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  • Writer's pictureBridget Williams Golden

The Reality of Collegiate Athletic and Dance Team Scholarships

Photo Credit: Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for my children over the years - at practices, in offices, and other waiting rooms. If I know the fellow parents around me, the time can pass quickly as I’ve become friends with many of the parents of our sons’ teammates. If I don’t know the other parents, I am often quiet or reading; even as an extrovert, I am sometimes “peopled out” depending on the time of day.

On more than one occasion, a parent has talked about encouraging (perhaps forcing) their child to pursue a sport like golf or bowling - not for enjoyment or a love of the sport but “because there are thousands of unused athletic scholarships.” I generally keep my head down and bite my lip in these situations.

But just because I’m quiet in those situations, here is what I would like to say to those parents:

  1. Much of the scholarship myth of unused money stems from a 1976-1977 study by the National Institute of Work and Learning showing that $7 billion was available in employer tuition assistance, but less than $400 million was utilized. This study focused on employers offering unused incentives - in the form of tuition assistance or reimbursement - to employees.

  2. According to the NCAA, “Only about 2% of high school athletes are awarded athletics scholarships to compete in college. Of the student athletes participating in sports with professional leagues, less than 2% become professional athletes. A college education is the most rewarding benefit of your student athlete experience.” Think about that.

  3. “Full ride” athletic scholarships are rare with most athletic scholarships covering a portion of tuition and fees, room and board, and books.There is some variation between Division I and II. Students should expect to utilize other funding including grants, work study programs, academic scholarships, and even loans.

  4. If you love playing your sport, consider a Division III school. While Division III schools cannot provide athletic scholarships, 80% of athletes receive non-athletics aid. And one out of every six students is an athlete at a Division III school. (source: NCAA Eligibility Center)

  5. Some scholarships are unawarded, but those are usually because they are so specific (or not well planned). For example, I recently came across an undergraduate scholarship for students whose parents served in Vietnam. They may struggle to find current high school seniors who meet the requirement.

We are proud to sponsor some local high school dance and cheer teams and recently presented to a high school dance team and their parents. I did a little research on dance teams in advance - in case you have a dancer, you may find this interesting or helpful. Please note this information refers to dance teams – if you are pursuing a dance DEGREE, there are academic scholarships.

  1. Dancers are athletes and we’re certainly not debating that. However, where dance teams fall at a college or university can vary. Some dance teams are student organizations; some dance teams fall under athletics departments; and still others fall under bands.

  2. Their funding sources vary - and some (especially those who are student organizations) may be doing a lot of fundraising.

  3. What about scholarships? Some dance teams may have scholarships, but these tend to be partial scholarships - perhaps covering books or even meal stipends. Here are two examples:

    1. LSU Tiger Girls Dance Team - "Scholarships are given upon coaches choice. They are promised for the academic year and vary from season to season." (This appears to be the most common model.)

    2. The Rock Chalk Dancers at the University of Kansas receive $650 partial scholarships to dancers.

  4. Most dance team scholarships are at the coach’s discretion and are reserved for upperclassmen. One UDA coach indicated she has a small pool of money and will make sure to utilize it for captains and a few upperclassmen.

  5. If your dancer isn’t receiving a scholarship or you are looking at various schools and options, here are some additional questions to consider.

    1. Do dance team members receive priority or early registration for classes?

    2. Do dance team members have access to athletic training facilities?

    3. How do dance team members travel? With the athletics department? On their own?

    4. Do dance team members have access to sport psychologists or other athletic trainers?

    5. Housing for summer camps, training, during breaks – if the dance team practices before the residence halls open, where will your dancer stay? If the dance team performs during basketball games during winter break (and residence halls are closed), where will your dancer stay?

    6. Academic expectations? (minimum GPA, study hours, etc)

For those who truly love dancing or their respective sport, continuing that passion in college can mean everything - regardless of scholarship money. As a former dancer whose parents spent a lot on dance and a current parent of two travel soccer players, I understand the costs associated, but more importantly the love and passion for an activity. Help your student pursue their passion and support them, but remember the love and passion for the activity. Don’t force your student to pick up or pursue an activity they don’t love “just to get a scholarship.” Commitment matters and when your student is tired or feels defeated, it’s the love of the game that will keep them going.

Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process? Let's chat.

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