Academic vs. Athletic Scholarships

As we continue to work with families working to play basketball in college, the issue of finances always comes up.  Unfortunately, this is often a topic that causes stress to some and can often times scare people away from even attempting to go to college.  Our approach is to take this hurdle like any other and to equip yourself with the proper information so this is not such a challenge. Obviously, a student-athlete will not be looked at by college coaches if they don’t have any athletic ability.  Don’t just assume that you have what it takes in the gym, so you don’t need to be concerned with the academic side.  Coaches look at a number of issues, but aside from the stat sheet they look at a students dedication to the classroom.  In the event that you need some kind of financial aid – and most of us do – students who demonstrate abilities in both athletics and academics are more likely to receive academic and athletic scholarships.

Who has the control?

While it is not necessarily easy to obtain academic scholarships, this is something you have more control over.  As you make good grades and achieve a higher GPA and make a quality score on the SAT or ACT, you reach criteria for all kinds of scholarships and grants.  There are many different scholarships available and the rules and guidelines for each are made known to each applicant.  Being a diligent student has always been – and will continue to be – your primary means of getting to college and achieving success. If you have the grades and test scores to get academic scholarships, this often times allows coaches to use athletic scholarships on players who may not meet those criteria.  While these are just approximate numbers, a student generally must have a 3.0 GPA, 25 ACT and or 1200 SAT score and rank in the top 10% of their class for academic scholarships.  Understand that these are estimates and depend on the school. For athletic scholarships, there is a limit to the number of scholarships that can be given, the amount that is available and the schools that can give them.  There really aren’t set guidelines and standards on who will get athletic scholarships so college coaches give them out to athletes who fit their specific criteria. More than anything, you need to understand that you can control the academic side by doing what you are supposed to in the classroom, but there are no guarantees with athletic scholarships.  Additionally, athletic scholarships are normally done in 1 year increments.  With academic scholarships, you normally have to maintain a certain GPA, class load, etc but you know what you have to do in order to keep that scholarship.


Another issue that we often hear from families is that they won’t consider smaller schools because they do not offer athletic scholarships.  What people fail to realize however is that the lower division programs often offer a wider range of financial aid packets.  Additionally, many colleges and universities have academic scholarships that they can offer to athletes that can help them use basketball to help pay for their education.  Just because it is not an ‘athletic scholarship’ does not mean there are not many ways available to help you pay for school at non-NCAA DI and DII programs. The issue of which school to go to is something that we will look in to in a later blog article, but we highly recommend looking in to schools at all levels because a smaller program may be a better fit for you.  Just because a school is smaller – NAIA, NCCAA, etc – does not mean that quality basketball is not being played there.

Full Scholarship vs. Partial Scholarship

You may also not be aware that everyone does not always offer a ‘full-ride’ – this is actually very rare.  Aside from tuition costs, there are books, transportation, room and board, plus many other expenses.  Be sure to look in to this when reviewing scholarships you are offered.

Final Thoughts

Do not be misled by the notion that you have to be the best athlete possible – sacrificing time in the classroom – so that you can get an athletic scholarship.  You have to at least make the minimum grades just to get in to college, but as mentioned above you improve your chances when you combine both athletic and academic scholarships. If you don’t get an athletic scholarship offer, don’t let that derail you from your dream of playing college basketball.  Investigate schools at all levels and find colleges and universities that are a good fit for you financially, by location, by majors they offer, etc.  Recruit yourself and go after academic scholarships and grants to help pay for school.  Make it happen.

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