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How to Get a College Cheerleading Scholarship

Women's cheer and stunt

Even though cheerleading scholarship opportunities vary from program to program, they’re still possible to obtain. Generally, the more competitive and established the cheerleading program is, the more funding they have for student-athletes. This section breaks down all the important aspects of cheerleading scholarships, from how to get one to which cheerleading colleges offer them.

Can you get a scholarship for cheerleading? Is cheer a sport?

In short, yes, cheer is a sport. However, it isn’t sanctioned by the NCAA, meaning there aren’t official recruiting regulations in place. That also means there’s less funding available for coaches at these programs, so you often won’t find full-ride scholarships for college cheerleading.  

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a college cheerleading scholarship. Many colleges provide scholarships worth $500 and $1,000 per year to compensate cheerleaders for their participation on the team. And as the sport has evolved over the last several years, more cheerleading scholarships are becoming available at top programs in the country. Usually the most competitive and recognized programs—those who place well at NCA or UCA championships—have the most funding.

But there’s no standard amount of aid across schools—the scholarship amount an athlete can receive at each college ranges from program to program. For example, the University of Hawaii is known for handing out full-ride scholarships to their athletes, while some schools provide stipends, scholarships based on GPA or a flat-rate amount, like $2,000 per academic year.

As recruits research the colleges they’re interested in, they should look into that program’s history to see if cheerleaders can receive athletic aid. Also, keep in mind that college cheerleaders often supplement any athletic aid they receive with other scholarships. For example, colleges may award academic scholarships and need-based aid to college athletes, creating competitive financial aid packages.

How to get a cheerleading scholarship

While each cheerleading coach has their own set of criteria they look for when recruiting student-athletes, they prioritize scholarships based on a variety of factors. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to landing a college cheerleading scholarship:

Full ride scholarships for cheerleading

Full ride scholarships are not common in college cheerleading. Because cheerleading isn’t a sanctioned sport, coaches in these programs don’t receive the same funding as other sports. Plus, because the average team size is so large, it’s very difficult for coaches to provide full-ride scholarships.

However, highly-competitive programs often have some funding available to award the top cheerleaders on their squads. One of the well-known programs in the country that does offer full-ride scholarships—both in state and out of state—is the University of Hawaii . They provide 12 to 14 full-ride scholarships per academic year. Generally, male cheerleaders have a better shot at landing a full-ride scholarship because some programs will designate a scholarship for male athletes on their team, and there tend to be fewer males than female cheerleaders on each squad.

But even though most programs don’t award full scholarships, several have small cheerleading scholarship budgets available that can bring down college tuition and cover costs like uniforms, dorm and book expenses. For example, at the University of Delaware, cheerleaders can earn up to $7,500 per academic year; the University of Kentucky awards a $2,500 scholarship to the cheerleader with the highest GPA each year; and the University of Central Florida has a handful of scholarships available for athletes, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per year. Plus, many schools cover travel and expenses to away games.

When recruits add these scholarships with those they will receive from the school, such as need-based aid or academic scholarships, they can significantly bring down their total college cost.

How hard is it to get a D1 scholarship for cheerleading?

Cheer scholarships often work like this: the more competitive the program, the more scholarship funding coaches have available. Therefore, receiving a Division 1 cheerleading scholarship is extremely competitive. Coaches often prioritize their scholarships to the cheerleaders on the team who have the most advanced skills. Some schools score cheerleaders during tryouts and then award the highest three scorers a scholarship.

To get a Division 1 cheerleading scholarship, you need to be able to make an impact on the squad right away, no matter the position. These coaches look for cheerleaders with elite tumbling, stunting, dance and jump skills. Plus, they highly take into consideration a recruit’s GPA. In fact, some college cheerleading scholarships are awarded solely based on an athlete’s GPA. Being able to compete at a high level, coupled with a solid academic background, will improve your chances of receiving a Division 1 scholarship. 

Lastly, male cheerleaders on co-ed squads are more likely to earn to a scholarship simply because colleges typically designate some scholarship money for male cheerleaders and there are fewer on the squad, so less competition overall. 

Cheerleading scholarship requirements

Student-athletes who compete in sanctioned NCAA sports must adhere to a set of eligibility requirements. These requirements include a minimum GPA and standardized test scores that must be met in order to compete. However, cheerleading is not a sanctioned sport, so athletes don’t need to be cleared by the eligibility center to receive a scholarship or land a roster spot.

That being said, all cheerleading colleges create their own academic requirements in order to qualify for their cheerleading scholarships. Most programs set the scholarship requirement at a GPA of 2.5 or higher. And many programs use grades as a motivator to receive more scholarship funding. For example, Kansas State University awards a bonus scholarship to athletes who have a 3.0 GPA or higher. 

Additionally, most programs require recruits to be in good standing based on the program’s eligibility requirements and code of conduct, including attending practice consistently.  

Cheerleading organizations that offer scholarships

Almost all college cheerleaders supplement their athletic scholarships with other forms of aid to bring down their total college cost. While they most commonly receive funding from the college, such as need-based aid and academic scholarships, another avenue they can explore is applying for scholarships through cheerleading organizations and professional associations. For example, USA Cheer, NCA, UCA, and the United States All Star Federation offer scholarships for student-athletes who want to pursue college cheerleading. Recruits can also turn to their local gyms and club teams to learn about any scholarship opportunities that might be offered.

What colleges offer scholarships for cheerleading?

Often ranging from $500 to $2,000, several colleges offer cheerleading scholarships to compensate their athletes for participating on the team. Generally, the most competitive schools that rank well in nationals are more likely to have funding available for college cheerleaders. Student-athletes interested in receiving a cheerleading scholarship should do their research to find schools where they’ll succeed both academically and athletically, as a recruit’s skillset and grades are highly factored into calculating scholarships opportunities.  

To help you in your research, we’ve compiled a list of colleges with cheerleading scholarships.

  1. University of Kentucky
  2. University of Alabama
  3. University of Central Florida
  4. Texas Tech University
  5. Oklahoma State University
  6. University of Louisville
  7. University of Mississippi
  8. University of Tennessee
  9. Mississippi State University
  10. Ohio State University

See the complete list here.

Best colleges for cheerleading scholarships

Simply put: the best colleges for cheerleading scholarships tend to be the top-ranked colleges in the country. Teams that consistently place at competitions and have a well-established program are more likely to have funding available for college cheerleaders.

That being said, many college cheerleaders have to supplement this funding with other types of aid to bring down the total college cost because the amount of athletic aid they can receive varies from program to program. It also depends on their skill set—the top three cheerleaders on each squad usually receive the most scholarship dollars.

To help you in your research, we’ve compiled a list of the best cheerleading colleges. Here’s a snapshot by division: 

Division 1:

  1. Stanford University
  2. University of North Carolina
  3. University of Florida
  4. University of Michigan
  5. Florida State University
  6. University of Georgia
  7. Harvard University
  8. Vanderbilt University
  9. University of California, San Diego
  10. University of California, Santa Barbara

Division 2:

  1. Yale University
  2. California State University, Long Beach
  3. University of Oregon
  4. Appalachian State University
  5. Southern Methodist University – SMU

Division 3:

  1. University of Illinois
  2. New York University
  3. University of South Carolina
  4. California Baptist University
  5. Florida International University

Junior College:

  1. Navarro College
  2. Trinity Valley Community College

Additionally, there are other resources available that help student-athletes identify scholarship opportunities: including Top Cheers search tool and Online Schools Center.