week for many reasons, but primary among them is that academic scholarships can help you attend a great school — if you have the grades.


If you have more questions about how you can use NCSA’s scholarship search tools or narrow down your choices of schools, our scouts can help. Get started with a recruiting profile.

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About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.