Scholarships in the USA – How do they really work?

Scholarships in the USA – How do they really work?

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U.S. Scholarships – This is how they really work!

A question we often get asked at Athletes USA. What are scholarships and how do they work? For those who have heard of U.S. scholarships we often come across the misbelief that they cover all your costs at a U.S. university. Whilst this can happen, it is factually incorrect. 

To begin with, scholarships range from 1-100%. This means that if you achieve a 50% scholarship, the university will usually cover 50% of your tuition, accommodation and food costs for that year. In order to have all your tuition, accommodation and food costs covered, you would have to achieve a full scholarship or what is also known as a full-ride (100% scholarship). 

This is just the start though and very quickly gets tricky…. Some scholarships include insurance costs whilst others don’t. Each university and coach decides what he offers you, meaning that sometimes those are extra expenses that you need to account for and other times they are not. Sometimes universities require you to take their insurance policy, whilst others’ don’t. 

You may now be building a picture of the complexity behind this process…. There is a lot more!

What will impact the type of scholarship you can achieve as well as your costs?

There are many variables that will impact the type of scholarship you can achieve. First and foremost, U.S. universities all have individual costs, meaning that a scholarship at 50% will vary from one university to another. Commonly, these costs will differ by size of the university, location, reputation and their sports program. These costs can range from anything between $12,000 – $60,000+ per year. 

As an example, here you have two universities with completely different costs.

Another very important factor is the level you are looking to compete at. There are various sports associations under which universities can compete and again where scholarships get even trickier. These include the NCAA, NAIA, NCJAA or CCAA (Canadian). 

To explain this in very simple terms, let’s say that the biggest university sports programs are governed by the NCAA, medium sized universities by the NAIA, and small universities by the NJCAA.  This isn’t factually 100% correct, but more often than not, tends to be the case. The association that governs the university considerably impacts the scholarship you could be offered. NCAA universities tend to be the strongest and top level athletes will usually go to these colleges. Let’s put this into simple terms through an example scenario. 

Example scenarios to illustrate the scholarship process

Peter is a sprinter and a very very good one too! He and his family have signed up to the process 18 months before he was due to graduate high school or college in his country (U.K. for example). They have a small budget and can only afford to go to the U.S. on something close to a 100% scholarship. Peter is very close to the automatic standards at NCAA but isn’t receiving offers for a full scholarship, only an 80% one at a university with costs of around $40,000 per annum. However, he gets offered a 95% scholarship at an NAIA university, where the standards are not as high and the overall costs are $25,000. After organising their finances as a family, they were able to source the $1,250 and Peter decided to go with the NAIA university offer. After working extremely hard for the following 2 years, he managed to reach the automatic standards for the NCAA and was able to transfer on a 100% scholarship. Had Peter not started the process he would have never known what scholarships were possible and the offers he would have received.

Hopefully Peter’s story provides you with a better understanding of how individual this process is. Further factors that determine your scholarship percentage can be the timing (the later you leave it, the lower budget coaches have available), high school/colleges grades and also your SAT or ACT score. 

For example, Andre had very similar “Personal Best’s” to Peter, but only joined 8 months before he was due to start university. Andre and his family too could only afford a 95%-100%. The coaches really liked him but could only offer him a 75% scholarship as they had no budget left. In this case Andre would have been unable to start his university journey in the United States that year.

However, let’s assume that Andre was an outstanding student and scored really highly in his SAT. Some universities could actually offer Andre some academic scholarship money, bringing his overall scholarship to 95 or even 100%, therefore making it affordable for him and his family. These are only examples but will hopefully provide you with a better understanding of the variables and complexities that affect obtaining a U.S. scholarship.

This is how we can help and what we suggest

At Athletes USA we always offer a free evaluation to try and give you an estimate of the costs you may incur if you decided to pursue a scholarship in America. Unfortunately however, this is just our estimation and will ultimately be the decision of the coach and university. It will very much depend on your athletic times or highlight tapes, academic scores and the type of university you wish to compete at. Keeping all options open is the best way, as there are some great NAIA universities and Junior Colleges with excellent sports programs. 

Whilst we cannot give you exact estimations of your costs before the university search has begun, we have to be transparent with you as our clients and therefore offer a unique pay later program, through which we only request a small non-refundable deposit to start the college search. Only once you have verbally agreed to an offer from a coach, will the remainder of the service charge be due. As we cannot provide you with exact costs, we believe this is the ethical way of embarking onto the U.S. scholarship search with you.

You can see the full breakdown of the services we provide here. 

To speak with one of our consultants and to receive your evaluation, please register on the following link: 

Free evaluation > https://athletesusa.org/apply