Every athlete is different and every student athlete’s recruiting experience will be different. But no matter what sport you play, the schools you’re considering, or how much or how little you’re being recruited, there are three things about athletic scholarships that are the same for everyone. Before you start the ball rolling on your recruiting, make sure you know the following:

  1. Not Every Scholarship Is A Full-Ride Scholarship

Though it may not look that way in the media, not every athlete gets a full-ride scholarship when signing a national letter of intent. When you look at the numbers, full-ride scholarships are actually quite rare and most athletes will instead be offered a partial scholarship.

The scholarship offer you receive will hinge on the sport you play and your gender. For men, only Division I football and basketball offer full-ride scholarships. For women, full-ride scholarships are available to athletes competing in DI basketball, volleyball, tennis, and gymnastics. For everyone else in every other sport, partial scholarships are the norm.

The reason for the disparity is money. The NCAA classifies the sports that provide full-ride scholarships as “headcount sports.” That’s a fancy way of saying those sports make money and therefore fund full-ride scholarships for each team member.

Every other sport in every other division is considered an “equivalency sport.” That means those sports don’t necessarily make enough money to fully fund the team and, in the name of parity, each team is only allotted a set number of scholarships. As the scholarship number in equivalency sports is always less than the average roster size, coaches are allowed to offer partial scholarships to some or all team members. The total number of partial scholarships a coach offers can not exceed the limit for that sport.

  1. An Athletic Scholarship Isn’t A Four-Year Guarantee

Again, many student-athletes think that once they sign their letter of intent, their future is set for the next four years. The reality is that athletic scholarships must be renewed each year. While it’s usually a formality as long as you maintain good grades and good standing on the team, plenty of outside factors can also influence a scholarship renewal.

Those factors could include a coaching change, budget cuts, or simply a program deciding to bring in a transfer who could take your spot (and your scholarship). Whatever the reason, it’s all considered part of the process, as the NCAA has no regulations that guarantee any scholarship for four years.

  1. In Reality, No Athletic Scholarship Is Guaranteed

Though the NCAA says athletic scholarships can’t be revoked due to injury or other factors, there are no NCAA regulations that specifically forbid it. It doesn’t happen every day, but if you’re a student-athlete in good standing, academically and athletically and a coach does decide to revoke your scholarship, odds are he or she will be able to find a loophole to do so.

In addition, now that athletes in every sport can take advantage of the one-time transfer rule, many coaches are willing to revoke existing scholarships to make room for transfers. The upside is, if your scholarship is indeed revoked, you can enter the transfer portal as well, and hopefully find a comparable or better opportunity at another school.

Rather than discouraging you, knowing these three things about athletic scholarships will hopefully help you make a better decision. To do that, think about your sport and where you might want to compete at the next level. Then look at the scholarship situation for your sport. Once you do that, you can have a better understanding of what lies ahead in your recruiting process. And having that understanding can help you make a better decision about your future.

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