Athletes and parents often ask for college scholarship money during the athletic recruiting process. The athlete and parent may need to ask for a better scholarship if there is not a sufficient amount of college scholarship money available. Some athletes do not know that they may be able to ask for more college scholarship money. Athletes should ask for more money through a letter or phone call to the college coach.
Before you reach out to a coach who has shown interest and asking for a larger scholarship, it is important to know whether the sport you play is an equivalency program or a head-count program.
For each different athletic program at a college or university, there is different amount of scholarships - or a different style of budgeting for scholarships entirely. It is important for prospective athletes and their parents to understand what certain sports at certain collegiate levels can offer in the form of financial aid.
Head-Count Sports vs. Equivalency Sports
A headcount scholarship is an NCAA term for a full-ride scholarship. The term comes from how the NCAA categorizes the sports it sanctions. The sports that generate revenues for a school or athletic department are considered “headcount sports.”
What are the Head-Count Sports in the NCAA?
For men, the NCAA head count sports are basketball and Division-I FBS football. For women, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and gymnastics are categorized as headcount sports.
As they participate in the sports that make the money, it is the athletes in headcount sports who receive full-ride scholarships. If a football program has a total of 85 scholarships, then only 85 football players can be on full scholarship at any given time.
What are the Equivalency Sports?
Any sport that’s not a headcount sport is considered a “non-revenue” or “Olympic” sport and is referred to as an “equivalency sport” by the NCAA. In fact, at most larger colleges and universities, it’s revenue from the headcount sports that often provides the funds for equivalency sports.
As they don’t generate the same amount of revenues for a school, equivalency sports have fewer scholarships to offer. And, as you might have guessed, coaches from equivalency sports award equivalency scholarships.
An equivalency scholarship most often takes the form of a partial scholarship. While coaches of equivalency sports teams don’t have enough scholarships to give the entire team a full ride, an equivalency scholarship does allow a coach to provide some scholarship money to some or all of his or her team.
Reasons why a college coach would increase the amount of financial aid in an athletic scholarship without athletes or parents asking:
More money became available late in the process.
As a recruit, you really don’t have much control over this. If the coach gives you an offer and you realize that it’s still not enough to make the school affordable for your family, you can let the coach know what your target number is. The coach may or may not be able to find more money in the budget to meet your goal.
A recruit improves significantly and increases their value.
This is also a tough negotiation tool to control. Keep the coach updated with your progress and keep an eye on the roster. If a key player in your position is graduating and there are very few athletes on the roster in your role, it could make you a more valuable addition to the team.
Coaches want to avoid losing a prized recruit to another school.
This is your best means of negotiating for more scholarship money. We include more information about this below, but you need to have a few different offers from schools you’re interested in to be able to leverage them in negotiating for more scholarship money.
Don’t try to rush the scholarship process
No doubt, one of the biggest mistakes athletes make when trying to negotiate a better scholarship deal is to do it too early. This is especially true when they receive a scholarship offer from a school they really like, and they want to get more money out of the deal.
While it's understandable to think about negotiating a bigger deal, it can't be done if you haven't even had your first offer.
If you haven't been offered a scholarship yet, then you are negotiating too early. In most cases, you won't have the leverage to negotiate if the school or coach has not shown enough interest in you. Wait until you receive a letter of interest or have committed to a school before asking about financials.
If you haven's signed with a school, here are a few ways to start the conversation about attending a school and getting an idea of where an athlete like you fits into their scholarship process:
Ask coaches if you are talented enough in and out of the classroom.
Athletes should ask the coach in person (or over the phone) if there are any areas of improvement that the coach sees in the athlete. Athletes may be able to ask for a better scholarship if they improve in areas such as speed, power, strength, quickness, etc. If the athlete is not a strong student, the athlete should ask the coach if there are books or materials that the coach thinks would help the athlete improve.
Ask if your academic performance could help you secure more money at their school.
If you’re looking for a full ride, but don’t participate in a headcount sport, don’t despair. You might still be able to receive an equivalency scholarship of some percentage and have the remaining costs covered by a package of merit scholarships or government grant monies. These package deals are often created by coaches together with their school’s administration to help provide the equivalent of a full-ride scholarship to equivalency sports athletes.
Educate yourself on financial aid and talk to advisors about every option available to pay for college.
Remember that your odds of getting an aid package to augment a partial, equivalency scholarship rely on two things; your GPA and FAFSA (link to FAFSA blog). The higher your GPA, the better chances you’ll have of earning any form of non-athletic scholarship. And the FAFSA (which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid) should be applied for by every high school senior, regardless of family income, as many coaches leverage FAFSA grants to fill out aid and scholarship offers to recruits.
Apply to the schools you are interested in for academic reasons, too.
While there are only two athletic scholarship “types,” you still have multiple opportunities to earn a scholarship or scholarship package that covers some, or all, of your college costs. When it comes to equivalency scholarships and aid packages, there is no right or wrong. The key is to know your type, know what you have to do to earn that type of scholarship offer, and then, find the school, program, or package that’s right for you!
NCAA requirements to combine athletic and academic scholarships
Each NCAA Division I member institution makes financial aid awards to student-athletes in compliance with the NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate (APR) and Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) Requirements. A student-athlete's athletic scholarship and financial aid awards, including grants, loans, and work-study, may not exceed the total cost of attendance for the institution.