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Women’s College Track and Field Scholarship Standards

Coaches award women’s track and field scholarships at the NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 levels, as well as at NAIA schools and junior colleges. All of these programs use the equivalency model, meaning coaches distribute their funds across multiple athletes, making full-ride scholarships rare. Even though NCAA Division 3 programs can’t award athletic scholarships, coaches can work with the admissions department to create financial aid packages made up of grants, academic scholarships, need-based aid and merit-based scholarships.

In this section, we explain the women’s track and field scholarship standards, including what track recruiting times college track coaches look for when awarding scholarships. Families can use these times and marks as a guideline to help them build a realistic target list and reach out to college coaches at programs where they can be a favored recruit.

Women’s track and field scholarship limits by division level

For track and field student-athletes looking to compete at the next level, there are more than 1,000 colleges across the country that offer track and field programs. Not all offer athletic scholarships, however. Want to know what college track coaches look for? Here’s a breakdown of the NCAA track and field scholarship limits, along with the NAIA and NJCAA division levels for both indoor track and field and outdoor track and field:

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Women’s indoor track and field scholarship limits by division level

Division Level Number of Teams Average Team Size Scholarships Limit Per Team Scholarship Limit Type
NCAA D1 332 39 18 Equivalency
NCAA D2 196 31 12.6 Equivalency
NCAA D3 290 29 n/a n/a
NAIA 165 21 12 Equivalency
NJCAA 68 11 20 Equivalency
Totals 1,051 26    

The NCAA D1 Council adopted legislation that loosened regulation regarding need-based aid and academic scholarships that are not tied to athletic ability. Beginning August 1, 2020, track and field programs will not have any athletes’ need- and academic-based aid count against the mandated maximum athletic scholarship limit. Prior to this rule change, athletes had to meet certain criteria for their additional aid to not be counted against a team’s athletic scholarship limit.

Track and field 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. With school and family budgets being impacted by the coronavirus, this rule change should allow track and field programs that have the funds to extend more money to families and athletes that need it—especially at pricier private colleges.

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Women’s outdoor track and field scholarship limits by division level

Division Level Number of Teams Average Team Size Scholarships Limit Per Team* Scholarship Limit Type**
NCAA D1 338 39 18 Equivalency
NCAA D2 249 29 12.6 Equivalency
NCAA D3 320 28 n/a n/a
NAIA 201 21 12 Equivalency
NJCAA 109 11 20 Equivalency
Totals 1,745 25    

*Scholarship limits per team: This number represents the maximum number of scholarships a program is allowed to award each year. Because not all programs are fully funded, the true number of women’s track and field scholarships available varies from college to college. Ivy League schools do not award athletic scholarships but provide financial aid through academic scholarships. 

**Equivalency scholarship: Women’s track and field is an equivalency sport at both the NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 levels, which means coaches can divide scholarships up among several athletes as partial scholarships. For example, a D1 coach can split the 18 scholarships among 33 qualified athletes, offering a mix of partial and full scholarships depending on the recruit. The only limit is that the total of partial and full scholarships must be under the max scholarships per team limits.

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Division 1 women’s track and field recruiting standards

Event D1 Top D1 Low
60m 7.32 7.73
3000m 9:02.81 10:56.92
60mHH 8.31 8.83
Weight Throw 70'6" 50'10"
Pentathlon 4197 3049
100m 11.49 11.84
200m 22.78 23.9
400m 52.23 57.89
800m 2:07.54 2:15.30
1500m 4:12.77 4:42.15
1600m 4:32.84 5:02.56
5K XC 15:46.50 19:08.67
10,000m 33:14.56 43:50.99
100mH 13.51 14.05
400mH 59.92 1:01.33
3000m Steeple 9:49.87 12:39.31
High Jump 5'10" 5'3"
Pole Vault 14'2" 12'
Long Jump 21'1" 18'6"
Triple Jump 43'3" 39'6"
Shot Put 56' 42'5"
Discus 176'9" 132'6"
Hammer 208'5" 143'1"
Javelin 173'4" 115'7"
Heptathlon 5748 4470

Find more Division 1 track and field standards here:

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Division 2 women’s track and field recruiting standards

