Details of a Scholarship Matter: What Parents Should Know About Obtaining College Athletic Scholarships

Published 01/23/2018

By A. Andrew “Andy” Marwede


The athletic college scholarship world is an exceedingly large and complex world, and it is constantly evolving. In the third article in his four-part series, A. Andrew “Andy” Marwede covers why details of a scholarship matter.


If your child is one of the 10 or 20 best players in the country in their respective sport in their age group, the advice in this article doesn't necessarily apply to you. These practical suggestions are for the other 99% of high school student athletes who dream of obtaining an athletic scholarship.

My intention here is not to provide an exhaustive resource but rather to provide parents with helpful strategies based on my recent experience transitioning two of my children into Power 5 athletic programs. Parents who have a firm understanding of how the world of college athletic scholarships operates are better able to assist during the process and can even positively affect the financial value a child may receive if he or she is offered a college scholarship.


The Details of a Scholarship Matter

The most important step, and by far the most difficult step, in receiving an athletic scholarship offer to a dream school is to get that first scholarship offer, which should be from any school your child would seriously consider attending. Once you have that first offer, you have dramatically increased your negotiating power/position with the other schools on your list because you now have paid for all (or a portion of) the costs for college. At this point, the other schools you are talking to know that they must offer a scholarship or they will likely lose the student to that first school.

Some offers are "committable," and some are not. The first words out of an athlete's mouth when he or she is offered a scholarship should be, “Thank you.” The follow up should be to ask, “Is this a committable offer?” When the thrill has worn off (somewhat), the next step is to consider the characteristics of the scholarship.


Does the scholarship allow for “stacking”? Some schools allow students to combine (“stack”) academic scholarship money on top of athletic scholarship money. However, some schools force students to choose between the two types of scholarships. 


Does the school offer stipends? Some schools will pay thousands of dollars of stipends each year on top of room, board and tuition costs. Stipends help students pay for transportation costs from home to school as well as some other miscellaneous expenses.


How many years are included in the scholarship? Some athletic scholarships are guaranteed for four years while some are just good year to year. The length of an athletic scholarship agreement is determined by the level of competition. Most Division 1 colleges now offer four-year scholarships. So, for example, if an athlete is injured, that scholarship will continue until the athlete has graduated, even though it may not be possible to compete again. At a different school, the scholarship might not be renewed and the athlete and his or her family would have to determine whether they could afford to stay at the school and cover the remaining costs. 


Final Thoughts

Throughout the process, parents should conduct their child's athletic scholarship process with a spirit of gratitude, candor and respect. A student’s future is on the line.

How can the process that decides the environment for the next four years not include these three things?


Read Part 1: “Timing Just Might Be Everything”


Read Part 2: “Ask the Coach”