Each year over 100,000 student athletes are given athletic scholarships. These scholarships amount to over one billion dollars annually. While this amount of award money might appear to be staggering, the road to attaining an athletic scholarship isn't always smooth. You'll need to be organized and well-informed as you begin trying to win the athletic scholarship of your dreams.
- Build a Portfolio-You should begin building a portfolio as early as possible. This means collecting clips, newspaper articles, videotapes and DVDs of your performances, and any other pieces that illustrate your success and achievements in your sport. Begin filling your portfolio as early as your freshman year in high school. Keep your portfolio organized and clearly labeled, including dates and details of each event.
- Focus on Academics-Just because you are an excellent athlete doesn't guarantee you a place in a college sports program. In fact, you'll be required to meet and maintain the academic standards set aside by each educational institution. Think about it this way: If a college must pick between two excellent athletes, the above average academic achievements of one of those athletes over the mediocre academic performance of the other may weigh significantly in the first applicant's favor. Colleges don't want to recruit or hand over money to athletes who aren't able to maintain a required average in college.
- Ask for Help-Your coach and/or the athletic director of your school can be an excellent source in helping you find the perfect college or university. In many cases, coaches have already established a relationship with the recruiting officer at several educational institutions. They may have a good understanding about what potential students need to do to win an athletic scholarship. Your coach can give you tips on applying for scholarships, visiting the campus, and selling yourself as an athlete. He may also be able to set up a visit by a member of a college's recruiting staff, giving you an opportunity to show off your talents.
- Research Several Schools-Don't limit yourself to one school. Typically, universities set aside so much money per sport. While one school may focus more on football, another may be looking for more soccer players to whom they can award money. It is your job to research each school's admission requirements and find out its needs. Set up an appointment to speak with a member of the athletic recruitment staff or an admissions counselor at each school that interests you. Inquire about the school's academic requirements as well. Look at the programs that each school has to offer. If you already know the field that you want to pursue academically, be sure the university or college in which you are interested offers a degree in that field.
- Apply Early-Apply as early as you can. Once you've applied, write letters to the coaching staff of your particular sport. Your letters should explain your interest and dedication to the sport., as well as your need for financial aid. Be sure you include copies of your portfolio. If the season of your sport is about to begin, send the coaches an athletic schedule, and invite them to watch you play.
- Stay Informed-Periodically check the college's or university's athletic websites for updates to its program. Become familiar with the rules and requirements of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Junior College Athletic Association, and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes. Your hard work and organization could pay off!