Can softball players combine academic and athletic scholarships?



To combat the skyrocketing cost of college, many student-athletes pair their partial athletic scholarship money with various academic scholarships. Softball is an NCAA “equivalency” sport, meaning coaches award players partial scholarships in order to stay within the maximum number of scholarships the team is allotted. These partial scholarships often barely make a dent in the total cost of attending the institution, but academic and merit-based scholarships and grants can supplement the cost and realistically fund a student-athlete’s college career. When you consider different schools and establish your programs of interest, keep in mind these four keys to maximizing both athletic and academic aid.

NCAA requirements to combine athletic and academic scholarships

The NCAA allows you to combine academic scholarships with your athletic scholarship, but they don’t just hand out free money to anyone. Athletic scholarships for Division 1 college softball are relatively easy to qualify for. All you have to do is graduate high school, complete 16 core courses and maintain a GPA of 2.3. To become eligible for an academic scholarship, the NCAA holds student-athletes to a very high standard in the classroom. Criteria for securing an academic scholarship:

Division 1:

  • 5 GPA or higher
  • 25 ACT score or higher
  • 1200 SAT score or higher
  • Rank within the Top 10 percent of high school graduating class

Division 2:

  • 5 GPA or higher
  • 23 ACT score or higher
  • 1100 SAT score or higher
  • Rank within the Top 20 percent of high school graduating class

Hard work in the classroom can help you stand in the recruitment process as coaches are looking for student-athletes with extraordinary levels of academic success. It displays a level of responsibility and time management skills, an elite competitor on the field who can juggle the task of maintaining excellent grades. If a coach is choosing between you and a comparable athlete to fill a roster need, they will most likely make an offer to the athlete with higher academic standards.

Set realistic expectations based on your position and abilities

As an equivalency sport, softball programs have a limited number of scholarships they can award. In Division 1, the maximum number of scholarships is 12 and teams are comprised of 25 student-athletes on average. That’s less than half of a scholarship per student-athlete if everyone received an equal scholarship. The numbers are not as generous in Division 2: 7.2 maximum scholarships with an average team size of 20. Coaches rarely distribute scholarship money evenly, so pitchers, catchers and power hitters are likely to use up a majority of the available scholarships.

Research available scholarships and grants

Open up the homepage and you’re immediately informed of over 3.7 million college scholarships – roughly $19 billion in financial aid – in their database alone. The academic and non-athletic financial aid that college coaches can help you access at the institution is a grain of sand in the beach of available non-athletic financial aid offerings. Academic scholarships awarded to you, whether it be from the school or somewhere else, are guaranteed for the entirety of your college career, granted you maintain a pre-determined level of academic excellence in terms of your GPA.

When researching what scholarships to apply for, make sure you stay on top of all the requirements and deadlines. Fill out the application completely and put full effort into the process. It can be tedious at times, but a lazy application will stand out in a negative way and someone else will the financial aid that you were depending on. Once you’ve factored in all of your scholarship money and additional financial aid, compare schools based on expected family contribution. While the scholarship may be a greater amount at one school, the higher cost of tuition will leave you with more debt than another college with lower tuition.

Know when to negotiate

It can be awkward and uncomfortable to make a counter offer and ask for more money, but there is always the possibility that the coach can work around the budget. To maximize your chances, you should reach out to as many schools as possible. Ideally, you’ll have five or six offers on the table. Utilize the competing offers to get more money from the school you are most interested in. However, providing false information about an offer is one of the worst ways you can approach the negotiation. Softball coaches network and communicate with one another. The coach will follow up with the other schools to confirm that the student-athletes offer is legitimate. If they find out you are not telling the truth, you risk losing your initial offer from both schools.

Most importantly, understand your worth to the team. Target schools that are lacking players at your position or have a large number of graduating seniors at that position. Stay up to date and continue to work on your skills. If you substantially improve your power at the plate, make the coach aware of your added value to the program. By realistically assessing the situation, you may be able to score additional athletic scholarship money.

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