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Sports Scholarships in US Universities

Sports scholarships in US universities

Every American student dreams of getting a sports, or athletic scholarship at the US University. However, talented applicants from any country can study for free in a university in the United States.

You can think about getting a sports scholarship, having achieved great success in sports. It does not matter in which particular form it is – you can always choose a scholarship for yourself. The main difference between a sports scholarship and an academic scholarship is that it is enough merely to apply for the latter, indicating that the applicant is interested in receiving funding for tuition and/or residence for the period of study at the university. And to qualify for an athletic scholarship, you need to actively and successfully participate in the sporting life of your school.

Choosing a University

It is better to start looking for a university that provides scholarships to athletes for one and a half, or even two years before admission.

Start to narrow the circle – to select a maximum of 50 universities. This can be done, for example, with the help of this site, where, according to the parameters indicated by the student, the system makes a selection from suitable educational institutions. There are also specialized in the form of sports sites. For example, tennis or swimming. Next comes the question of choosing a sports association and a division.

Sports associations

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the largest association of more than 900 institutions of higher learning. Here you can find all the necessary information about recruiting, rules and procedure for accepting applications, pick up universities and colleges of the first, second or third division, learn all about possible financial assistance.

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) includes a smaller number of universities (about 350), but there are good sports programs and athletic scholarships.

National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) – only colleges with two-year training are represented here.

Universities sports divisions

There are three divisions in total. The first and second are large universities with a large number of students and considerable stipendiary budgets. They allocate funds to support successful students in sports. The third – small, not very popular educational institutions, sports financing of which is low.

Colleges of the third division and Ivy League universities as such do not provide athletic scholarships from sports associations. However, they receive funding from other sources, and this, in turn, gives them the opportunity to provide financial support to their students.

Apparently, it’s easiest to get into the universities of the third division. Because of their small popularity, there are few promising athletes. It will also be easier not to enter the most famous university of the first division than to get to the university, which is among the top thirty in the rating of the second.

After choosing a division and association, you must register at the certification center of one or more associations: NCAA or NAIA.

How to get a sports scholarship?

The athletic scholarship is awarded by the university sports department, in which the sports director and coaches play the leading role and the final word.

For people residing in the US to get a sports scholarship is not so difficult as for others: for example, a recruiter – a person who attends games or performances for the search for talented students in sports – should get to the game or performance.

If the student lives in another country and, accordingly, he does not have the opportunity to invite a recruiter to a match or competition, after choosing a university and registering with one of the sports associations, it is necessary to write a motivation letter to the coaches of the selected colleges, accompanied by evidence of their sporting achievements. Perhaps it would be most convenient to remove a small clip of them and put it on the web, and then insert a link to it in your letter. This is very obvious, also, the video on the Internet – not a material carrier, so nowhere is lost. It is essential that the video is memorable and short-lived and at the same time demonstrates the outstanding results of the candidate’s training.

If the university is interested in the candidacy of the future fellows, a coach or a sports director is usually contacted within a month with the applicant. If the answer has not come, you can remind yourself: call or write to the college, ask if the previous letter was received there. Usually, there are departments for working with international students in colleges and universities. It is worth contacting them in case of delay in consideration of documents. Contacts can always be found on the official website of the school.

It is interesting that receiving a proposal to speak for a university and awarding a scholarship to an athlete does not imply admission to the university itself and does not even guarantee that the applicant will be accepted. Therefore, no one canceled the excellent level of academic preparation and the usual procedure for admission to college.

You will need to take exams and collect the necessary documents to enroll in the university:

  • Summary. In addition to necessary information, it should specify your physical data and qualities, the history of sporting achievements, participation in competitions for the school team, the city and so on, information about the coach and other additional information.
  • Documents on education (certificate and/or diploma with the application), translated into English and notarized.
  • Transcript – a document with an enumeration and description of the courses passed, the number of hours heard and estimates. In America, it can be called CRF (Сumulative Record File), Permanent Record, Academic Transcript or College Transcript.
  • The results of SAT. The Scholastic Assessment Test is a standardized test that must be submitted for admission to the US higher education institutions. This exam is conducted by the non-governmental organization College Board. You can surrender it up to seven times a year in the territory of the country and up to six times a year beyond its borders. Register, see the schedule and learn more about SAT on their official website.
  • Most likely, you will also need to pass the TOEFL – language exam, which confirms a certain level of English proficiency. However, some institutions accept students without this certificate.

Features of athletic scholarship

In fact, a sports scholarship is a contract between an athlete and a university. The athlete competes in college competitions, and the college pays for his education.

The list of sports disciplines that are funded by scholarships is quite extensive: from basketball and rowing to fencing and lacrosse. Of course, not all universities have scholarships for all kinds of sports. Most often, universities specialize in particular sports activities, which can be found on the official website of the school.

Athletic scholarships are officially granted for one year. For their prolongation, it is necessary to annually prove to the coach their sports achievements and help the university team successfully compete in competitions. On the other hand, sports scholarship is not so easy to lose – you need to skip training, learn badly, violate discipline.

The scholarship usually does not adequately cover all the costs of studying and living a student. Only for six sports in the universities of the first division athlete can get full funding. This is football, basketball (men’s and women’s), gymnastics (women’s), tennis and volleyball. More often than not, the National Association allocates a certain amount of money to an educational institution, and already within the university, this money is distributed to all scholars who are sometimes very numerous. All this is done to attract more good athletes.

In American educational institutions there is no specialty “sport”, and, when presenting his college at competitions, the student still has to choose for studying any scientific direction. In the choice of disciplines, the scholarship is not limited.

A huge plus of athletic scholarships is that a foreigner has a high chance of getting it – the US government is interested in attracting talented and successful athletes to the country.

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Olivia Stephens
I wrote for periodicals last few years and I believe that now this experience continually helps me. Experience in the media gave me many other advantages. I know how to look for information not only on the Internet. I know how to use archives, how to get the right information from people, how to conduct real investigations. Thanks to the studying at the university, I efficiently collect unique material for my papers.


  1. If I said on admission that I’m a good athlete (so it is), then do I have to compete for the university? If so, are there any free hours for trainings?

    1. No one will force you to compete for the university, but this is an advantage. Yes, you will have many free opportunities for sports and training, it is encouraged, evaluated and you can even get an athletic scholarship.

  2. I am professionally performing rhythmic gymnastics, I have CMS. Tell me, please, which university can admit me?

    1. Unfortunately, rhythmic gymnastics is not yet part of the university team sport in the United States.

  3. Hi, I am 16 years old. I definitely will study in the USA. I have second adult class in golf, and now I’m in the TOP 20 in my age group of players. There are victories in local tournaments. And I need real help in selecting University. The main thing is a sport. The specialty is not important. For example, I can choose something related to art because I’m graduated from art school. The average score is 4.3. Can you help?

    1. Golf in the US is a trendy and prestigious sport. In the US, more than 1,200 universities have male golf teams; I think your chances are good. Unfortunately, we do not help with entering the university, but we only support applicants in writing essays and motivation letters.

  4. I would like to know if I can take a scholarship if I play professional volleyball? I’m performing in the championship of Kazakhstan. Which universities or colleges would advise? I would like to enter the technical speciality, the assessments are good.

    1. Yes, it will be possible. This is a fairly popular sport in universities, although there are not so many men’s teams (160), compared to women’s (more than 1500). I think you can find the right university for your level.