NCAA Division 1 and 2 programs are allowed to offer no more than 4.5 scholarships per team, while Ivy League institutions and Division 3 schools only offer merit-based scholarships to student-athletes who meet certain academic standards. The reality of men’s college water polo is that not all programs are fully funded, which means some have fewer than 4.5 scholarships to offer and others have no scholarships to offer at all.
Programs that do offer scholarships have to make the hard decision of how to divide the scholarship budget across the entire roster. College coaches are looking to award financial aid to talented athletes who will help push the team to the next level and, in many cases, these athletes are current roster holders, not incoming freshmen. This section breaks down the scholarship opportunities at each division level, shares tips for how to get a water polo scholarship, explains the NCAA eligibility requirements and ranks the top schools for men’s water polo scholarships.
|Division Level||Number of Teams||Total Athletes||Average Team Size||Scholarships Limit Per Team*||Scholarship Limit Type**|
*Scholarship limits per team: This is the maximum number of scholarships that the NCAA allows a program to award student-athletes each year. Only fully funded Division 1 and Division 2 programs award 4.5 scholarships. The majority of water polo programs are not fully funded, so most college coaches have an even smaller scholarship budget to award student-athletes. Full-ride scholarships in water polo are extremely rare due to the lack of program funding. Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships but instead award financial aid through academic scholarships.
**Equivalency scholarship: Water polo is an NCAA equivalency sport, which means college coaches are given a pool of scholarship money based on the scholarship limit per team to divide up amongst recruits and current roster players. With only 4.5 full-ride equivalent scholarships to work with, water polo coaches typically award partial funding to multiple athletes. For example, a water polo coach could divide the equivalent of 4.5 scholarships in any portion among nine water polo players.
The NCAA D1 Council passed new rules that loosened regulation regarding need-based aid and academic scholarships that are not tied to athletic ability. Starting August 1, 2020, water polo teams will not have athletes’ need- and academic-based aid count against the maximum athletic scholarship limit. Before this rule change, athletes had to meet certain criteria for their additional aid to not be counted against a team’s athletic scholarship limit.
Water Polo teams will still have a maximum athletic scholarship cap, but student-athletes can seek to stack need-based aid and academic scholarships on top of their athletic scholarship. With school and family budgets being impacted by the coronavirus, this rule change allows water polo programs to potentially extend more money to families and athletes that need it—especially at pricier private colleges.
College coaches generally award scholarship money to positions that directly impact the scoring of the game and to those who can play multiple positions on offense and defense: goalies and utility players. These positions are widely considered to be the most valuable and sought-after in college water polo, but it takes more than just playing one of these positions to earn a scholarship. NCAA Division 1 and 2 college coaches award scholarships to elite-level, all-star talent that will make an immediate impact on the team’s growth and success in their first season.
Whether a student-athlete plays one of these positions or not, here are a few tips to better the athlete’s chances of getting an athletic scholarship.
The NCAA allows a maximum of 4.5 scholarships per Division 1 team. Due to low funding, some NCAA Division 1 water polo programs have even fewer scholarships to offer than the 4.5 maximum. While full-ride scholarships are uncommon, international athletes have the best chance of receiving full funding to compensate for the cost of relocating.
NCAA Division 2 programs are allotted the same maximum number of scholarships as Division 1 programs. Division 2 programs also face the same funding challenges as Division 1 programs, which means the number of scholarships actually available varies from program to program.
Division 3 institutions offer merit-based scholarships, rather than athletic scholarships, to student-athletes who meet certain academic standards. Water polo athletes who are awarded an academic scholarship at a Division 3 schools will likely receive a better financial aid package than athletes who are awarded athletic scholarships at Division 1 and 2 institutions.
While California Junior Colleges do not allow athletic programs to award scholarships, these schools generally cost less than four-year institutions. The average cost of tuition and fees at a junior college is nearly $6,000 less than that of a public four-year college.
In order to play for an NCAA sponsored program, student-athletes must meet the NCAA’s eligibility requirements to determine their academic eligibility and amateurism status.
The below are factors in determining academic eligibility;
The NCAA takes GPA in the 16 core courses and uses a sliding scale that combines the athlete’s SAT/ACT test scores and their GPA in these core courses. If the athlete’s GPA meets the NCAA’s core course GPA requirements, then the athlete is eligible to compete.
Water polo is not a heavily funded NCAA sponsored sport, which means scholarship budgets are small, and competition is high. Student-athletes who are not awarded a full-ride or partial scholarship can still earn a spot on the team as a preferred walk-on, recruited walk-on or unrecruited walk-on. Below we briefly describe each of these four different types of offers.
Scholarship opportunities are available at every NCAA institution. Student-athletes competing at Division 1 and 2 programs are eligible for full or partial athletic scholarships, while student-athlete at Ivy League and Division 3 schools, who meet certain academic standards, are eligible for merit-based scholarships.
NCSA has created a Power Rankings report to help student-athletes and their families identify the best colleges with men’s water polo scholarships. This report analyzes a variety of factors, including academics, size, location and cost, to rank college water polo programs. Below is a list of the top 10 NCAA men’s college water polo programs: