It won’t come as a surprise: going to college can be mighty pricey!
So, if you’re blessed with athletic ability and the determination and hard work to prove yourself then looking into potential scholarships is definitely not a bad idea.
It goes without saying you need to be exceptionally good at a sport to gain a scholarship to study in the US. Sadly, we are not sporting experts and cannot advise you on how best to run a lap, but we can talk you through the athletic recruiting process.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reported there are over 17,000 international student-athletes currently enrolled in and competing at NCAA schools alone, yet thousands more study and compete at National Association Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) schools all over the US.
Want to join them?
There’s little use trying to learn something new now and hoping you will miraculously be a prodigy on the football field. But, if you already have that talent and your coach thinks you have potential then don’t waste time.
You will have to go through the athletic recruiting process in which college coaches seek out athletes and decide how much scholarship money to award them with.
This can be a long enough process for students based in the US but add in all the extra hurdles (pun intended) you have to throw yourself over to prove yourself as an international student and you will find you need a good chunk of time.
Do your research
Familiarize yourself with the three governing bodies – NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA – that set the requirements and rules for colleges. Learn what you must do to get in and work out if you meet the requirements and, if not, how you can work towards doing so.
The American university sports deal is a lot different than anywhere else. Getting a scholarship to play college sports is a pretty big deal, kids don’t join pro clubs at young ages like elsewhere
— Brian Jöhnsøn (@WiseOldBHJ) March 16, 2018
Look into the different types of school, scholarship and division levels and find your best match. Also, have a little fun researching potential colleges – there are many choices out there so figure out what sort of college experience you would like and discover what the US has to offer.
Reach out directly
Never underestimate the power of a quick phone call or email, however, remember college coaches are inundated with messages every day so generic messages are likely to be ignored. Instead, explain exactly what you love about the coach’s program, the school and the possibility of studying in the US, making your message well-thought-out, personal and unique.
For international recruits especially, sending over a video of you competing is the only way coaches will be able to see what you can do. You can bet if a coach is unwilling to travel a few miles across the US to watch an athlete, there is no chance of them hopping on a plane to come meet you.
Work with your coach to put together footage which highlights your skills and showcases your athletic capability so the recruiter really gets a feel for your talent.
Don’t talk about money
When trying to get a scholarship it seems pretty unavoidable to talk about money, however, you should try not to mention it upon first meetings with recruiters.
It may take a little time but wait until you have developed a relationship with the college’s coach. Then, and only then, should you inquire where you are on their list of recruits and how much – if any – scholarship money is likely to be available to you.
Don’t forget, you need good grades too
It is highly unlikely you will get into college on your sporting merit alone – you will have to prove yourself in academia, too.
If you are applying for an NCAA or NAIA college, you will almost definitely be required to take the ACT or SAT standardized tests and send your scores off to your college. Not every scholarship will require you to sit for these exams but make sure you double check before assuming either way.
It can be a lengthy process but it will all be worth it when you get out on that field, court, pool or track to prove your athletic worth in the US.
The regulations do vary depending on which country you are applying from so ensure you check on the NCAA website and with your school, coach and potential colleges exactly what steps you need to take.