The Myths about Sports Scholarships

By Pranesh Kumar, Sports Editor

To many high schoolers, the idea of getting a college athletic scholarship is considered the “holy grail” and a pathway for getting into college without any student loan debt. While there are academic scholarships available, the rigor of applying and getting an academic scholarship makes it an unappealing option for many families. Therefore, the possibility for students to excel in a sport that they love and get free monetary assistance for college seems like the best option. But does the reality of athletic scholarships match the fantasy?

When looking at the likelihood of getting a scholarship as an NCAA athlete, it becomes clear that the odds of getting a sports scholarship are not in favor of the students. For example, just 3.3% of high school seniors playing men’s basketball will have roster positions on the NCAA as freshmen – and the chances of getting a scholarship in that position is even less. The odds are just as slim for popular sports such as men’s soccer, football, and baseball. Women tend to have a higher likelihood to get scholarships in most sports, but the odds are still incredibly slim even if students and parents devote thousands of hours into a sport. To put everything into perspective, the odds of getting a sports scholarship are even lower than the chance of getting admitted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford. 

Even if high school athletes are talented and skilled enough to get a sports scholarship for college, the truth is that colleges offer very few full ride scholarships; the sports that full ride scholarships are awarded to are called “head count” sports. Colleges and universities awarded more than $3 billion in athletic scholarships, but this money was divided based on the discretion of coaches. Also, only the top divisions of college sports provide the opportunity of receiving scholarships. Other divisions, like Division 3 schools, offer no athletic scholarships at all.

Aside from the difficulty of getting scholarships, performing competitive sports at the college level also carries heavy pressure. Many students who are talented in sports work hard to find the best college for them, and often start college excited about participating in a sport that they enjoy. However, the experience of adapting to a new location, making friends with teammates, strenuous practices clashing with schoolwork, etc. make sports a difficult time commitment. 

If students are talented and truly passionate about performing well in a sport, it is a great option for them to go after a sports scholarship. However, it is also important to realize that it is not a safe option to bank on an athletic scholarship in order to get through college.