How to Pay for College If You Have a Partial Athletic Scholarship

 April 24, 2020
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Playing sports at the collegiate level and nabbing an athletic scholarship is a huge accomplishment. But many student-athletes also have to take out student loans to pay their tuition and other expenses.

Figuring out how athletic scholarships work and what your options are if you receive a partial scholarship can help make your athletic and academic dreams a reality. Here’s our guide on what you need to know:

Full-ride vs. a partial athletic scholarship
How to estimate the cost of attending school
What to do if your scholarship doesn’t cover everything
Enjoy the accomplishments you’ve earned

Full-ride vs. a partial athletic scholarship

Not every scholarship is created equal. When it comes to athletic scholarships, you must understand the difference between head count and equivalency sports.

Only a handful of sports offer full-ride scholarships to student-athletes. They also are known as head count sports; think men’s football and basketball, and women’s basketball, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics.

For head count sports, a school can give a certain number of scholarships per year, and only one athlete can receive each award. If a school has 65 scholarships to dole out, only 65 athletes may receive them.

These awards are considered full-ride scholarships, although they can fall short of covering the true cost of attending school when you factor in other expenses such as living off campus or commuting to school.

How partial scholarships in sports work

In equivalency sports, including baseball and soccer, multiple athletes might share the available scholarships. Administrators can give several students financial aid that is equivalent to a certain amount of full-ride scholarships, but they don’t have to give full scholarships to each player. This allows teams to stretch their financial aid dollars.

In men’s baseball, for example, Division II schools are allowed to offer nine equivalencies. Instead of offering full-ride scholarships to nine baseball players, administrators can divide that scholarship money among the entire team. Some athletes might get more money and others might have less. Hence, a partial scholarship.

Students who receive a partial athletic scholarship will need to find a way to cover the remaining cost of attending school. Here’s how to do it.

How to estimate the cost of attending school

If you’re offered a partial athletic scholarship, your next step should be to estimate the total cost of attending school. You should add several elements to your estimate when you’re figuring out the cost of your degree.

1. Determine your tuition and fee costs

Your first step should be to review your school’s tuition and fee costs. Most schools list this information on their website, but you also can contact their financial aid offices for more information.

This estimate of costs is particularly important if you’re offered a partial scholarship because it’s the only way to accurately evaluate your scholarship offer.

2. Factor in living expenses

If you’re living in a dorm, living expenses such as rent, internet and utilities might be included in one bill.

If you move off campus, you must account for all those costs in your estimate of college costs, plus expenses such as transportation to campus and home furnishings.

3. Include school supplies in your estimate

Athletes on full-ride athletic scholarships usually have their books and a certain amount of school supplies paid for by their scholarship money.

If you’re on a partial scholarship, you’ll have to get your own books each semester, as well as buy a laptop and other supplies you need, so include those costs in your budget estimate.

What to do if your scholarship doesn’t cover everything

Partial college sports scholarships are a huge accomplishment, and playing your sport at a collegiate level is an experience you’ll cherish. Here’s how you can cover the rest of your college costs if your scholarship doesn’t cover everything.

1. Don’t do anything that would put you out of compliance

You can’t be careful enough when it comes to staying on the right side of the NCAA’s rules about extra benefits. An extra benefit is something offered to a student-athlete that wouldn’t be offered to any other student at your school.

For example, you can’t receive unauthorized help with your rent, transportation, food or school supplies from a university employee. Before you accept any benefit or gift, make sure you clear it with your school’s compliance officials.

2. Apply for federal student loans

Most student-athletes are eligible for federal student loans, which often have lower interest rates than private student loans and don’t require a credit check. These loans also offer unique benefits such as income-driven repayment plans, which can make them easier to repay when you graduate.

In order to be eligible for a federal student loan, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine how much aid you’ll receive from the government.

3. Consider private student loans

If you don’t receive enough money in loans from the government to cover college costs, consider private student loans. These loans are offered by credit unions, banks and online lenders. However, you must have good credit and a solid income to qualify. If you don’t meet those requirements, adding a cosigner to your application could help.

Before you sign up for any loans, estimate the cost of repaying them by using our online calculator. Then you’ll have a better picture of the college you can afford, which might impact where you live, the major you pursue and how quickly you try to finish your degree.

Enjoy the accomplishments you’ve earned

Athletic scholarships of any kind, even partial ones, are something to be excited about. You’ve put in the hard work to become a valuable athlete, so playing a college sport can set you up for success after your degree.

Finding the right solution to pay for the rest of your education will help you take advantage of the exciting opportunities you’ve created for yourself.

Christina Majaski contributed to this report.

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