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Women’s College Rowing Scholarships

Women's rower

Earning a rowing scholarship to a prominent college is a tremendous achievement and many athletes and families will start their recruiting journey with this goal in mind. But athletes and families also need to consider that competition for athletic scholarships in women’s rowing is stiff and that there are other ways to receive financial aid for college. 

There are also many regulations about women’s rowing scholarships, including at what division levels they are offered, which Division 1 teams are excluded, what the limit on scholarships per team is, how scholarship amounts can be broken up by the coach and more. Athletic scholarships are only one way in which families can pay for a college education. Families should also factor in the total cost of college tuition at a particular school or how much academic and need-based aid they can secure.

With that said, there are certain milestones rowers can achieve on their club or high school team to get priority consideration for an athletic scholarship. A 2k erg time of 7:20 and under will immediately receive interest from college coaches. Rowing in a first varsity eight at the USRowing Youth National Championships will also garner attention. Being the stroke seat or top erg for your crew can also stand out, especially if it’s for a well-known club.

For rowers thinking about competing in college, considering the number of available scholarships and their financial benefit is an important part of the recruiting and selection process. Read on to learn more about women’s college rowing scholarships.

Are there women’s rowing scholarships?

Yes, athletes can find women’s rowing scholarships, but there is a lot of competition for these and full scholarships are reserved for only the top recruits. As an NCAA-governed sport, varsity women’s college rowing has regulations on the number of scholarships that schools can provide. Women’s rowing is an equivalency sport and programs at the Division 1 and Division 2 levels are allowed to provide partial or full scholarships until they reach the limit of total scholarships that can be offered per team. On the Division 3 level, there are no athletic scholarships, but academic scholarships and need-based aid can be secured. At the NAIA and junior college levels, athletic scholarships can potentially be offered, but this depends on a team’s budget, and there are not many women’s rowing teams found at these levels.

Teams that do not offer athletic scholarships still work with student-athletes and their families to secure financial aid, whether that is need-based aid or academic scholarships. This includes Division 3 women’s rowing teams and Division 1 teams in the Ivy League (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth and Columbia). Even if you do not receive athletic scholarship money, you can potentially receive a considerable financial aid package that offers just as much or more money than an athletic scholarship. That’s why pursuing an athletic scholarship at all costs should not be prioritized over figuring out what your overall financial assistance package can be and college costs will look like.

How many women’s rowing scholarships are there?

Athletic scholarships for women’s rowing are found at the NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 levels and break down like this:

The numbers show that not everyone rowing at the college level will have a majority of their college tuition covered by an athletic scholarship. Some athletes may earn a roster spot without any athletic scholarship money included, while top recruits may earn a full scholarship. At the end of the day, the coach has final say over how they break up the scholarship money that is budgeted for their team, and they may choose to spread it around more evenly or focus on securing full-ride scholarships for a handful of top recruits.

However, it is important to note that coaches at some colleges can help rowers secure academic scholarships and need-based aid, as well as bump up their application at the admissions office. For most athletes, rowing is not a path to big athletic scholarship dollars as much as it is a way to get the attention of top academic institutions.

The NCAA D1 Council adopted legislation that loosened regulation regarding need-based aid and academic scholarships that are not tied to athletic ability. Effective August 1, 2020, teams in equivalency sports like rowing will not have any athletes’ need- and academic-based aid count against a team’s maximum athletic scholarship limit. Prior to this rule change, athletes had to meet a set of criteria for their additional financial aid to not be counted against a team’s athletic scholarship limit.

Rowing teams will still have a maximum athletic scholarship cap, but student-athletes can seek to add as much need-based aid and academic scholarships as they qualify for. This rule change should allow rowing programs that have the funds to extend more money to families and athletes that need it—especially at pricier private schools with higher tuition.

Rowing scholarship erg times for women’s rowing

As far as women’s college rowing times go, there is no magical erg time that will score you an athletic scholarship because the school and athletic program that recruits are trying to join have varied standards. The bottom end for earning an athletic scholarship at the college level is likely under 8:00, but even this depends on a variety of factors and takes into account academics, prior experience, physical attributes and how much athletic scholarship money is currently tied up in a team’s roster.

As mentioned before, there are no athletic scholarships awarded by Division 3 or Ivy league (part of Division 1) colleges—though these colleges do help athletes secure other types of funds. So, a recruit with a 7:22 2k time rowing for Dartmouth would technically receive $0 in athletic scholarship money. That’s why it’s important to focus on researching your target list of colleges and keeping an open mind about which college can offer the best athletic, academic and financial fit.

Finding colleges that offer rowing scholarships

Rowing is an expensive sport with pricey equipment and significant travel expenses that include hauling shells to regattas on a trailer. Athletic budgets for teams can change, and coaches can also choose how much money to allocate for scholarships and how to disperse it. That’s why the best way to find colleges that offer rowing scholarships is to target Division 1 and Division 2 colleges, stay proactive in the college recruiting process and reach out directly to coaches.

To specifically find an athletic scholarship for women’s collegiate rowing; you’ll want to look at the list of women’s rowing colleges and look outside of Ivy League (a portion of Division 1) and Division 3 colleges because they don’t offer athletic scholarships. Instead, these colleges focus on helping secure need-based aid and academic scholarships. Top rowing programs like the University of Texas, University of California-Berkeley, University of Washington, Stanford University and Ohio State University recruit elite athletes aggressively, so these athletic scholarships are not easily earned. Here’s where recruits will find rowing scholarships:

For recruits looking to find athletic scholarship money, a great resource to use is NCSA’s Power Rankings of the Best.

How to get a women’s rowing scholarship

Athletic ability, good grades and test scores and diligence in the recruiting process are all integral to earning a rowing scholarship. Recruits will have to stand out both athletically and academically and will also need to research colleges that offer rowing scholarships and have an available budget. Top rowing programs like Brown, Yale and Harvard attract the top high school rowers in the country (and the world) even though they do not offer athletic scholarships as Ivy League colleges. Recruits looking for an athletic scholarship will have to target the right schools while maintaining standout grades and test scores, meeting the 2k standards for top tier colleges and reaching out to college coaches who are able to offer scholarship money.

Women’s coxswain scholarships

Simply put, coxswain scholarships are not common. There are fewer boat seats and roster spots available for coxswains than there are for rowers, and coaches will have to decide whether to offer athletic scholarship money to a rower or coxswain. Receiving a coxswain scholarship is not impossible, but coxswains should go into the college recruiting process with realistic expectations. 

How to get recruited for college rowing

Student-athletes looking at crew scholarships, who want to get strong recruiting attention, need to make sure that they will be a fit for colleges both by athletic and academic standards. This is especially important in rowing because a large portion of women’s rowing teams are located at colleges that have high academic standards. As a starting point, you’ll want to develop athletically by working hard on your team, whether that’s at the local rowing club or at your high school. Focus on improving your technique, putting in the extra hours to lower your 2k erg time and hopefully get a recommendation from your coach that you can pass along to college coaches. But in addition to your athletic focus, you’ll have to devote time to the recruiting process by targeting the right colleges, reaching out to college coaches and staying on top of the recruiting timeline.

When does the rowing recruiting process start?

Officially, D1 coaches are able to start communicating with recruits starting on June 15 after sophomore year. But if you want to get recruiting attention, you’ll need to start your recruiting process before then. The rowing recruiting process should begin freshman year when you start attending high school, so that you’re ready to communicate with college coaches by the time the June 15 date rolls around. In your first two years of high school, you should research schools, build a target list of colleges, train, maintain good grades, attend rowing camps if you can and potentially create a highlight video if your technique looks good.