Contrary to popular belief, it is probably more difficult and more time consuming to land an athletic scholarship than an academic one. The major college sports governing body (the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA) oversees the eligibility and recruitment requirements for most college athletic programs, but individual institutions also have their own rules, regulations and procedures in place. This is why there is a huge industry in this country that offers free and fee-based assistance to student-athletes seeking to establish eligibility for an athletic scholarship.

The very first step student-athletes must take, unless they are opting to attend a junior college whose governing authority is the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), is apply to what is called the NCAA Clearinghouse. This first application will determine the students’ eligibility to play college sports as well as their eligibility for athletic scholarships. From establishing initial eligibility to the final interviews with coaches and admissions office staff, there is a long, often complex and tiring process involved.

Student athlete

If you are a student-athlete intending to seek an athletic scholarship, the first step for determining your eligibility should certainly not be your first step in the process as a whole. You cannot establish eligibility with the NCAA Clearinghouse until you are ready and able to submit your high-school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, a “student release” form and other supporting documentation – meaning that you will most likely be making the submission in your senior year. However, if you are not actively working toward your athletic scholarship as a junior, or even looking ahead at the process from “way back” in your sophomore year, you just may not be as prepared as your many competitors.

Athletic Scholarships

Athletic Scholarships

In the modern era of “big time” college sports, from the late 1960s on in particular, there has beengreat concern that athletes were being allowed to “slide” on their academic requirements. This led to many sad cases of athletes, who didn’t make it to a professional team after college because of injury or inability, having a worthless college degree with no real education behind it. Therefore, the NCAA has been quite rigorous in establishing and enforcing academic requirements for student-athletes.


In fact, in 2003 the NCAA increased the number of required “core courses” from 13 to 14 for students entering college after 2005, and the number rises to 16 for the school year 2008. In addition, there have been changes in the way that SAT and ACT tests are scored. The SAT test is now in three, not two, parts, because of a new “writing component,” but that part is currently not required for NCAA eligibility, so SAT scores will still add only two components to reach a final score between 400 and 1600.

It is vitally important that students seeking to establish eligibility for athletic scholarships stay up to date on the NCAA requirements. If parents decide not to invest money in a scholarship “counseling service” or “advisor,” they should be prepared to help their sons and daughters navigate the rough seas of college sports scholarships.

It may or may not take a village to raise a child, but it definitely takes a supportive family to help a student get a college scholarship. If that student is an athlete as well, the task of establishing athletic scholarship eligibility is just a small sample of the hard work ahead. But with persistence and determination, that hard work just might result in a young athlete’s dream coming true.