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College Recruiting for the Elite Athlete

Avoiding "buyer's remorse"

Perhaps you earn a middle-class income. Perhaps your other children need your time and support. Perhaps, you think to yourself, this sport is indeed elite, not just athletically but economically as well. Perhaps you find yourself explaining to Jennifer that the college-recruitment process helping to maintain such relentless competition is not worth your taking out a second mortgage or moving the whole family to Florida.

"But it's not fair!" she'll exclaim. "I'm just as good as those kids! I need this level of competition! You're supposed to be supporting me!"

Or perhaps you have made all these sacrifices, and Jennifer's performance seems lackluster. She's distracted by a new social life, or not eating properly. Her high-level coach accepts your checks but expresses doubts about her future.

"I'm spending half my income on you," you hear yourself saying, "and all my free time. Now you'd better grab the attention of a college coach, or the whole thing's a waste!"

There are no easy solutions to the money dilemma. In other countries, elite athletes - many of whom end up with scholarships to American universities - are supported by state funding, a system that has its own drawbacks. In America, the burden falls on non-profit associations and on families.

The only sound advice is this: avoid buyer's remorse. Work with your athletic child to find the best level of support that you can give without regretting the outcome and that he can accept without feeling he has been denied a future in the sport.

3.  Division I, II, or III: Which will provide the best fit for your child?

Financial Aid

Colleges and universities that are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are classified into three divisions: I, II, and III, with the classification based primarily on whether and how the school awards scholarships to incoming student-athletes.

In theory,

  • Division I: are generally large universities and set both minimum and maximum financial aid award limits for student-athletes.

  • Division II schools have maximum award limits and generally attract local or in-state student-athletes.

  • Division III schools do not award athletic scholarships.

In practice, however, these distinctions don't mean a lot. Many Division III schools find ways to supply merit scholarships to promising student-athletes, while, contrary to popular myth, most awards at Division I schools do not come close to covering tuition, room and board.