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How to Get a Scholarship for Women’s Basketball

There are more than 400,000 women’s high school basketball players—and only 1.2% of them will go on to compete at the NCAA Division 1 level. Even though the competition is tough, landing a scholarship isn’t impossible. While Division 1 college coaches offer headcount scholarships, meaning each player gets a full ride, NCAA Division 2, NAIA and JUCO programs award equivalency scholarships. Coaches at these levels have a pool of athletic aid and they can distribute it to as many athletes as they want, so in some cases, student-athletes receive partial scholarships. Division 3 college coaches can’t offer athletic scholarships, but they still provide appealing financial packages that can cover a bulk of college costs.

Number of women's college basketball scholarships by division level

Division Level Number of Teams Total Athletes in Divsion Average Team Size Scholarships Limit Per Team Scholarship Limit Type
NCAA D1 349 5,588 16 15 Headcount
NCAA D2 311 4,826 15 10 Equivalency
NCAA D3 442 6,675 15 - N/A
NAIA 235 3,757 17 8 Equivalency
Other 4 year 77 916 11 - N/A
JUCO 391 4,910 13 15 Equivalency
Other 2 year 141 1,633 12 - N/A
Totals 1,946 28,305 14.4

When it comes to basketball scholarships, it’s important to understand the difference between a headcount scholarship and an equivalency scholarship. In NCAA Division 1, student-athletes receive headcount scholarships, which are full rides. Coaches can give a maximum of 15 full-ride scholarships to 15 athletes and they can’t distribute that money any other way. Division 2, NAIA and JUCO levels, on the other hand, offer equivalency scholarships. Coaches are given a pool of scholarship funds and they can distribute it to as many athletes as they want. Therefore, depending on the program, some athletes will receive partial scholarships at these levels. 

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How to get a women’s basketball scholarship 

Every coach has a specific set of criteria they look for when recruiting student-athletes. Here are the most important aspects families should keep in mind throughout their recruiting journey—and how to get a Division 1 basketball scholarship: 

  1. Compete at the highest level possible: To accurately assess a recruit’s ability to compete in college, coaches want to see them play against high-ranked athletes from across the country. That’s why AAU is so popular among top-tier programs—it provides recruits with a chance to play national elite teams. However, this level of AAU is the most expensive as recruits are often required to travel to several tournaments.
  2. Compete in the summer during live periods: Scheduling conflicts make it difficult for college coaches to watch recruits play in-person during the regular season. So, they turn to live periods. These stretches in the offseason allow coaches to hit the road and scout several players at once. Bottom line: playing in front of college coaches in the summer is essential.
  3. Attend elite camps: In addition to tournaments, college coaches also evaluate recruits at elite camps. These events, which can be invitation only, attract top talent and college coaches from across the country. Student-athletes should establish relationships with college coaches before attending a camp to improve their chances of being evaluated in person.  
  4. Excel academically. Grades and test scores matter to college coaches. First, for divisions that offer equivalency scholarships, academic aid can ease the burden on the coach to provide athletic aid. More importantly, it speaks to a recruit’s character. Coaches know that students who work hard in the classroom are responsible, independent and will have a smoother college transition than those who don’t. 
  5. Create a highlight film. The best way to secure an in-depth and in-person evaluation is by sending coaches a highlight video and game film. A highlight video acts as a first impression—it’s a quick way to show coaches a snapshot of the student-athlete’s skill set.
  6. Be proactive. Despite what families may think, coaches don’t simply discover recruits. This is especially important in basketball where student-athletes are still allowed to talk to coaches by phone when they’re the ones initiating the contact. Don’t wait: research, email and call coaches.
  7. Know your best college fit. Lastly, don’t forget to visit the college roster for every team on your target list. The last thing families want to do is waste their time emailing coaches at schools that aren’t a good fit. Here are a few things student-athletes should look at: the players who are in their position (are they seniors who are graduating?), athletic stats (how do they measure up?) and backgrounds (does the coach recruit from a particular region or tournament?).

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What are the chances of getting a women’s basketball scholarship? 

There are 28,305 women’s basketball athletes across 1,946 programs, from NCAA Division 1 to JUCO. The odds of a high school basketball player making a Division 1 basketball roster is 83:1, and the odds of a high school basketball player making any college roster is 15:1. 

