3 Athletic Scholarship Myths

“He got a full ride for lacrosse to Princeton!”

“(Name of expensive trainer) sent two girls to Duke and Delaware for soccer this year”

Ever over hear comments like these?

I do, at my daughter’s soccer games.

She’s 10.

If you have a student-athlete who wants to play in college, let me learn ya a few things.

First, no-one gets a full ride to Princeton or any Ivy for any sport – Ivies don’t award sports scholarships.  Neither do Division III schools.

All Ivy League financial aid is need-based (awarded after the financial aid office reviews the applicant’s financial aid forms:  the FAFSA and CSS Profile).

sure, I’ve heard of cases where coaches sway the financial aid office to award a “grant-in-need” for an athlete he really wants, but this is not commonplace.

Second, there are no free rides.

Well, not exactly.  But they’re much more rare than you’d think.

Example:  I worked with a top lacrosse goalie a few years back. Actually, I think he was THE top goalie – the number one recruit in the country, from a local, powerhouse high school program.

In his junior year of high school, he ended up committing to the top lacrosse college (that won the NCAA Division I mens’s championship that year).

His scholarship:


The reason:

If you’re not a mens’s Division I Basketball or Football athlete (i.e. play one of two revenue-producing sports), your chances of a full scholarship are teeny-tiny.

DI football has 85 full scholarships per team.  DI basketball has 15.

Lacrosse, Soccer and other popular sports “split” scholarships among their roster.  In other words, a team may have 35 athletes, but 11.69 scholarships to award.

Every year, the coach must engage in higher math to allocate their scarce resources among coaches.

Third, I hate to break the news to you, but your kid may not be as good as you think she is.

Less than 2% of high school athletes play in college.  So even if your travel team coach, sports academy trainer or other coach tells you, implicitly or explicity, that your kid has what it take to play in college (provided that he take private training sessions for the next three years and play in 20 out-of-state tournaments this summer), be skeptical.

Related point:  if you’re not the best, or one of the best players on each team you play on, you’re probably not going to play in college.

Of course there are exceptions, particularly for powerhouse-type high schools that send three-five athletes to various college athletic programs each year.

Absent this circumstance, if you’re not the leading scorer, or all-league, it’s unlikely you can play D III sports.  Not impossible, unlikely.

I played DIII basketball at Wesleyan University (well, “play” is artistic license).  I remember being shocked at how good – and athletic – some of the players were. Turns out that many D III teams have D I caliber athletes who chose the D III route, usually because of academics.

I would never tell a kid not to pursue D I colleges, but I always urge them to round out their list of colleges, even if they’re less competitive athletically.

Here are some more tips for student-athletes families.

Your Correspondent,

– Andy Lockwood