Ultimately, only one number matters

If your goal is an athletic scholarship to compete in water polo, know that you’ll be swimming in a deep talent pool. So, before you begin your recruiting process, think about some of the numbers below to help you find the school, and water polo program, that fits you best.

27, 8, 4.5

There are 27 NCAA Division I schools that offer men’s water polo, which is categorized as an equivalency sport. In Division II, there are only eight men’s water polo programs. While the average roster for DI and DII teams is 24 and 22 players, respectively, each team only has the equivalent of 4.5 scholarships available. That means full-ride scholarships for men’s water polo are very rare, as most players earn partial scholarships. While coaches can award partial scholarships in any manner they chose – as long as the total doesn’t exceed 4.5 – remember that if a DI coach awards an equal partial scholarship to every member of the team, it would only cover 18.75% of a player’s college expenses.

36, 13, 8

There are 36 schools that sponsor women’s water polo programs in Division I, while Division II has 13 programs. While the average roster size in DI and DII is 22 and 20 players, respectively, each program has the equivalent of eight scholarships to award. While that also makes full athletic scholarships a rarity, when compared to men’s water polo, it does allow women’s coaches at each level the opportunity to award slightly larger partial scholarships to team members.

122, 83, 45

In the United States, there are 122 colleges and universities that offer water polo programs. Of those 122 schools, 83 are in California. And that means, roughly two-thirds of your opportunities to compete in water polo are in California.

In addition, of those122 schools, the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) has more water polo programs than any other college athletic division. The CCCAA has 45 schools with water polo teams (NCAA Division I is a close second with 40) and, with 45 women’s teams, it also boasts more women’s water polo programs than any other level, as well.

CCCAA schools don’t award scholarships, but as smaller, two-year schools, they do offer several advantages. The smaller campus size means tuition and expenses are often much lower than four-year schools. Plus, with only freshmen and sophomores on the team, you’re more likely to have playing time opportunities much sooner than you might at a four-year school. Add it all together, and a CCCAA water polo program can offer you a chance to dive right into the competition, while you get your feet wet academically, save money, gain experience, and earn an Associates’ degree while planning your next step.

22, 0

At the NCAA Division III level, there are 22 schools that sponsor water polo, with 17 men’s programs and 20 women’s teams. However, while DIII schools are four-year colleges and universities, they offer zero athletic scholarships. Instead, most DIII schools do offer ample academic scholarship money and need-based aid. That means, if you don’t land a scholarship offer from a DI or DII program, you might still be able to compete in Division III on an academic scholarship. In fact, if your grades and entrance exam scores are good enough, a DIII academic scholarship could be worth more than a partial athletic scholarship at DI or DII school. As an added bonus, DIII schools offer a better balance of academics and athletics, so you’ll likely be able to compete in water polo and still have time for school, campus life, and more.


When you add it all up, there’s only one important consideration when it comes to the recruiting process; finding the school, water polo program, and, hopefully, the scholarship that’s right for you. You’ll only go through recruiting as a high school student athlete once, so make the most of it. Consider all your options. Get your grades and entrance exam score as high as possible to give yourself even more scholarship options. Then, when you find the school, athletic, and academic opportunity that’s right for you, dive in and go for it!

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