Fully funded NCAA Division 1 and 2 women’s water polo programs can award the equivalent of up to eight full-ride scholarships per team. Unfortunately, most women’s water polo programs are not fully funded, which means student-athletes are competing for fewer than eight scholarship opportunities at each program. Ivy League institutions and Division 3 schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Instead, these institutions offer merit-based scholarships to student-athletes who meet certain academic standards.
College water polo coaches who do have scholarship money available to award are faced with the challenge of dividing their scholarship budget amongst current roster holders and recruits. Scholarship money is awarded to talented student-athletes who drive the team to the next level. College coaches typically award financial aid to current roster holders, not incoming freshmen. In this section, we outline the scholarship opportunities at each division level, review the NCAA eligibility requirements and share the colleges with water polo scholarships.
|Division Level||Number of Teams||Total Athletes in Divsion||Average Team Size||Scholarships Limit Per Team||Scholarship Limit Type|
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.
*Scholarship Limits Per Team: Each year, the NCAA gives college coaches a maximum number of scholarships that they can award to student-athletes. Only Division 1 and Division 2 programs that are fully funded have the budget to award the equivalent of eight full-ride scholarships. Due to a lack of funding, the majority of college coaches have less than eight scholarships to award current roster holders and recruits. This makes full-ride water polo scholarships extremely rare. Student-athletes attending Ivy League schools cannot receive an athletic scholarship, but they can receive an academic scholarship if they meet certain academic standards.
**Equivalency Scholarship: As an NCAA equivalency sport, water polo programs are given a scholarship budget based on the scholarship limit per team set by the NCAA. To award athletic scholarships, college coaches must divide up their scholarship budget amongst recruits and current roster players. With little funding available for college water polo programs, it is common for coaches to award partial funding to multiple athletes. For example, a water polo coach could divide the equivalent of eight scholarships in any portion among 15 water polo players.
Goalies and utility players are the most valuable and sought after positions in college water polo. These positions take priority when it comes to scholarship money because they demonstrate great versatility and directly impact scoring in the game. Regardless of the positions that a water polo athlete plays, here are a few tips that will better their chances of getting an athletic scholarship.
NCAA Division 1 water polo programs offer a maximum of eight athletic scholarships per team. The majority of NCAA Division 1 water polo programs are not fully funded and offer fewer scholarships than the eight maximum per team. International athletes are the most likely to receive a full ride to compensate for the cost of relocating.
Like Division 1 programs, NCAA Division 2 water polo programs are allotted the maximum of eight scholarships. These programs struggle with the same funding challenges as Division 1 programs, which means they generally have fewer than the maximum number of scholarships to offer recruits.
Merit-based scholarships are available to student-athletes who meet certain academic standards at the NCAA Division 3 level. Academic scholarship packages at a Division 3 schools have been known to provide student-athletes with better financial funding than athletic scholarships do at Division 1 and 2 institutions.
The NAIA does not place a limit on the number of scholarships coaches can award per team. Based on communication with the NAIA, NCSA experts feel it is safe to assume that the NAIA offers similar scholarship opportunities compared to the NCAA. NAIA scholarship numbers vary from program to program, meaning coaches can decide how to divide their scholarship budget.
Student-athletes must meet the NCAA academic eligibility requirements to be eligible to compete on an NCAA sponsored team. The NCAA determines eligibility by evaluating the athlete’s academics and amateurism status. The following three factors are used to determine academic eligibility: core course requirements, core course GPA and the NCAA sliding scale. Student-athletes must pass 16 core courses during high school. If a student-athlete does not pass all 16 courses, they are automatically not eligible to compete in the NCAA. The NCAA uses a sliding scale that combines a student-athlete’s SAT or ACT test scores and their GPA in the 16 courses to determine eligibility.
NCSA developed Power Rankings to help student-athletes and their families identify colleges with water polo scholarships that meet their academic, athletic, social and financial needs. We rank the top college water polo programs based on a variety of factors that are important to consider in the college selection process, including academics, size, location and cost. Below is a list of the top 10 NCAA women’s college water polo programs based on NCSA’s Power Rankings.
Most water polo athletes will receive a small partial athletic scholarship if they receive any financial funding through the water polo program at all. But student-athletes can still earn a spot on the team, even if they don’t receive a scholarship. Below we briefly describe each of the five different types of offers.
The best opportunity to negotiate a scholarship opportunity and get more money is to present other serious offers that the student-athlete has received from competitor programs as leverage. If student-athletes have a legitimate scholarship offer from a rival school, college coaches are more likely to award the athlete more funding.