Sports scholarships may be viable way to fund college education

June 16, 2003|by ROSE RENNEKAMP

I recently received a note from Los Angeles Southwest College, a community college in Southern California, telling me about its women's basketball team.

Not only does the team have a wonderful record on the court, it has a stellar record for receiving scholarships. In the last three years, every player received a full scholarship to a four-year institution upon graduation.

Sports scholarships are a viable way to fund a college education.

Athletes with good academic credentials have many options.

If your teen is a sports "superstar," college recruiters probably will contact him or her. Solid and reliable players often receive scholarships, too. However, they usually have to be more assertive in seeking out opportunities.

Student athletes can start with an online college search. Sites such as allow students to search for colleges that offer opportunities in more than 20 intercollegiate sports, from basketball to fencing to rugby. They can enter a keyword (such as "soccer") in the scholarship search at the same site and get specific scholarship listings.


Links to college Web sites allow students to learn more about the academic and athletic opportunities at specific schools.

Students can find colleges that fit their goals - academically as well as athletically - then follow up with letters of introduction to coaches. They should ask to meet with coaches and team members during campus visits, learning not only about the coaching and win records, but about graduation rates, academic counseling and tutoring. It is important that students look for coaches and programs that will support them as students and as athletes.

While still in high school, your teen athlete needs to take a challenging college prep curriculum to prepare for college. Most colleges belong to one of three intercollegiate athletic associations - the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics or the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Each has academic requirements for athletic scholarship recipients. The NCAA and NAIA also have minimum requirements for test scores on college admissions tests, such as the ACT.

Students should work to exceed those requirements to be fully prepared for the academic challenges of college. Students who play for community colleges in hopes of winning a scholarship to a four-year institution, like the women of Los Angeles Southwest, need to have solid academic backgrounds as well.

If your teen is seeking an athletic scholarship, there are several eligibility requirements he or she must meet to be a scholarship qualifier. Besides course work and admissions test requirements, these include high school graduation, maintenance of amateur status and a minimum grade point average.

There also are many rules governing recruiting and college visits. To fully understand these rules and requirements, visit the Web sites of the athletic associations - NCAA ( or, NAIA ( and NJCAA (

And never forget, an athletic scholarship is a means to an end - the means to receive a college education. Very few college athletes will end up playing their sport professionally, and those who do usually have short professional athletic careers.

Athletic success can be fleeting, but the knowledge gained from a good college education will last a lifetime.

Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. If you have a question for her, send e-mail to Rennekamp at

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