How to Get Recruited Guide
Division III Athletic Scholarships

Division III Scholarships (But Not Athletic Scholarships)

Division III does not offer athletic scholarships

Do you know there are no Division III athletic scholarships? Many athletes focus solely on athletic scholarships. In my conversations with parents and players, they often tell me receiving an athletic scholarship is more important than choosing the college that is the best fit. Athletic scholarships are so important that families fail to recognize that athletic scholarships are only one piece of the financial aid package. The prized athletic scholarship validates all the time, money, and tears parents and athletes have invested over the years.

Are you counting on substantial athletic scholarships? In our previous look into Division I Athletic Scholarships, Division II Athletic Scholarships, and NAIA Athletic Scholarships we saw that large scholarships are rare for most sports. In fact, even half tuition is not as common as you might think. If you haven’t read those articles, read them after you finish this.

This is the fourth in a four part series about athletic scholarships. Division III doesn’t offer athletic scholarships. Instead of describing athletic scholarships, we will take a look at what the absence of athletic scholarships in Division III means to you. Once again, you are going to hear straight from college coaches.

Should I consider sending my child to play Division III athletics?

Yes! There are 439 NCAA Division III colleges. The make up approximately 40% of all NCAA institutions. 81% are private and 19% are public. The average size of Division 3 schools is 2,600. They range in size from a few hundred students to over 21,000.

If you don’t consider Division III colleges, you have ruled out 4 out of every 10 colleges before you even begin.

Parents often won’t even let their athlete look at Division III schools. Ignorant club and high school coaches will steer their players away from Division III colleges.

  • Parents say, “We can’t afford it without an athletic scholarship.”
  • Club coaches say, “Division III can’t give you an athletic scholarship and the talent isn’t very good.”
  • Players say, “I don’t want to go there if they don’t give me an athletic scholarship.”

“This is the scenario that Division III coaches hate. On more than one occasion, I’ve had prospects tell me that we were their top choice, but that an NAIA or Division II school offered them an athletic scholarship, so they’re going there. After further investigation, I would learn that the bottom-line figures are sometimes higher, but the perception is that if they are receiving financial aid through athletics, then it must be less expensive. An athletic scholarship can cause a student-athlete (and their parents) to overlook every single other factor including the major that the student wants to study.

What I tell prospects and their families is to treat the process like they’re buying a car. Analytically, look for the parts that are important to you. In car buying, that may be fuel economy, safety features and passenger capacity. In the college search, that could be location, major and dining options among other factors. Next, evaluate the college based on how it feels. Take a “test drive” by visiting the campus a few times to try and develop an understanding for life on campus. At the end, there will be the discussion of financial aid. In our case, we often find that our bottom-line cost after merit-based and need-based scholarship is lower than those of our NAIA or Division II counterparts with partial athletic scholarship.

Coach Jeff Jenkins, Men and Women’s Track and Cross Country Coach, of Piedmont College

We can’t afford to send our child to a Division III school

Division III schools are competing for students just like every other college. If the amount the average student paid was higher than Division I, Division II and NAIA schools, who would go there?

Division III schools are offering just as much financial aid as their counterparts. The difference is that none of the aid is labeled “athletic”. The money is given out in academics, leadership, need, and various other ways.

If you are a good student, Division III schools can be very attractive. Without the pressure of athletic scholarships, colleges are free to reward good students. I coached many girls over my seven years in Division III that had full tuition scholarships or near full tuition because of their high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

At every school, in every Division, there are prospective students who will not receive enough aid to enroll.

There are NO Division III Athletic Scholarships. Does it Matter?

NCAA Division III is quite different than the other two NCAA divisions. There are no athletic scholarships in Division III. Nobody, not even the very best athletes, gets athletic scholarships. I repeated that twice because many people miss it. Does this mean these schools are unaffordable and the talent is low? Not at all. Higher education is not about how much athletic scholarship money a school offers you, but about how much you end up paying.

The emphasis on getting the coveted “college scholarship” should not over shadow the main reason for attending college. It should be to create a path of success through education for the rest of your life, while giving you a chance to continue your athletic career for another 4 years.

There is nobody limiting how much financial aid Division III schools can grant to individuals. The monies are academic performance based, and do not discriminate between athletes and non-athletes. 98% of the students (athletes and non-athletes) receive financial aid while attending college.

Athletic scholarships in Division I, Division II and NAIA are limited on availability and renewable every year. Merit based awards at Division III are for 4 years and are renewed every year as long as the student meets the minimum grade point average determined by the school.

How can we know if Division III will be affordable?

There is no way to know which college will be the most affordable for your family…until you actually go through the application process. It is important to complete the application process at several schools and see what kind of financial package they offer.

Always look for the bottom line. Before looking at the bottom line subtract any loans offered from the equation. Colleges use loans in the financial aid package to make it look like their college is completely paid for. Don’t be tricked by that.

Go through the process of application and financial aid. Be sure to KNOW if it is affordable. Ask if the school has an early estimator to help figure out the price of the education before the finalized FAFSA and school packages. Check out the other forms of financial aid available to your child. Community and State scholarships can start to add up when combined.”

