Every high school student-athlete dreams of landing a full-ride scholarship to compete in college. However, unless you’re a male playing Division I football or basketball, or a female who plays basketball, volleyball, tennis, or gymnastics, it’s most likely that you may only be offered a partial scholarship. So, while a true, full-ride scholarship pays for everything, not all partial scholarship offers are created equal. To know what you’re being offered, and to help make your college choice easier, consider these tips to evaluate any partial offers you do receive. 

Know The Terminology

Cost of Attendance (COA) – When evaluating a partial scholarship, the first thing to understand is the cost of attendance (COA) at that school. The COA takes into account tuition and fees, books and supplies, and room and board. Knowing each school’s COA is hugely important when evaluating a partial scholarship offer. 

Tuition and Fees – As tuition and fees are usually the biggest expense in the COA, it is also the most important element of any scholarship offer. The best partial scholarship offers will be those that pay for the most tuition and fees. 

Books and Supplies – While everyone knows what textbooks and supplies are, the prices will vary based on your major and the classes you take. On average, the cost of books and supplies was almost $1,300 for the 2021-22 academic year. 

Room and Board – Room and board is your housing and food cost. This could cover your on-campus housing with a school cafeteria meal ticket or be used to subsidize your off-campus rental apartment or house. The cost of room and board will vary greatly based on the schools you’re considering. 

Know The Scholarship Types

Percentage of COA Scholarships – For many student-athletes, the percentage of COA scholarships is the most common type of partial scholarship. Depending on the sport, a college coach may try to offer each player on the team the same percentage of COA scholarship. As a simple example, if a Division I baseball coach has a 27 player roster, but can only offer the equivalent of 11.7 scholarships, then that coach could offer each player a scholarship that would cover 43% of his COA. If the COA at that school was $30,000 a year, then that partial scholarship covering 43% of the COA would be worth $12,900.

Flat Rate Scholarships – Rather than a partial scholarship that may cover a given percentage of the COA, a flat rate scholarship is, as the name implies, a simple award offered to a recruit to apply to some element of his or her college costs. A simple example might be an offer of a flat rate scholarship of $10,000 to apply toward the cost of room and board during the school year.

Percentage of Component Scholarships – Comparable to a percentage of COA scholarship, a percentage of component scholarship only covers a partial amount of one particular component or area of tuition and fees, room and board, or books and supplies. For example, a percentage of component scholarship may be offered that will only pay for 60% of your room and board, which would leave you and your family responsible for the other 40%, as well as the costs of tuition, fees, books, and supplies. 

Compare Apples To Apples

So, now that you know the terminology and scholarship types, apply that to any partial scholarship offers you might receive. The most important factor to consider at each school is the cost of attendance. Knowing the COA can help you determine the true value of any partial offer you do receive. And that can help you and your family understand the college costs you’ll have to cover that a partial scholarship won’t.

For example, let’s say College A offers you a partial scholarship covering 50% of the COA while College B offers a scholarship that would only pay for 40% of its COA. Outwardly, the 50% scholarship appears to be more valuable. But that’s where true COA comes in.

If the COA at College A is $40,000 a year, then that partial, 50% scholarship means you or your family will be responsible for $20,000 in college costs. However, if the COA at College B is $20,000 a year, then that 40% scholarship offer would only be worth $8,000, but would also require you and your family to cover $12,000 a year. The COA at every school is different, but for comparing scholarship offers, understanding the COA and the percentage you and your family will have to pay is hugely important. 

One other thing to consider is that, in many cases, a coach or a college may assemble a scholarship package comprised of athletics, academics, and or need-based scholarships. Make sure you know all the options, and their values, as you evaluate each school and any offers you receive. 

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