Studying and playing sports at an American university can be a tremendously exciting period. Campus traditions, early morning training times, late-night study groups, long-haul bus rides across the country, and even broken hearts are all part of the college life experience.
But those experiences also cost something. Since most international athletes do not have the financial base to cover the costs of studying abroad, they rely on their sports skills to secure financial aid for college.
Below, we’ll shortly look at the sports scholarship opportunities for each division, to help better understand who can and cannot offer sports scholarships to student-athletes.
NCAA stands for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It is by far the largest student-athlete regulatory organization in the world. NCAA serves nearly 1100 universities and colleges in the U.S., and approximately 490 000 student-athletes compete within it annually. The NCAA is divided into 3 divisions: Division I, Division II and Division III.
Division I & II:
Typically, Division I schools are the biggest universities by enrollment, campus size, and financial budget allocated for their sports programs. Division I & II universities offer athletic scholarships as well as various other scholarships, grants, and financial aid. Even though most partial and full sports scholarships are awarded to student-athletes from within the United States, the number of international athletes gaining scholarships is growing every year.
Universities that are members of NCAA Division III do not offer any sports scholarships. Although, roughly 80% of their students do receive other forms of academic need-based financial aid. The Division III philosophy places the “highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on the successful completion of all students’ academic programs.“ – ncaa.org website
NAIA “Small and excellent”
NAIA stands for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. It’s a collegiate sports organization that in 2019, associated 251 colleges and universities mainly in the U.S. and Canada. The level of sports competition at an NAIA university is very similar to that of NCAA Division II schools. Also, similar types of scholarships are awarded in the NAIA, that are available in the NCAA. Though there are generally fewer scholarships available, universities offer both full and partial scholarships to international student-athletes. And as a bonus, the eligibility requirements to be admitted into an NAIA university are generally simpler than they are in the NCAA.
NJCAA “Quick ride”
NJCAA stands for the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association. It serves student-athletes in two-year colleges (JUCOs). These are mostly vocational colleges, meaning that they mainly focus on specific job skills and general academics. Similar to the NCAA, there are three divisions in the NJCAA. All three divisions grant various types of academic scholarships and financial aid to a large portion of their students. Concerning sports scholarships, Division I schools offer both full & partial scholarships; Division II institutions offer mostly partial athletic scholarships, and Division III only offers non-athletic financial aid or grants. Scholarships from colleges in all three NAIA divisions are granted to both American and international student-athletes.