College coaches recruit the top 3% of high school gymnasts in the country. Even though the competition is tough, landing a roster spot and gymnastics scholarship isn’t impossible. There are over 1,000 college gymnasts at NCAA schools and 762 gymnastics scholarships available. However, these scholarships are different at every division level.
In Division 1, college coaches offer head count scholarships, which are full rides. Division 2, on the other hand, awards equivalency scholarships. These coaches have a certain amount of athletic aid and distribute it to as many athletes as they want, so usually gymnasts at this level receive partial scholarships. While Division 3 can’t technically offer athletic scholarships to student-athletes, more often than not these college coaches provide appealing financial packages in the form of academic aid, grants, and need-based aid. Read on for more information on how to get a gymnastics scholarship.
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As a student-athlete, it’s important to understand the different types of college gymnastics scholarships available. NCAA Division 1 schools award head count scholarships, which are full ride scholarships. Each Division 1 program offers 12 head count scholarships per academic year. Division 2 programs provide equivalency scholarships. This means that coaches have an allocated amount of aid and they’re allowed to distribute it to as many athletes as they want. Therefore, full rides are less common in Division 2 and most gymnasts receive partial athletics.
The truth is that your options are pretty limited when it comes to getting NCAA gymnastics scholarships. There are only 81 NCAA gymnastics programs in the country—62 of which are Division 1 and 5 are Division 2. That means there are just over 1,000 college gymnasts competing for 762 scholarships. But even though the competition is tough, landing a roster spot isn’t impossible.
The first step to understanding your chances of getting a scholarship for gymnastics is to know the qualifications coaches are looking for at each division level. They typically aim to recruit gymnasts who are a Level 10 or higher, excel in several events and meet their scoring baseline. See the specific requirements and learn more about the college gymnastics levels.
Most elite Division 1 gymnasts were once in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic program and competed as Level 10s or elite before going to college. College gymnastics meets are similar to Level 10, with similar requirements and scoring systems, which is why these coaches turn their attention to those gymnasts.
Outside of athletic ability, academics play a huge factor in college recruiting. When recruits have similar skills athletically, coaches heavily weigh their grades and academic history to narrow down their list of prospects. In fact, the NCAA requires that every potential college-athlete be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Recruits need to maintain a minimum GPA in 16 core courses and pass a sliding scale, which factors in standardized test scores.
Outside of eligibility, though, coaches seek out recruits who excel in the classroom because they tend to have an easier college transition. They’re typically more independent and manage their time well, which is essential for Division 1 athletes who train year-round.
There are 66 NCAA colleges with gymnastics scholarships—62 at the Division 1 level and 5 at Division 2. Division 1 schools only offer full rides, which are also known as head count scholarships. Each team can award 12 head count scholarships per academic year. Division 2 college coaches provide equivalency scholarships, meaning they divide their athletic aid among several athletes on the team. That’s why partial scholarships are more common at this level. While each 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 some you should keep in mind as you progress on your recruiting journey:
NCAA Division 1 gymnastics scholarships are hard to come by. Each college awards 12 head count scholarships, which are full ride scholarships. With 62 Division 1 gymnastics teams across the country, there are a total of 732 Division 1 scholarships available. After the 12 scholarships have been awarded, additional athletes can walk on to the team but aren’t eligible for athletic aid. Coaches at this level recruit the very best high school gymnasts in the country who compete at a Level 10 or higher.
Division 1 coaches are extremely selective when offering scholarships for gymnastics. The key is finding colleges where you can make an impact right away. College coaches prioritize scholarships to their strongest performers, so if you don’t align with the current roster, you’re not going to stand out to that coach. Division 1 gymnasts rank nationally and consistently place well in prestigious competitions, such as national, international and regional competitions. They are Level 10 or elite gymnasts, some of which were once in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic program. More often than not, they excel in several disciplines, scoring 9.900 or higher.
Most Division 1 college coaches find recruits through elite gymnasium training centers around the country. Training at these types of gyms and scores and rankings at top-tier USA Gymnastics meets are heavily factored into their recruiting process. They rarely evaluate high school scores and performances or AAU meets.
Another way to get evaluated by a college coach is to attend college-run summer gymnastics camps. Several Division 1 gymnastics colleges offer 3-day high performer camps, but most are invite-only. That’s why it’s important to be proactive in the recruiting process, and really—the earlier, the better. Some Division 1 coaches review online evaluations as early as 8th grade, and most verbal offers are made during the summer after sophomore year when coaches can personally reach out to recruits. This means the majority of recruiting happens during freshman year.
The best thing you can do as a recruit is research schools that match your athletic and academic needs, and contact coaches at those schools, whether it’s calling, emailing or using social media. Even though college coaches can’t contact student-athletes until June 15 after their sophomore year, student-athletes are allowed to reach out at any point. This means you can send coaches your recruiting profile and a recruiting video to get an initial evaluation. You can also lean on your club coach to help you build a realistic target list of schools.
NCAA Division 2 colleges do provide gymnastics scholarships. However, unlike Division 1, they aren’t head count scholarships. Instead, these programs offer equivalency scholarships, meaning Division 2 college coaches are allowed to divide their athletic aid among several gymnasts on their team. For this reason, most gymnasts receive partial scholarships and full rides are not common at the Division 2 level. It’s also important to note that Division 2 gymnastics scholarships are extremely competitive because there are only 5 total Division 2 gymnastics programs in the country.
NCAA Division 3 schools can’t offer athletic scholarships. However, these colleges do leverage other types of aid, such as academic scholarships, merit-based aid and grants, to create appealing scholarship packages. These schools tend to be smaller, private institutions, so they have other funds available for student-athletes. In fact, 82 percent of Division 3 athletes do receive some form of aid. Recruits with excellent test scores and a high GPA will benefit the most from Division 3 scholarships.
Every potential NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 college-athlete is required to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center and submit their transcripts and SAT/ACT scores. Plus, they also have to answer questions about their amateur status at the end of their senior year. The NCAA Eligibility Center establishes academic requirements that every potential college-athlete must meet in order to secure a roster spot. The requirements differ slightly between Division 1 and Division 2, but in general, recruits must maintain a minimum GPA in 16 core courses throughout high school, and pass the NCAA Sliding Scale, which factors in the student-athlete’s standardized test score. Learn more about the NCAA Eligibility Requirements.
NCAA Division 1 college coaches offer 12 head count scholarships—aka full rides—each academic year. Once these scholarships are distributed, no other athletic aid can be awarded. With the average Division 1 roster being 18 athletes, about one-third of the gymnasts are considered walk-on athletes. In other words, walk-on gymnasts are guaranteed a roster spot but aren’t eligible for athletic aid. Most of these athletes are actually actively recruited by college coaches, just as the other athletes on the team. In order to walk-on to a college gymnastics team, you need to follow the same recruiting journey as scholarship gymnasts: Be a Level 10 gymnast or higher, compete in national competitions, attend college camps, create a recruiting video, and proactively reach out to college coaches.
Student-athletes interested in securing a gymnastics scholarship need to do their research and understand all of their options to find a school where they’ll succeed athletically and academically. Plus, there are several other factors, such as location, size and cost, that are important to consider when making the college decision.
Remember, even though NCAA Division 1 and 2 schools are the only programs that can offer athletic scholarships, Division 3 schools can create competitive scholarship packages made up of grants, need-based aid, merit scholarships and academic scholarships. That’s why it’s important to keep all your options open to better understand which schools will offer you the most competitive package. Here’s a quick look at the top gymnastics programs in the country:
For more help in your research, view our complete list of colleges with gymnastics scholarships.