Division 1 basketball is a headcount sport, so coaches have exactly 15 full-ride scholarships that the can award to 15 players. Additional players are considered walk-ons and don’t qualify for athletic aid. Division 2, on the other hand, is an equivalency sport, so coaches can award full scholarships or divide their funds among several athletes by offering partial scholarships. If we break down the scholarship opportunities to these two NCAA divisions, it comes out to 10,414 athletes competing for 8,345 scholarships. From an NAIA perspective, we’re talking 3,757 athletes competing for 1,875 basketball scholarships. JUCO offers the most opportunity as these programs can award a maximum of 15 scholarships per team and the average team size is 13 players.

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How many scholarships are there for D1 women’s basketball?

  • Division 1 women’s basketball scholarships per team: 15
  • Total number of D1 women’s basketball teams: 349
  • Average team size: 16 

We won’t sugarcoat it—NCAA Division 1 scholarships are hard to come by. Only 1.2% of high school athletes will compete at this level. Each Division 1 women’s basketball program can award 15 headcount scholarships. Division 1 basketball scholarships are full rides and cover all college costs, including tuition, housing, books, etc. After the 15 scholarships have been awarded, additional athletes on the team and considered walk-ons and aren’t eligible to receive athletic aid. 

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How to get a D1 women’s basketball scholarship

NCAA Division 1 coaches recruit early and we mean early—in some cases middle school. So, if a student-athlete is looking to land a scholarship at this level, they need to be on a coach’s radar before their junior year. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Athletic skill. Division 1 student-athletes are the best players on their AAU and high school teams. Elite Division 1 athletes rank nationally, such as making the ESPN Hoopgurlz Super 60 list. Only 1.2% of high school athletes go on to play Division 1 basketball.
  • AAU. Division 1 coaches typically find top recruits through AAU club teams as they roster top talent and compete nationally.
  • Summer tournaments and camps. Playing in tournaments over the summer is an important way of getting coach exposure. Another option is to attend an elite camp hosted by the college. Student-athletes want to make sure they’re picking camps where they fit athletically and academically to maximize their chances of being evaluated.
  • Excel academically. Remember that academics do matter to college coaches. The higher a recruit’s GPA and test scores, the more doors that will open for them.
  • Reach out to coaches. Student-athletes should create a highlight film, obtain game film, and create an online profile showcasing their stats and academic information. Then—and we can’t reiterate this enough—they need to contact college coaches. Send them an introductory email, follow up when it’s relevant and place phone calls (when recruits call coaches they’re allowed to talk over the phone as long as the recruit is the one initiating contact).

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How many D2 women’s basketball scholarships are there?

  • Maximum scholarships available per team: 10
  • Total number of D2 women’s basketball teams: 311
  • Average team size: 15 

NCAA Division 2 coaches can award a maximum of 10 women’s basketball scholarships per team. Unlike NCAA Division 1, these are equivalency scholarships. College coaches receive a pool of athletic aid and distribute scholarship money across as many athletes as they choose. Therefore, to maximize their funds, coaches may award partial scholarships instead of full rides. 

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How can D3 athletes get scholarships for women’s basketball?

  • Maximum scholarships available per team: 0
  • Total number of D3 women’s basketball teams: 442
  • Average team size: 15 

NCAA Division 3 basketball scholarships don’t exist—schools can’t offer athletic scholarships. However, they do leverage other types of aid the recruit might qualify for, such as academic scholarships, merit-based aid and grants, to create a competitive scholarship package. Division 3 is mostly made up of small private schools, so they tend to have these kinds of funds readily available. In fact, 82% of all Division 3 athletes receive some form of aid. Student-athletes with high test scores and a strong GPA will benefit the most from Division 3 scholarships.  

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How many scholarships can NAIA schools give for women's basketball? 

  • Maximum scholarships available per team: 8
  • Total number of NAIA women’s basketball teams: 235
  • Average team size: 17 

Previously, the NAIA was home to two women’s basketball divisions (Division 1 and Division 2); however, these two divisions are set to combine in the 2020–21 school year. When this happens, each team can award a maximum of eight scholarships. 

