Sports or athletic scholarships can be an easy doorway for athletes around the world who want to get into a prestigious US university. They come in pretty handy for the students who do not have adequate grades to do get admission without a scholarship. These scholarships give much more priority to the student’s physical prowess than their scores. Therefore, for students wanting to get into Harvard or Stanford University or any other world-class US university, the sports or athletic scholarships would be a great relief and make their admission prospects a lot better.
However, many talented students around the world lack the proper guide to effectively apply for such scholarships and thus eventually lose out on such a brilliant opportunity, even though they might be the most suitable for that scholarship.
This article aims to put forward some of the steps that you should take if you’re looking to apply to a sports or athletic scholarship in the United States.
- Make a comprehensive list
You need to make a sensible list based on your abilities in the sports field of your choice and the matching scholarships offered by the US universities. There are several different options to choose from, one of which is the US National Basketball Scholarship. Now, it is a well-known fact that Americans love and adore their basketball players. It is a matter of common sense that, then, the colleges in America will value basketball players more than anything else. Therefore, a majority of foreign students who successfully make the transition to any US college or university based on a sports or athletic scholarship are basketball players. If you are a talented young and upcoming basketball player, then the US is your dream destination. Make a list of the colleges that do provide basketball scholarships, and then jot down colleges that provide a window of opportunity suitable for your skill level. Do not pick colleges that have a higher standard compared to your skill level.
Another dominant field in college athletic scholarships is amateur wrestling scholarships. American high schools and colleges are famous around the globe for recruiting high numbers of students every year based on wrestling scholarships. In order to be eligible for such a scholarship, you have to have a minimum of 3 years prior experience in amateur wrestling in your home country and a certificate proving your claimed competitive skills in wrestling. Many students have successfully built their resumes and got into these prestigious US universities, like Princeton University and Harvard University solely based on their grappling skills on the mat. So, you could do the same if you carefully make your own list according to your skills and apply it quickly.
- Start at the earliest
You should ensure that you begin the preparation or the process at the earliest, i.e. before the official scholarship season begins. You will notice that once an academic season is over and the schools close for a month or so, the process for applying to different US schools or colleges commence. Starting early would mean that you start even before the academic year is over. You must make the list of your desired colleges, then prepare your online application and submit an application essay like everyone else, but much before everyone does it. There are two reasons for choosing to do so.
These are as follows:
- Competitive edge
By choosing to apply early, you are giving yourself the necessary competitive advantage because, at the time you are submitting your final draft for the application essay, no one else has done it! And so it will be a much comfortable process for the management to go through your application and judge it at that time compared to when there are already thousands of applications piled up on their desks. In addition to that, you may also get the beginners’ luck when you apply first due to fewer applications being received at that time.
- More time to apply for other opportunities
By applying at the earliest, apart from having the competitive edge as discussed earlier, you are also free to explore other opportunities, as in other scholarship options, just in case you get rejected from your favorite school or college. Applying early also provides you the time to think about your choices further down the line. You can opt out of a scholarship or opt-in for some new courses as well. Moreover, you can also change your direction and apply to something else altogether without any loss in momentum. Having time on your side gives you all these advantages and more so that you can be comfortable and not rush to a decision.
- Acquire professional sports assessment
Believing in yourself is good, but you should definitely go for a professional sports assessment in order to confirm your eligibility to apply for any US scholarship. It is much better to get a prior professional sports assessment and know your place than to abruptly get rejected by a number of colleges because you are not up to their level. You can find a number of professional assessment centers in your country but make sure to take the US assessment because every country has different criteria to meet for acquiring the scholarship.
In addition to that, please make sure that your sports category is widely represented in several US schools or colleges because otherwise, you would not have many options to choose from. Not only that, but you would not even have many future opportunities to explore if your sports category is not widely represented in many US colleges. Moreover, getting a professional sports assessment in the proper time period will also help you identify your weak points and improve on them and by the time the scholarship is open, you will be hopefully ready to crack it.
- Research the eligibility criteria
This is yet another really important step towards achieving your dream scholarship in a US school or college. You will need to thoroughly research the eligibility criteria for your sports or athletic scholarship in every different US university. Roughly speaking, three major boards of awarding sports scholarships are prevalent in the US. These boards are the NCAA, the NAIA, and the NJCAA. Each of these systems operates under a totally different set of rules. They also have different types of scholarships to offer aspiring students.
