student athletes applying to college

Applying to college as a student athlete already gives you plenty of advantages over other applicants. A college coach might try to recruit you, or you could qualify for a scholarship or financial aid to help you out with expenses. However, you need to pay attention to every opportunity that comes your way and plan when searching for the right college and applying to it. Keep the following information in mind when going through this process.

NCAA Divisions

The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) largely governs most varsity sports in colleges. Many schools are members of this organization, and the NCAA divides them into four divisions based on school size, athletic funding, the campus experience, and whether athletic scholarships are available. By knowing which division your chosen school is in, you can determine whether you can get an athletic scholarship, or if you’ll need a merit-based scholarship or other financial aid.

  • Division I. These schools offer full scholarships for the five main sports: Men’s and women’s basketball, football, baseball, and volleyball. They have a strong focus in athletics.
  • Division II. These schools have slightly less focus on athletics. They usually award partial scholarships, so you’ll need financial aid or merit-based scholarships to even it out.
  • Division III. These schools are more academically focused and expect athletes to integrate. There are no athletic scholarships, so you must obtain financial aid or other scholarships.
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The application process is complex and multilayered, even more so if you are a student athlete. Different schools will have their own application standards, so once you have a school in mind, collaborate with the coach and create a plan. Some of the deadlines to keep in mind include:

  • NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Center registration, if playing for a DI or DII school
  • Individual college application deadlines
  • FAFSA deadlines for each college and state, if you need financial aid
  • NCAA Amateurism Certificate, if playing for a DI or DII school
  • Deadlines for submitting final transcripts, proof of graduation, and application letter to the NCAA

Communication With the Coach

When you are planning out your application process, make sure you communicate with the college coach. A college coach can help you with any questions you may have and even provide you with some opportunities to get a closer look at student athlete life at the college.

Academic and Athletic Balance

When choosing a college, one of the factors you must investigate is how the sports program you choose will impact your ability to pursue your degree. Some athletic commitments may have a larger impact on your studies than others, and being a student athlete might not allow as much time for studying. Building a post-sports career is important, especially since pursuing professional sports after college is difficult and often not as attainable as you might hope.

School Culture

In addition to deciding on a college based on the athletic program and the career you want to pursue, also consider looking into how you will fit in at the school. Try to research the school culture, as well as how other students and faculty treat student athletes. Are they treated well or are they isolated and ignored?

By keeping these factors in mind and crafting a plan, you will succeed in enrolling in the perfect school as a student athlete.

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