You can find great athletic scholarships in Division I. Its colleges have the biggest sports budgets and the most athletic aid to offer. It's the division with the most full rides—six of its sports use full rides only. It's also the division with multi-year offers, which locks in your scholarship no matter how healthy you stay or how well you play. To be eligible for a Division I scholarship, take 16 core courses in high school. You need at least a 2.3 GPA in those, and maybe higher, depending on your SAT or ACT scores.
If you like its bright lights and can handle its high demands, then begin your search for NCAA Division I programs that align with your goals. That's where you find the most athletic scholarships. It's not by mistake or chance—this division is home to the nation's largest student bodies and the colleges with the biggest athletic budgets. The big TV deals and ticket sales give Division I's 347 schools the most athletic scholarship funds in college sports.
Is Division I your mission? It all starts in the classroom
To get a Division I scholarship, you have to reach marks in high school courses and standardized exams. Some of the rules are new for athletes who began college in August 2016 or after.
It starts with which high school courses you take. In eight semesters you have to finish 16 core courses. Take four years of English; three of math (Algebra I or higher); two of natural or physical science (including one lab course if your high school offers it); one extra of English, math, or natural or physical science; two of social science; and four more from these groups of religion, philosophy or foreign language.
You have to get at least a 2.3 GPA in these courses. (It used to be a 2.0 GPA.) You may have to do even better than that, depending on your SAT combined or ACT sum scores. It's a "sliding scale" — if one number is awesome, then the other one doesn't have to be high. For example, if you get a 900 on the SAT, then you can get by with a 2.3 GPA. But if you get a 400 on the SAT, then you need a 3.5 GPA.
What you need to know about Division I athletic scholarships
It's important to remember that not every scholarship is a full ride. It's more common to get a partial, though the rules differ based on the sport. Division I has six "head count" sports, which use only full rides: men's and women's basketball, football, women's gymnastics, tennis and volleyball. If you play one of those sports, it's all or nothing for your athletic scholarship. The other sports are "equivalency" sports. In these sports, coaches split the value of full rides among a lot of athletes. For example, baseball coaches divide 11.7 scholarships among roughly 25 athletes. There's a chance of getting a full ride in one of these sports. It's just tougher because the funds are more limited.
It's possible to get a multi-year scholarship in Division I. This gives you great security as you start college. Even if you get hurt or struggle in your sport, you can keep going with your education at a cost that works for you.
Do all Division I schools offer athletic scholarships?
There are a few exceptions to the rule of Division I athletic scholarships. If you go to an Ivy League school or military academy, then financial aid will look different. These are the Division I colleges without athletic scholarships. But the Ivy League schools have a lot of non-athletic aid to offer, and the military academies do not charge appointees for tuition.
See if there are Division I colleges that make sense for you. If you're open to the Division I lifestyle, where sports are a huge part of your schedule, then there's a chance to find helpful scholarships and make a great college team.
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