Yes, your kid is amazing. She's the best athlete in the state, or at least in her school, or at least in your family. Her ability to run, throw, catch, shoot or swing is certainly worth a free college education.
Or are you kidding yourself? What are her real chances of getting an athletic scholarship? In the end will the social, scholastic and financial costs outweigh the benefit?
Going Big Time
Although most every kid dreams of becoming a wealthy sports star, the chances are slim. The NCAA reports that most of its athletes have less than a 2% chance of becoming a professional.
His or her chosen sport has something to do with it. For men baseball, basketball, football, hockey and golf can lead to some serious money. For women there are fewer high-paying options, but any successful athlete could end up with endorsements and a quality coaching job.
So getting rich in sports is a rarity, but you hope success in high school athletics should lead to a discount at college. According to US News & World Report there are approximately 138,000 scholarships available for Division I and II sports. Over one million young men compete in high school football alone. They are competing for only 19,500 scholarships. The 603,000 young women participating in track and field are fighting for 4,500 scholarships.
Many of those scholarships are far from a full-ride. Coaches can cut up full scholarships into smaller slices to attract more athletes. The average scholarship is just over $10,000. College athletes still take out loans for tuition and expenses, leaving many in as much debt as the next student.
The Pursuit of a Scholarship
What does it cost your family to chase your child's athletic dream? Young kids in soccer need only a pair of cleats, a ball and a chunk of grass. Games are played at the neighborhood school and the league costs $100 or less. If they bounce to the club level, league and travel costs start to climb until parents are driving all over the state most weekends.
Hockey parents buy new skates and pads more than once a year for rapidly growing players. You can't play on a frozen pond year round. Rink fees are spendy. Before long the cost of your kid's sport can reach five figures annually and eat up a great deal of time.
Unless your child is a huge star, you need to get her noticed. Fortunately, there's an entire industry ready to take your money in an attempt to get her a scholarship. Athletic recruiting advisors, for a couple thousand dollars a year, will do everything they can to get your student athlete in front of the best coaches.
College athletic departments are faced with the same modern dilemma as the rest of us: too much information. Yes, they can view game footage emailed to them by enthusiastic parents and access a wide world of statistics, but they are also overloaded with requests. They need a way to sort through thousands of athletes, making recruiting advisors necessary.
But before you end up spending $20,000 to earn a $5,000 scholarship, make sure your priorities are in the right place. Is your child skilled enough and passionate enough about the sport that it's worth the time and money? Or would she be better off seeking a college with a Division III team that will offer her a merit scholarship to attend?
Athletics can open the door to a college your child otherwise couldn't get into. Working as a team, sweating for results and learning to compete are lessons that will serve her forever. You can't put a price on those benefits, but chasing an athletic scholarship may cost much more than you think.
Interested in learning how your student can play college sports the smart way without going broke?