For example, the NCAA system requires that a typical student willing to acquire a sports or athletic scholarship must complete at least a few number of classes in their respective sports category from a recognized board to be eligible to even apply for the scholarship. There will be credits for each hour of completion. And at the end, you will need to prove the total hours completed are genuine through a certificate of completion. On the other hand, boards such as The NJCAA requires the student to have certain minimum grades in all subjects to ensure he meets the overall educational standard. So even if you are an exceptionally good athlete, you will not get the NJCAA sports scholarship if your overall grades do not meet their requirements.
- Design your own scholarship packet
Only listing down the scholarships, being good at the sport, and meeting the eligibility criteria are not good enough to ensure you get the scholarship awarded to yourself. Every year, millions of students fight for these esteemed opportunities to get into some of the best colleges in the world. That is why, to win these scholarships, you will need to stand apart from the rest of the crowd. And that is where the concept of designing your own scholarship packet comes in.
A scholarship packet is a compilation of all your achievements and your future endeavors in a compact file. The typical scholarship packet consists of four parts, but you can customize it according to your own needs or the college you are applying to. The major parts of a typical scholarship packet are:
- Cover letter: This is a customized letter explaining why you want that scholarship and why you deserve to win it.
- Your resume: This is a compact version of your CV.
- Your certificates: This is a collection of your grades and other extracurricular certificates.
- A sample of you playing your sport: This is a video of you playing your sport in a real match scenario. Do not attach a video of you casually playing the sport.
By attaching this scholarship packet to your application, you ensure that you grab the attention of the management every single time. Remember, every year the management of every major school or college is flushed and overwhelmed with millions of applications just like yours. And they do not have the adequate time or attention span to give equal importance to every applicant. And therefore, by creating your personalized scholarship packet, you grab the management’s attention to make them take your application more seriously. But remember to change your scholarship packet and customize it as per the needs of every different scholarship you apply for.
- Focus on your dream colleges
This is a step that is the most overlooked during the application process. Students often fail to understand the importance of jotting down their dream colleges. They either do not pay enough attention to this step or they take it for granted. Remember that listing down colleges or schools is not only important because you want to get into them but also because you need a mental picture of where you stand in the competition and what are your realistic chances of getting a particular sports scholarship. Not only are you not eligible to apply for every scholarship but also, you need to determine under which system you want to apply.
As mentioned before, there are three such systems or boards: The NCAA, The NAIA, and The NJCAA. Each of these boards has different demands and different kinds of sports scholarships. It is not humanly possible for a student to apply for all of these scholarships in one year. Therefore, it is only advisable for students to research the types of scholarships most suitable according to their skill level, write them down in order of importance and then apply for them once the list is completed and revised.
When students ignore or mess up this step in their process of application, they apply for the wrong scholarships or apply to the wrong board because they apply for it in a haphazard manner. Listing down the boards and the scholarships as per your requirement and your eligibility organizes the application process to let you apply for only the scholarships which you have a practical chance of getting. That way, you can be positive that you have maximized your chances of securing a sports or athletic scholarship in a US school or college.
- Contact relevant coaches
This should be the final step of your application process. This is the step where you send your scholarship packets to the relevant coaches of each school or college after submitting the application form. Every school or college website has the relevant sports coach listed in their list of faculties. You can thus easily find their contact information and email then your scholarship packet. Remember to always personalize the cover letter of your scholarship packet to let the coaches know why you are the best candidate for their school or college. It will also be useful to shed some light on your dreams and future endeavors and why this scholarship is important to fulfill them.
In addition to this, include a paragraph about why you would be a valuable asset to that coach’s sports team. The key in this step is to ensure that you personalize every single application according to the coaches and their teams. One way to make sure this is done correctly is to check your cover letter. If you find yourself sending scholarship packets with cover letters that have a significant number similarities, then stop the process and personalize each of them until they are at least 70 percent different. Remember that not enough personalized cover letters convey that you are not interested enough in the scholarship. Therefore, personalized cover letters are a great way to open up those hidden opportunities for you.
If you ensure that all these steps are followed to the letter, you can successfully increase your chances of grabbing the scholarship that you have been dreaming of!