Many people think that student-athletes that receive athletic scholarships are full scholarships from a particular sports team from that college. This is true for some sports at Division 1 universities and colleges, and a number of Division 2 and NAIA Schools. But majority of financial aid packages for collegiate student-athletes are a combinations of funds to cover the cost of tuition and room and board. But how do you build this full financial aid package to cover the cost of college without using loans?
#1 - Stated in the previous blog, grades are always the most important part of building a strong financial aid package. When people look to invest money into students, they will always invest in the least riskiest students. Having great grades shows that invested scholarship money will be used to help a serious student pursue their degree. (See previous blog about how to use grades to earn money HERE)
#2 - Always fill out your FAFSA. So many parents think they don't need to fill out their FAFSA because their child is receiving an athletic scholarship or any other aid that does not require a completed FAFSA. To be safe, do it. You never know what can happen. Scholarship money is not permanent and can be lost. This includes athletic- scholarship money. Incase any scholarship money is lost, you should have your FAFSA on file as a back up plan. You have nothing to lose by filling out the FAFSA, even if you think you don't need it, it is free. It will qualify you for work study opportunities and need based grants, which is also free money (financial aid you don't have to pay back) like scholarships.
#3 - Apply and get accepted into schools early, in the fall of your child's senior year. Department, minority, and skill based scholarships are available through applying and an interview process. Before you can apply for them, students need to be accepted into the college. Most of these scholarship application deadlines are in December and January, which means students need to apply early. Many families miss out on these scholarships because they wait too long to apply for college.
#4 - Apply for outside scholarships. Almost every organization has a scholarship that students can apply for. Fastweb.com is a great place to find scholarships that your student is eligible for. Also ask your job, church, and any other places you spend time if they offer scholarship opportunities. If your child has a job, have them ask their jobs if they give their employees scholarships or have a tuition reimbursement program. Chick-Fil-A does and many other companies that employ teenagers do too. Studies show if enough time is spent on applying for outside scholarships, the average comes out to $400/hour. I recommend students to start dedicating an hour per day to applying for scholarships, starting while they are freshmen in high school.
#5 - Athletic Scholarships are the last piece of the financial aid package process for most schools. Majority of Division 2 and NAIA schools operate off of limited budgets. They will first allow for all other financial aid opportunities to happen before making an offer, because this can save the program money. If your child is similar to another recruit, they will most likely offer the recruit with the better financial aid package, before any athletic money is added. They will doe this because they can offer less scholarship money and still cover the cost of college for this prospect.