Event D2 Top D2 Low
60m 7.58 8.13
3000m 9:31.71 13:45.21
60mHH 8.79 10.24
Weight Throw 61'9" 44'6"
Pentathlon 3702 2150
100m 11.97 12.9
200m 24.26 25.04
400m 55.11 59.55
800m 2:09.22 2:34.55
1500m 4:27.39 5:16.44
1600m 4:47.55 5:34.89
5K XC 17:00.35 21:10.58
10,000m 35:08.56 44:25.68
100mH 13.72 15.96
400mH 1:00.98 1:10.75
3000m Steeple 10:27.35 14:11.56
High Jump 5'7" 5'
Pole Vault 12'6" 9'6"
Long Jump 19'9" 16'10"
Triple Jump 40'4" 36'
Shot Put 50' 38'8"
Discus 161'5" 116'
Hammer 181'5" 155'4"
Javelin 145'6" 96'10"
Heptathlon 4974 3679

Find more Division 2 track and field standards here:

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Division 3 women’s track and field recruiting standards

Event D3 Top D3 Low
60m 7.77 8.86
3000m 9:44.34 11:08.42
60mHH 9.04 9.93
Weight Throw 56'1" 41'2"
Pentathlon 3431 2109
100m 12.34 13.26
200m 25.39 27.04
400m 55.64 1:01.36
800m 2:11.51 2:30.72
1500m 4:33.98 5:08.80
1600m 4:53.75 5:18.76
5K XC 17:25.67 21:31.71
10,000m 36:37.99 44:33.39
100mH 14.39 18.54
400mH 1:01.31 1:10.66
3000m Steeple 10:41.30 12:47.78
High Jump 5'7" 4'8"
Pole Vault 12' 9'6"
Long Jump 18'8" 16'6"
Triple Jump 38'6" 33'9"
Shot Put 45'1" 35'
Discus 146'1" 112'4"
Hammer 175'5" 131'7"
Javelin 131'5" 103'1"
Heptathlon 4487 3182

Find more Division 3 track and field standards here:

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NAIA women’s track and field scholarship standards

Event NAIA Top NAIA Low
60m 7.76 8.58
3000m 10:09.34 11:31.56
60mHH 8.93 10.25
Weight Throw 55'6" 42'3"
Pentathlon 3391 2030
100m 12.18 13.01
200m 24.82 26.47
400m 56.74 59.59
800m 2:15.23 2:41.56
1500m 4:35.38 5:45.44
1600m 4:55.99 6:05.32
5K XC 17:53.89 23:53.89
10,000m 38:15.44 49:49.67
100mH 14.85 18.68
400mH 1:04.53 1:14.47
3000m Steeple 11:07.25 12:55.88
High Jump 5'6" 4'4"
Pole Vault 12' 10'
Long Jump 18'9" 17'2"
Triple Jump 37'9" 32'3"
Shot Put 44'5" 32'5"
Discus 139'6" 100'2"
Hammer 168'2" 80'9"
Javelin 130'6" 78'4"
Heptathlon 4465 3199

Find more NAIA track and field standards here:

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College track and field recruiting standards 

Coaches set benchmarks for recruits, known as track and field scholarship standards, which represent the general baseline that student-athletes need to meet in order to obtain a track and field scholarship. Of course, there are many other factors that coaches take into consideration, such as academic standing. But as coaches make scholarship decisions; they verify the recruit can meet or exceed the scholarship standard of their program. Remember, the more points that an athlete can earn at meets, the more likely they are to earn a scholarship. 

Keep in mind, though, that scholarship standards aren’t universal across divisions, and each school has its own set of standards. For example, the University of North Carolina and Harvard University are both NCAA Division 1 programs, but their benchmarks differ slightly. Take the 100-meter dash: North Carolina lists 11.75 seconds, while Harvard looks for recruits who can run it in 12.20 seconds.  

Recruits should use these standards to better understand where they can make an impact and help them create their list of target schools. Coaches award scholarships to athletes who can earn points right from the get-go, so families should research scholarship standards for every school on their target list. 

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Track and field walk-on standards

Walk-on standards represent the minimum times, heights or distances coaches expect an athlete to have on their teams. There are two kinds of walk-on athletes in college sports: a preferred walk-on or a non-recruited walk-on. Preferred walk-ons are recruited by the college coach and go through the recruiting process like other student-athletes. They are guaranteed a roster spot on the team, however, they don’t receive athletic aid. Non-recruited walk-ons typically try out for the team, and they also won’t receive athletic aid.

Walk-on standards vary at each program, much like the recruiting and scholarship standards. Many programs that list their recruiting standards online also include their walk-on standards and which factors go into them. For example, at the University of Alabama, walk-on standards for Alabama residents are more lenient than those for out-of-state walk-ons. Typically, the walk-on standards at high tier programs are comparable to the women’s track and field scholarship standards of a lower tier program in the division above.

