Financial Aid: The Basics

Just because you’re a standout athlete doesn’t mean that college will be completely paid for with an athletic scholarship. Very few college athletes earn a full ride, but there are other forms of financial aid available to help defer college costs, especially if you understand the FAFSA. NCSA answers a few questions about the importance of financial aid and how to get it.


Does an athletic scholarship ensure that all of my tuition and expenses are paid for?

Not necessarily. The stark reality is that full-ride athletic scholarships are extremely rare. According to the NCAA, only 2% of high school athletes are awarded athletics scholarships in college and very few of those are full scholarships. Big money Division I sports like football or basketball offer full rides, but smaller sports tend to spread scholarship money around between athletes.


How do I pay for college expenses if I’m only given a partial athletic scholarship?

If you don’t get a full athletic scholarship you’re still eligible for other financial aid. That’s why completing the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is essential. Federal Student Aid distributes more than $150 billion of federal financial aid each year, and it’s available to you even if you’re an athlete.


When should I complete the FAFSA?

You can apply as early as January 1 of your senior year. Many forms of financial aid are given on a first come first served basis, so completing the FAFSA as soon as you can gives you the best chance of getting some sort of financial aid.


What types are financial aid are available?


Need-based aid includes grants, low-interest loans, and work-study jobs.Grants are financial gifts that don’t require repayment. Student loans let athletes borrow money for college expenses at low interest rates. Work-study lets students earn money towards college expenses through jobs on or off campus. (Note: The time that work-study requires may not be ideal for most student athletes.)


Non need-based aid includes merit-based awards, and other scholarships not associated with athletics.These types of financial aid can be awarded based on a strong academic record, excellent community service and school involvement, or other special qualifications.


Are there other resources besides FAFSA to consider for financial aid?

Absolutely. Ask your high school guidance counselor about awards and scholarships that your high school has that you may not know about. You should also get in touch the financial aid department at the college you plan to attend to ensure that you’re not missing out any scholarship opportunities.


Are there ways to earn scholarships at the Division III level?

There are no athletic scholarships in Division III, but that doesn’t mean that financial aid isn’t available. Many Division III schools have additional need-based and merit-based financial awards to help defer the cost of college.

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