College Recruiting: When scholarships aren’t an option

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap

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For most people, the hardest part of college isn’t getting in or making it through, it’s figuring out how to pay for it. This may involve the institutions getting involved in the form of need-based financial aid, an athletic scholarship, need-based aid + an athletic scholarship, or academic grants and while it’s easy to think that getting any one of those things will eliminate those worries, it’s not always that simple.

Several of the coaches, particularly the ones from men’s teams, stressed that you need to do your research on financial aid, 3rd party scholarships/grants, student loans, etc. before talking to coaches so that you’re not blindsided by the cost of school if/when getting a scholarship isn’t an option. You can’t always count on getting financial aid either (this is where I got bit in the ass) so make sure you explore any and all options so that when talking to coaches you don’t put them in an awkward position by saying “I can’t come here unless you give me a scholarship” (because apparently that’s an actual thing that kids say to coaches … seriously??).

So what about the schools that don’t have scholarships to offer in the first place, like MIT, the Ivies and all programs at the D3 level – do they still recruit kids? The answer is yes but the money the teams lack in scholarships is usually made up for with need-based aid from the university. With the Ivies in particular, their large endowment funds allow them to offer pretty generous need-based aid and academic grants which has in turn allowed them to offer spots to prospective athletes that might have otherwise turned them down due to the cost and getting better offers from other teams/schools.

This really started to come into play a year or so after I graduated from high school (naturally…) and actually ended up being one of the reasons why one of my friends who graduated two years after me came to row at MIT. If you’re looking at schools that have scholarships to offer (i.e. a Big 10 school) and ones that don’t (i.e. an Ivy), make sure you weigh the scholarship money against the need-based aid you’re being offered because it’s possible that your financial aid package can end up being superior to the scholarship offer.

Related: If you want to read more about this, check out this article from the New York Times on how increased/smarter financial aid practices by the universities changed the game for Ivy League schools and the kids applying there.

Another thing to keep in mind too is that women are going to have far more scholarship opportunities than men thanks to Title IX. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get a scholarship, just that you have more chances than men to earn one. There are lots of ways that coaches divide up the 20 scholarships they have (some put their whole 1V on full-scholarship, others split them into 40 half-scholarships, others vary the percentage depending on the amount of aid you’re getting, etc.) so that’s another thing you should talk with them about.

Related: To see a list of schools that sponsored varsity-level rowing programs (at all levels of competition) in 2014, as well as stats on cost of attendance, average athletic scholarship award, roster size, financial aid assistance offered to undergrads, SAT percentiles, etc. CLICK HERE.

The point to everything I’ve said so far is to know your family’s financial status going into the recruiting process because at some point it’s going to come up and you’re going to need to know how you’re paying for school. Keep in mind too that “paying for school” isn’t just a four year thing, it’s literally something that will effect you and your lifestyle for the next 20-30+ years. The thing I and lots of other people my age learned the hard way was that student loans are evil, soul-sucking, bank account-draining pains in the ass so do. your. research. so that they are your absolute last resort for covering your tuition costs.

Next week: Managing your time as a student-athlete and narrowing down your list of schools

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