Smaller schools may offer bigger opportunities.
If your goal is to earn a women’s basketball scholarship to play in college, you’re probably not considering any NCAA Division III schools. In fact, because DIII schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, many high school athletes also look past Division III schools. However, Division III schools do offer many advantages that you won’t get at a DI or DII women’s basketball program. And, if you play your cards right, you might still be able to parlay your basketball talent into a scholarship at a Division III institution. Consider that DIII offers:
More colleges and universities sponsor varsity basketball teams than any other sport. In NCAA Division I, there are 352 schools offering women’s basketball teams, with a total of almost 5,100 women on DI rosters. In DII, there are 305 programs and 4,657 women playing basketball. However, with 440 competing schools and 6,688 student-athletes, Division III schools have more women’s basketball teams and players than either DI or DII.
Simply put, if you’re not drawing too much interest from DI or DII coaches, you actually have far more opportunities to play collegiately in DIII. As an added bonus, playing for a DIII women’s basketball program means you’re more likely to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and that means you’re likely to get more opportunities for playing time as a freshman and onward.
As a headcount sport, Division I women’s basketball players most often have full-ride scholarships. However, the trade-off for that full-ride scholarship is that college basketball competition, travel, practice, and training can also become a full-time job, leaving time for study and not much else. In DIII, women’s basketball programs are just as competitive as DI or DII, but also require much less of a time commitment from its student-athletes. And that means, playing basketball at a DIII school would still allow you to compete at the collegiate level, but also give you time to enjoy being a college student, focus more on your studies, enjoy a social life, join clubs, study abroad, work an internship, or pick up a part-time job. In other words, if you want to play collegiate basketball and still have a life, playing at a DIII will allow you to keep playing while you enjoy college and prepare for the rest of your life.
As noted above, Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships. But there’s a catch. Most DIII schools do offer plenty of academic scholarships. In addition, DIII schools usually have plenty of financial aid and need-based scholarships as well. And that means, if you have a high-grade point average and solid standardized test scores, you may be able to land an academic scholarship and play at the collegiate level at a Division III school. Finally, since DIII coaches often have to work a little harder to attract athletes to their programs, many DIII schools can offer scholarship and aid packages that will rival a full-ride scholarship at a DI school. But, again the key to scholarships at DIII schools is your good grades, high test scores, and solid academic standing. (And even if you’re not considering a DIII school, good grades in high school and high test scores will show coaches you can handle the academic load in college and that will make you a more attractive recruit in any division.)
Division III schools may subtract athletic scholarships, but when you add it all up, DIII still offers more opportunities to play basketball in college, a better balance between athletics and college life, and more opportunities for academic scholarships. And if that’s what you’re looking for in a college experience, Division III women’s college basketball may be a slam dunk for you.
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