Etudes supérieures

Sports Scholarships at American universities for international recruits

 

Football (Soccer), Tennis, Track and Field, Golf, Hockey, ice or field: Should you go for it?

 

 

A sports scholarship at an American university (college) is a dream for many international secondary (high school) students and their families. Every year, hundreds of scholarships are given out by the 1000+ members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the ruling body that governs American scholastic sports (athletic) programs in some 23 sports. But how realistic is it to compete for a sponsored roster spot at an American college?

   

Reality Check First

 

2013 NCAA data reveal that the percentage of high school athlete that goes on to play in college sports (note the word, “play,” not “get funding”) ranges from 11.3% in men’s ice hockey to 5.7% in men’s soccer.

From this crop, a further 0.8% in men’s ice hockey and 1.9% in men’s soccer go on to play professionally[1]. The comment on the NCAA research pages that “less than 2% of high school students go pro” is generous. Suffice it to say that the competition for a spot on a US college sports (athletics) team is intense.

 

Add funding to the mix (many sports have “equivalencies” which means partial funding) and a coach’s perceived hassle of recruiting an international student (visa and whatnot) and your probability of playing a college sport becomes even more remote.

For many would-be applicants, the idea of self-marketing to be selected and the hoo-ha of the general admissions process a US college applicant must go through today (standardized tests, essay-writing, teacher and coach recommendations and a transcript) are sufficient enough reasons to turn them away from applying US colleges at all.

Suddenly, applying at a home university seems a whole lot simpler. It is.

  

 Why then do thousands of student-athletes continue to apply each year?

 

For sure, the old adage, “If you don’t apply, you won’t get in,” applies to student-athletes, too. The NCAA purportedly helps some 450,000 students every year, and the good majority of these athletes are partially funded if not wholly in what everyone likes to call “the full ride.”

 

So there are student-athletes who secure athletic scholarships. Tough though it is, it isn’t impossible. It begs the question then: Should you go for it?

   

Half a dozen further considerations

 

  1. Although the Harvard-Yale Boat Race in 1852 was the first intercollegiate US sports competition, ivy leagues do not offer athletic scholarships. However, if you have an outstanding academic record in addition to athletic credentials, you can still apply to the ivies (currently all with single-digit admissions rate) as you may be able to get financial aid through academic merit. Your competitive sport may help your admissions but you must still push through the standard admissions process. And, chances are, you will still need to market yourself— that is, you are not likely to be found.
  2. You will substantially reduce your chances of finding a roster spot on a US sports team by limiting yourself to ivies and name-brand colleges. American colleges outnumber their European (UK included) counterparts by the thousands. There are many outstanding colleges with eye-popping resources that are not part of the ivy league sports fraternity.
  3. Public universities often have greater funding than private colleges. Many hallmark public universities like the University of Virginia (UVA) are known for their quality academics in addition to their athletics programs.
  4. Athletic scholarships are awarded to NCAA-participating institutions that compete in Division I and II conferences. Smaller colleges that play in Division III conferences do not offer athletic scholarships.
  5. Not all universities offer your sport. You can search for a college or university and its sports and conferences through the NCAA [please link to: http://www.ncaa.org/about/who-we-are/search-school] or in the back pages of the College Handbook on Amazon or College Board.
  6. Being a student-athlete, whether it is for basketball, swimming, cross-country, or any sport—is not just about being able to pursue a long-term passion but also about receiving an undergraduate education at the same time. For the student-athlete applicant, this includes employment opportunities before matriculation, like a head start on career training for CV (résumé) writing, creating a recruitment video, and preparing for an interview—not to mention the career development skills such as time-management, work ethic, leadership and teamwork that brought you to apply in the first place.

 

 

So should you apply for a US sports scholarship ? Should you be accepted, a scholarship will certainly help pay college tuition and expenses, which for many means going to college at all. For the rest of you lucky enough to have a choice, it ultimately has to do with how you feel about competition and education and how you team them up.

 


  

[1] http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/probability-competing-beyond-high-school, September 2013.

 

 

Haru Yamada, 

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23 February 2015

 

Projet d'avenir

 

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