You've Won an Athletic Scholarship. Now What?

You've Won an Athletic Scholarship. Now What?

If you landed an athletic scholarship, consider yourself one of the lucky few. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), only about 2 percent of high school athletes are awarded a scholarship to compete in college.

Max Flom, college senior from Littleton, Colorado, was one of the 2 percent. Flom committed to playing Division I soccer for the University of Utah in Salt Lake City the summer after her sophomore year of high school.

"It is a tricky game for a teenager to play of waiting for the right school to come around but also not passing up scholarships because coaches will give you decision deadlines," she says. She ultimately chose her school for its prestigious soccer program.

While Flom's scholarship didn't cover every college expense, she is thankful that the funding allowed her to pursue her athletic and academic dreams at the same time.

What to Expect After You Win a Sport's Scholarship

There are a few misconceptions about winning a sport's scholarship. Here are four things to expect after you win athletic funding.

You might not win a full-ride scholarship. Full-ride scholarships are the exception — not the rule — when it comes to college athletics. Usually these scholarships are given to athletes that play specific Division I sports including men's football, men's and women's basketball and women's tennis, volleyball and gymnastics.

Flom received a partial athletic scholarship and an academic scholarship for her freshman year of college. This money covered all of her school expenses except for her housing costs. During her sophomore year of college, Flom became a Utah resident, which drastically dropped her tuition costs to the in-state price. While her athletic scholarship was not considered full-ride, it covered all of her educational costs for her remaining college years.

Scholarships are not guaranteed each year. If you win an athletic scholarship you should be set until you graduate, right? Not quite. While Division I schools can award athletes with multiyear scholarships, most are renewed on a yearly basis and are at the discretion of the coaches. "Coaches are free to change the scholarship percentage because at [The University of] Utah we sign a one-year agreement," confirms Flom.

Renee Lopez, a soccer coach for 17 years and author of Looking For A FULL RIDE? An Insider's Recruiting Guide, clarifies which scholarships get renewed.

"To keep scholarships, kids need to follow the rules," she says. That means not breaking the law or committing an offense that brings disgrace to the university.

"That can be very important in terms of social media," she adds. "A lot of times, kids are making bad choices on social media, which can lead to dismissal from their team" and having their scholarships discontinued.

But don't spend too much time worrying. "As long as you are staying on track academically and you're not making bad decisions off the field or court," Lopez says, "typically your scholarships are renewed."

If a student-athlete's aid will be reduced or not renewed, the school must notify the student in writing by July 1 and provide an opportunity to appeal.

There are time commitments. Student athletes will have to balance their school load with athletics training and games, leaving little time for anything else. Flom says that the time commitment for NCAA Division I women soccer players is a maximum of 20 hours a week. That includes time spent in games, practice, weight lifting, reviewing film, treating injuries and informative nutrition meetings.

Keeping a balanced schedule as a student-athlete means organizing your time and not filling your calendar with conflicting items, such as a part-time job or a late-night party the night before a game. You can still balance school, sports and a social life, but expect to make sacrifices too as you prioritize academics and athletics.

There are academic expectations. The NCAA requires Division I student athletes to maintain a 2.0 grade point average, complete six hours of credits each term and have 40 percent of their degree completed by the end of their second year.

At many schools, if these athletic scholarships requirements are not met, a player will be ineligible to play until they are. Failure to meet the academic expectations the entire year can result in removal from the team and being placed on university academic probation or even disqualification in extreme circumstances.

Many universities offer free tutoring and academic help for all students, so talk with your coach, professor or academic adviser as soon as you begin to struggle. It is important not to wait too late in the semester to ask for help since it can be harder to bounce back from a failing grade.

How to Find More Funding

If you are able to snag a highly coveted athletic scholarship but still don't have enough money to cover the bill, there are other options. Make sure to fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) each year to see if you qualify for scholarships, grants and federal student loans. And don't forget to keep searching for other types of scholarships you are eligible for since that is money you don't have to pay back. You can also consider private student loans to help pay for school costs.

Winning a Sport's Scholarship Is Worth It

While only a small percentage of student athletes win funding, an even smaller percentage go on to play for professional teams. Even though many students will not make a career out of their sport, athletic scholarships are a great opportunity to use your talent to help pay for your academic dreams.

Flom didn't know what her academic goals were when she first signed her commitment with the Utah Utes. She eventually chose to major in political science and minor in campaign management and Spanish. She was grateful for the opportunity to play soccer and go to school on scholarships.

Being a student-athlete will require you to balance a full academic and sport's schedule, but the experience can be worth the added commitment and social sacrifices you have to make. The degree you earn on your athletic scholarship will be beneficial to your future career, even if you hang up your jersey for good after graduation.


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