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Full Ride Scholarships and How to Get Them

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What is a full ride scholarship? Full ride scholarships are, in many ways, the answer to a parent’s prayer. For students, full ride athletic scholarships not only provide funding for an undergraduate degree but also recognize their superior performance in high school sports. With the total cost of a university education covered by top full ride athletic scholarships, exceptional athletes can focus on their studies without the distractions that financial worries can bring.

Overview: What are full ride scholarships?

Full ride scholarships cover more of your educational costs than full tuition, which would be very significant for most families. The best full ride scholarships are comprehensive, taking care of your total cost, including housing, food, books, school supplies, and travel. In financial terms, that means that a university is paying you an average of $200,000 or more per year, depending on the school’s full tuition costs, so that you can get an education and excel in athletics too.

Full ride sports scholarships are the result of a formal agreement between an athlete and a university. The best full ride scholarships reflect a coach’s recognition of your talent in a sport. Most people looking forward to college wonder, “Are scholarships for all four years?” Typically, full ride sports scholarships come up for renewal each year you are in school.

With such beautiful benefits, you would think that the competition for full ride athletic scholarships is fierce, and you are right. When you add in the fact that full ride scholarships are rare, you may be asking how hard are full ride scholarships to get?

Both smaller, lesser-known colleges and a select number of top universities offer full ride scholarships. You and your parents should get the answers to questions such as what GPA you need for full ride athletic scholarships, and then tap into the available resources to get you through the process.

Read about full ride scholarships from recruiting experts at NCSA.

What are scouts and coaches looking for?

Coaches who offer full ride sports scholarships are looking for a combination of the following in top candidates:

Even if you can check the box on every item above, you still need a strategy that gets you noticed among large numbers of college recruits vying for a limited number of full ride sports scholarships. One thing you and your parents need to know is that college athletic recruiting starts earlier rather than later, often as soon as your freshman year in high school, so you shouldn’t wait until your senior year to show off your talents.

Once you find your stride in your chosen sport, you and your parents should start laying the groundwork for college recruitment and offers of full ride scholarships. Your participation in championship tournaments, any awards you receive, your physical stats and your performance stats are all details that coaches look for, so you should focus on these areas if you plan to pursue college athletic recruiting.

Early on, your family should begin researching universities with the type of sports programs and full ride scholarships you aspire to. You should investigate the team’s track record in the league where they play. Research into these and other pertinent stats will help you narrow down your prospects for full ride scholarships and focus your interactions with coaches or recruiters for maximum impact.

This is an ideal time to touch base with a recruiting service, fill out a profile and get an objective evaluation. Based on that evaluation, the staff can offer advice for filling in thin spots on your resume so you can improve your chances for full ride scholarships. A reputable recruitment service can help you direct your focus on the most viable colleges for you that offer full ride scholarships.

Once you have your ducks in a row, it is time to reach out and be noticed. If possible, you should do this before you start your junior year, but that is not written in stone. If you need more time to solidify your athletic profile, you should take the time you need. Your recruiting service can help by evaluating where you stand as a potential university recruit, and where you need to be to secure your spot among top college recruits.

If you are ready before your junior year, you can initiate contact with recruiters earlier too. Email, voicemail, texts and social media are all acceptable ways to get on a coach’s radar. You, as the athlete, should handle this rather than your parents because you are seeking full ride scholarships on your own merits.

Your initial contact with a coach should include:

Once you have introduced yourself, you should follow up with a phone call.

Find out about full ride scholarships from recruiting experts at NCSA.

What is the role of academics in full ride scholarships?

To be eligible to play extracurricular sports at the college level, you must meet specific NCAA requirements for academics and amateur status when you apply for college scholarships. You must have maintained a GPA of 2.5 or above over 16 core classes, and you must have high enough ACT/SAT scores so that, combined with your GPA, the total meets NCAA minimum standards.

Over and above the NCAA requirements, you should have superior grades and test scores to compete for full ride athletic scholarships. If you are worried about what GPA do you need for a full scholarship, the higher, the better. Both your sports stats and your scholastic stats in large part determine whether you meet the high standards of college recruiters for the best full ride scholarships at the University of your choice.

As you probably are aware, you can take tests such as the ACT more than once if you need to improve your score. Additionally, the Princeton Review recommends some strategies for getting test-ready:

What colleges offer full ride scholarships?

