by Stephanie Barth, Student Athlete Coach at OnCampus, former college athlete and college coach, and parent of three Division 1 athletes

Did you know that there are only a few sports and divisions where athletes are offered full ride scholarships? 

In fact, less than 1% of incoming freshmen earn a full ride. Full rides aren’t common unless you are signing with a Division I “Head Count” sport. A Head Count Sport is a sport that generates money for the athletic department. There is a set number of athletic scholarships available for each team in a Head Count sport.  

NCAA Division I Head Count Sports include Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Football, Women’s Tennis, Women’s Volleyball and Women’s Gymnastics.

Then there are “Equivalency Sports” where you can earn a partial scholarship.  All of the other NCAA I and II sports, NAIA and NJCAA are included with the exception of NCAA Division III.  These sports can give out partial or full scholarships.  Coaches often divide up the scholarships across their roster. Division III, on the other hand, may only offer academic scholarships to its prospective student athletes.

How can I leverage my grades and ACT to help pay for college?  

With the equivalency sports, athletes can combine multiple scholarships at an institution along with financial aid which could equal a full-ride.  Coaches can divide the money equally among their athletes, give more to veteran players, or reward more to their top performers.

A partial ride can be turned into a full ride by combining scholarships and financial aid to cover the cost of attendance.  For example, if you meet standards of a 3.7 GPA and an ACT of a 25 or higher, you may qualify for certain academic scholarships at that institution.  In some ways, this can be beneficial for the athlete because if they get injured or decide not to play they can still keep these scholarships.  Your offer from an institution may be a combination of athletic and academic aid in order to offset the cost of attending.  An important question for student athletes to ask in these sports is can my scholarship go up if I am performing well.  Some college coaches may choose to offer more and some may not.  This is something to know up front when you are weighing your decisions.  

The biggest thing you can do is to go in with a sound game plan!

Research all of the financial aid options at your prospective institutions.  Ask questions about how you can earn more scholarship money both upfront and while you are a student athlete.  

Student Athletes: Contact our resident Student Athlete Coach at if you have more questions about how to leverage your ACT and your high school grades to earn more financial aid and learn how to maximize your chances in the recruiting process with our student athlete coaching services