Walking on to an NCAA Division 1 track and field college can be tough. There are two ways a recruit can walk-on. First, they can be recruited by the coach as a preferred walk-on. This means they are guaranteed a spot on the roster and the college coach wants the recruit them but doesn’t have a scholarship for them. On the other hand, unrecruited walk-ons are not actively recruited by the coach and instead they participate in an open tryout for a chance to make the roster. In most cases, the student-athlete qualifies for admission to the school and communicates with the coach before the tryout.

To be successful, student-athletes need to meet (and exceed) the track and field walk-on standards for that specific program. Think about it this way—the walk-on standard reflects a recruit’s worst PR. Because walk-on standards vary from program to program, it’s best to visit the school’s athletic website and see what criteria the coaches are looking for in their walk-on athletes. Walking on to a college track team could be the perfect path for someone who, more than anything, wants to attend their dream school, or see how much better they can get by competing at the highest level possible. 

Athletes may consider walking on at a program because the academics and school-size better match their preference, or they want to compete at the highest level possible.

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How to get a track and field scholarship 

College coaches prioritize scholarships for recruits who can make an impact right away and score points at meets. Student-athletes need to target divisions where their scores don’t just align with the standards, but where they stand out. For example, a student-athlete’s times might meet the standards of a NCAA Division 1 school, but they can potentially earn more scholarship money at the Division 2 level where they might make a bigger impact. Of course, this depends on the school’s recruiting budget. So, the best way to understand a coach’s recruiting needs is to establish a relationship with them and learn more about their recruiting standards. 

Additionally, there are steps all recruits can take to secure track and field scholarships:

  • Post athletic profiles online. It’s important for recruits to provide coaches with organized records of their times, statistics, academic information and track and field recruiting videos.
  • Excel academically. The NCAA Eligibility Center determines the academic eligibility and amateur status for all NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 athletes. 
  • Be proactive. Start by sending an introductory email that includes your online profile, best times, academic information, and personal interest in the program. NCAA Division 1 and 2 coaches can’t reach out personally until June 15 after an athlete’s sophomore year, but they’re reviewing online profiles and evaluating athletes before this time.

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How do colleges use track and field scholarships?

Women’s track and field is an equivalency sport, which means coaches divide their allotted number of scholarships per team among any number of athletes. For example, Division 1 coaches can award a maximum of 18 total scholarships across their rosters each season. With the average D1 track and field team having 33 athletes on the roster, most coaches offer partial scholarships to some of their athletes. This also depends on how well-funded a program is; some coaches have less than the 18 scholarships available. View some of the best colleges for track and field scholarships

Coaches tend to award scholarship money to athletes who hit recruiting or scholarship standards in multiple events—for instance, a sprinter who is also a hurdler—or to athletes who compete in certain events. Some schools focus on specialty athletes, such as pole vaulters, while others highly value a distance runner who can also compete on cross country. Outside of athletics, coaches will also consider whether a potential recruit can meet the academic requirements for admission and their capacity to remain academically eligible once in school and graduate within a certain time-frame.

In general, the best way to learn more about a college’s recruiting needs is to establish a relationship with the coach and study the team’s roster.

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How do college coaches decide which recruits will get a scholarship?

Coaches tend to give athletic scholarships based on a recruit’s performance in individual or multiple events:

  • Sprinters who show an ability to compete and score across multiple events are often prioritized athletic aid. Coaches are willing to work on technique and form as long as a recruit is fast.
  • Middle distance runners with good biomechanics and top-end speed should be comfortable trying different events at the college level, as they may be asked to run cross country.
  • Distance runners will be recruited based on how well their running style will fit in with a school’s training program. These recruits are assets in both indoor/outdoor programs, in addition to running cross country.
  • Throwers with good size, athleticism, and room to improve are a valuable addition to any team. Remember that college weights are heavier than in high school. Coaches look for strong shot or discus throwers who can put up high scores at meets. Also, a willingness to try out new events is a plus, as some specialty events like hammer and javelin are not as popular at the high school level.
  • Jumpers who can join a team and score points right away are invaluable—coaches look for athletes who have proven they can land good marks and will undoubtedly improve with year-round training.

Athletic scholarships are available at the NCAA D1 and D2, NAIA and junior college levels. The number of scholarships at a given program depends on a few factors, including how many athletes are committed to the current roster, whether the school is fully-funded and how the coach prefers to disperse their scholarship money.

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