Furthermore, the NAIA will continue using the equivalency model where coaches receive a pool of athletic funds and decide how to distribute scholarships among athletes. Typically, to make the most of their recruiting efforts, coaches award multiple athletes on their team with partial scholarships. That does mean, though, that some student-athletes need to supplement with other types of aid, such as academic scholarships and need-based aid. 

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Junior college women’s basketball scholarships

  • Maximum scholarships available per team: 15
  • Total number of JUCO women’s basketball teams: 391
  • Average team size: 13

There are three divisions within the NJCAA, and only Division 1 and 2 can offer athletic scholarships to basketball players. Furthermore, Division 1 is the only division that can offer a full ride. Division 2 can cover tuition, fees and books, but they can’t pay for housing. In addition to JUCO basketball scholarships, both divisions will pay for an athlete’s transportation costs to and from the college by direct route once per year. 

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What are the scholarship requirements for women’s college basketball? 

All potential NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 college-athletes are required to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center and submit their transcripts and SAT or ACT test scores and answer questions pertaining to their amateur status. To officially secure a roster spot and athletic scholarship, student-athletes must meet the academic requirements and be cleared by the Eligibility Center.

The requirements differ slightly between Division 1 and Division 2, but the overall method for determining eligibility is the same: student-athletes must pass 16 core courses throughout high school, maintain a minimum GPA in these core courses and pass the NCAA Sliding Scale. Learn more about the specific Eligibility Center requirements to better understand the GPA and test scores needed to qualify.

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What are the best colleges for women’s basketball scholarships?

In the search for a scholarship, recruits need to prioritize schools based on the best athletic fit. Think about it this way—coaches offer scholarships to players who can make an impact right away. If a recruit’s athletic ability doesn’t quite match up, the coach is less inclined to award them with athletic aid.

To help your family get started, we’ve compiled a list of the best colleges for basketball scholarships across all the division levels. Recruits interested in these programs should visit the team’s roster to determine if they’re an athletic fit and learn more about the coach’s recruiting method, such as what tournaments and regions they recruit in. Here’s a look into the best colleges within each level: 

  • All basketball colleges: University of North Carolina, Stanford, UCLA, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of California, University of Virginia.
  • D1 women’s basketball colleges: University of North Carolina, Stanford, UCLA, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of California, University of Virginia.
  • D2 women’s basketball colleges: University of California—San Diego, Truman State University, Regis University, Point Loma Nazarene University, Bentley University, Grand Valley State University, St. Edward’s University, Western Washington University, Bellarmine University, California State University—Chico.
  • D3 women’s basketball colleges: Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Amherst College, University of California—Santa Cruz, Franklin & Marshall College, Carnegie Mellon University, Colorado College, Washington University in St. Louis, New York University, University of Chicago.
  • NAIA: Loyola University New Orleans, Indiana Wesleyan University, Taylor University, University of St. Thomas—Texas, Concordia University—Nebraska, University of Michigan—Dearborn, Asbury University, Aquinas College—Michigan, California State University Maritime Academy, University of California—Merced.
  • JUCO: Wabash Valley, Seward County, South Plains, Trinity Valley, Gulf Coast State, Tallahassee, Shelton State, Hutchinson, Florida SouthWestern State, New Mexico. 

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Are there full-ride scholarships for women’s basketball? 

NCAA Division 1 college coaches offer headcount scholarships, which are full-ride scholarships. They can offer a maximum of 15 athletic scholarships per team. NCAA Division 2, NAIA and JUCO programs, on the other hand, award equivalency scholarships, meaning coaches can distribute their athletic aid across several athletes. Therefore, you’ll often find student-athletes on partial scholarships at these levels, especially Division 2 and NAIA. Even though JUCO colleges offer equivalency scholarships, they have a higher maximum of scholarships (15 per team) and more likely offer full rides.

Keep in mind, though, that not all college basketball programs are fully funded. For example, a Division 2 coach can offer a maximum of 10 scholarships per team, but their budget may only allow for seven. The best way for families to fully understand their financial aid package opportunities is to connect directly with a coach. And the same goes for Division 3—even though Division 3 coaches can’t award athletic scholarships, they can still work with the admissions department to create appealing aid packages for student-athletes.

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