The top five universities with the highest average athletic scholarship athletic awards per recipient in 2017 are as follows:

If you are wondering what percentage of college athletes get full ride scholarships, the fact is that only about three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) of U.S. university students receive full funding. For the majority of these chosen few, winning one of the best full ride scholarships is no accident. Along with their parents, they did the research, crunched the numbers and got the professional assistance they needed to have the best chance of winning a free university education.

Depending upon the school’s annual tuition, housing and meals cost, scholarships for college students may or may not constitute full ride athletic scholarships. However, for NCAA Division I sports, also known as head count sports, men’s football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, tennis and gymnastics, scholarships for college students are always full rides.

Most schools with sports programs offer more partial scholarships for high school seniors than full ride athletic scholarships, but even so, the total amounts to just two percent of college prospects. In addition, according to the NCAA, only a small number of high school seniors make the cut to compete in college.

Your university recruitment service is one of your best resources for locating colleges that offer full ride scholarships and fit your academic needs. Other great resources include NCAA and the universities that you are considering.

NCAA divisions

Full ride scholarships are available to athletes at NCAA Division I and Division II schools. With 351 universities in DI and 313 in DII out of a total of 2,081 colleges in all divisions, your choice of four-year colleges becomes even more limited. Just 85 full ride scholarships are available to NCAA DI universities annually. Fewer still are on offer to DII colleges. Division III includes 442 colleges, but these institutions do not offer college athletic scholarships.

National rankings

Coaches and recruiters choose a select few candidates for offers of full ride scholarships, and websites like and publish athlete rankings. The ESPN top 100 is also a good rankings resource for scout recruiting efforts.

Scouts, recruiters, and coaches base, ESPN top 100 and rankings on your career stats well as on the awards and recognition you have received. They also take your GPA into account. One way to be included is to apply on 247 recruiting or fill out an NSCA profile. NCSA, 247 recruiting and other college recruiters are powerful tools to use in your quest for scholarship funding.

Are scholarships for all 4 years?

The average head count scholarship provides a full ride for one year, and the recipient must reapply for a full ride athletic scholarship for each of the four years. That means your academic performance, as well as your athletic performance, will be up for review before your scholarship is renewed. Multiple year scholarships are awarded very rarely, and only to the very top echelon of athletes.

Get info about full ride scholarships from recruiting experts at NCSA.

Many schools offer partial athletic scholarships that make it possible for more players to attend. The awards vary according to the pool of funding available to coaches once head count scholarships go out. If you don’t receive a full ride but are a good prospect, your coach may be able to offer you a significant scholarship that will cover many of your school expenses.

Other kinds of athletic scholarships

Of the maximum 177,559 athletic scholarships made available by NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA Sports, 92,658 are earmarked for male athletes, and 84,901 are for women. The funding for the maximum number can be broken up into smaller awards, so, more men and women benefit from them. Other organizations fund scholarships for high school seniors, such as FLAG Football, Sports Unlimited, and Fisher Cats Foundation.

The process

When you first appear on the radar of scout recruiting and coaches, you have dipped your toes into the pool of college prospects. This is the time when you should be focusing on your sport, your studies and your list of colleges. You also need to know how to pursue full ride scholarships and apply for college scholarships.

Further along in the process, you will have offers to play sports in college that you must evaluate and compare and then respond to before the stated deadline. Once you and your parents decide on which offer to accept, you will join the group of college commits. Now you must apply to a be admitted to the university you have chosen to play for.

Throughout the college recruits process, you need the guidance of a recruiting service that knows the steps to take, the contacts to make and the stats you need to maintain to play sports in college. The help of a professional recruiting service is even more critical if you are going for a full ride scholarship because you need a strategically put together package to successfully compete with a tight field of the nation’s top high school athletes.

NCSA can guide you and your parents every step of the way from your freshman or sophomore year in high school to your college career on a full ride athletic scholarship. We help you sort through schools to find those that match your aspirations and abilities, help you get noticed by scouts, provide feedback that enables you to present yourself at your very best and advise you when the time comes to evaluate your offers.

How to get a full ride scholarship

Don’t allow the fiercely competitive world of college athletic scholarships to get the better of you. With NCSA, you can get noticed by the coaches who make the scholarship decisions. Our client approval rating – 4.9 out of five starts for 1,700 reviews – is proof positive that our recruitment services work.

In fact, over 90 percent of college athletic programs have at least one NCSA player on their teams, and our athlete profiles have garnered more than five million views by coaches nationwide. More than 800,000 coaches have signed on to follow their favorite athletes on the NCSA platform.

You can find out how to apply for full ride scholarships and join the elite ranks of college commits. Get started creating your free NCSA profile today.

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