Consider this scenario: you receive a scholarship offer late in the recruiting period, only to discover that you can't afford college. Regardless of the sport you play, the caliber of your skills or the division you're planning to compete in, this could happen.
An athletic scholarship doesn't necessarily mean a "full ride." In fact, most Division I student-athletes receive only partial athletic scholarships. Even for those who receive full athletic scholarships, other college-related expenses can be prohibitive.
For non-scholarship athletes, the financial burden of attending college can be overwhelming. It follows that athletes should make securing the best financial package a top priority when determining their best fi t for college.
Below is a breakdown of financial aid options to help you maximize your financial aid award potential.
Reporting Financial Data
Financial aid strategy starts with determining your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the estimated amount your family can reasonably contribute toward the cost of college.
EFC is based on the following factors:
- Family size (parents plus children)
- Income (before taxes)
- Net assets (savings or other investments)
EFC calculators are available online to help (e.g., visit fafsa4caster.ed.gov). The financial information you report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form ultimately determines your EFC. The formula for aid uses EFC as follows: cost of attending college minus EFC equals amount of eligible need-based aid.
Types of Financial Aid
Need-based Pell Grants
Awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to low-income undergraduates on the basis of need. The maximum amount available per student for the 2010-11 school year is $5,550. The actual amount a student receives varies in relation to his or her financial situation and the amount of support the DOE thinks the parents can provide.
Federally-backed low-interest loans available to undergrads who demonstrate financial need. Many schools distribute Perkins funds on a first come, first served basis, and they may lack sufficient funding for all eligible students. So make it a priority to apply early.
Work-Study provides employment (typically part-time) for student-athletes during the academic year, with compensation rates no lower than the federal minimum wage.
What they are: Financial aid awards based on criteria established by the scholarships' administrators. Common criteria include financial need, academic excellence, civic service and athletic ability. Most Division I and II schools and some NAIA and NJCAA institutions offer athletic scholarships. Division III institutions do not award athletic scholarships.
Most sports (football and basketball are exceptions) are equivalency sports, meaning a school's program has a set number of scholarships to allocate. Equivalency-sport athletes typically receive only partial scholarships.
Keep in mind that plenty of scholarship opportunities exist beyond academics and athletics. For instance, many church organizations and religious groups, employers (yours or your parents'), and social groups offer scholarships on an annual basis.
Seeking an Opportunity to Compete at the D-1 Level?
The best offense is a good defense, and you won't find a better one—make that three—than the service academies of the United States Department of Defense: the United States Military, Naval and Air Force Academies.
These four-year co-educational undergraduate academies are excellent options for students interested in serving their country and receiving a quality education at no cost. All three academies field varsity athletic programs that compete at the Division I level.
The admissions process is rigorous—all require a nomination from a member of Congress—and the daily workload is demanding, especially for student-athletes.
For those attending a traditional college or university, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) programs offer prospective student-athletes another financial aid option to fund college or to repay loans.
ROTC programs are available through the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Through an elective curriculum taken in conjunction with required college courses, ROTC cadets learn military and strategic planning skills, professional ethics and leadership development. In return, ROTC programs offer merit-based scholarships applicable toward tuition and other college-related expenses. Most scholarships cover the cost of full tuition in exchange for a commitment to active military service after graduation.
One near-guarantee for service academy and ROTC graduates alike: excellent job opportunities within the Department of Defense upon fulfilling the mandated service obligation. For example, Army Officers may pursue 24 career fields within 17 different branches, including engineering, law, medicine and aviation. Officers are also free to pursue civilian careers.
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