“Regardless of the D1, D2, or D3 level, financial aid will always play a role in the college search process. As a recent college grad with loans of my own, I know firsthand that the financial aspect of college can play a considerable role for golfers and their families. My advice is to never rule out a school based on cost until you apply and receive a financial aid package.

Coach Abby Sorensen, Men’s and Women’s Assistant Golf Coach of Allegheny College

“First, very few athletes get a full ride (at any school). Most will get a little money to cover books or a small percentage of tuition.

Second, to me, college is an investment and should be looked at that way. Tuition is going to be lower at state colleges and universities, but there is a trade off. Mount Holyoke has a student to faculty ratio of 10:1. So students will get to work closely with faculty. All of our classes are taught by faculty not TA’s (which is the norm at larger state schools).

All colleges give out financial aid – about 80% of our students receive some type of financial aid. So if you really feel a college is a good fit for you, apply and go through the process of applying for financial aid. You may get enough aid to make it affordable.

Last, many schools give out Merit Awards. So you may qualify for scholarships that will help cover the costs.”

Coach Dave Allen, Swimming and Diving Coach of Mount Holyoke College

How does an affordable education matter long term?

You need to sit down as a family and evaluate several things that are important to you.

  • The long term impact of a college education (quality career opportunities).
  • The long term financial impact of a college education (loans vs. wages).
  • The chance to play college athletics.

 “Do you research and look at the price tag of each school, but know there are several ways to cut that cost down significantly. Academic scholarships, merit money, financial aid, non-university outside scholarships – all of these are available for your child at 99% of the colleges in the nation. I encourage recruits and their parents to seriously sit down and weigh out whether or not they think the degree from the school is worth the cost. Will the degree open up doors once the student-athlete graduates? What are the employment statistics for recent grads? What are the credentials of the college’s professors? Are there internship/co-op/research opportunities? What’s the return on investment? These are all questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not a school is affordable for your family. I also encourage families to set up meetings with the folks in the Financial Aid office to get additional information and ways to make the college affordable.

Coach Aileen Ascoles, Women’s Soccer Coach of Ursinus University

“It’s important to think of the cost of college as a 40-year investment, not a 4-year decision. In the grand scheme of things, a few extra thousand dollars in tuition only translates to a few extra dollars per month in student loan payments, and could very well be worth it for a student to attend the ideal school.

Coach Bret Otte, Track and Field Coach of Calvin College

The following is an excerpt from the best interview I have done concerning Division III. I have included a long portion because it is that good. This is from Coach Charlie Dobbins.

The emphasis on getting the coveted “college scholarship” should not over shadow the main reason for attending college; which should be to create a path of success through the education for the rest of your life while giving you a chance to continue your athletic career for another 4 years. Being a star athlete is a dream that everyone who has ever played a competitive sport strives for. The cold hard reality is that there are a lot of “star athletes”, all with the same dreams.

The NCAA regulates the number of scholarships that Division I and Division II are allowed to award. The distribution of these monies changes yearly as kids graduate and new players cycle into a program. The number for Division I is around 12, and Division II is around 7. Most teams carry 24-28 players. This is also assuming that the programs are fully funded, which means their University supports them with full scholarship dollars. Athletic conferences can also limit the amount of scholarship dollars per sport in an effort to maintain competitive balance. Division III does not award any monies based on athletic potential. All of their monies merit and need based.

Schools are not limited in the amount of financial aid they can grant to individuals. The monies are academic performance based, and do not discriminate between athletes and non-athletes. 98% of the students (athletes and non-athletes) receive financial aid while attending college. Other monies can be awarded after the parents have completed the FAFSA and the family EFC (estimated family contribution) is generated. This is where any need-based monies are awarded (i.e. Pell, Stafford, etc.), based on a family’s income.

Athletic scholarships are limited on availability and renewable every year. Merit based awards are for 4 years and are renewed every year as long as the student meets the minimum grade point average determined by the school. If you eliminate all schools without athletic scholarships, you eliminate nearly half of your options for college softball. Parents and players should ask themselves…. which is more important… my ego or my wallet? An education is one of the greatest gifts you can give or receive. If someone offers you any way to pay for part of your education, take the money and run! Start the process early when looking at schools…ask hard questions to the coaches involved. Understand the requirements of attendance and those of eligibility.

One last point, Division I is only an athletic level, not a measure of the quality of academic programs. Secondly…Are you really good enough to play Division I sports, or will you be stuck on a bench or practice squad when you could be playing at another school at the Div. II or Div. III level? Take time to honestly assess your talent against the level of play on the field.

Last but not least, take care of the academics in high school. A 3.0 GPA in high school usually means a 2.0 the first semester of college, which means you are barely eligible to play at any level. Take the time and look at a list of Div. III schools; (M.I.T., Emory, NYU, Williams, Tufts, etc.) They all have 2 things in common, high academics and high athletics. Also, forget about Division I if you want to major in any medical field, education or other time sensitive major. They want liberal arts psychology majors.”

Coach Charlie Dobbins, Softball Coach of William Peace University

Why do you think athletes should consider Division III? What are the benefits of Division III specifically?

You want to be in a nurturing, uplifting environment. You want to be a part of a program that will make you a better person. You want to see values in action that will stick with you for the rest of your life. I will give 3 examples of student-athletes who chose HSU over a Division I university. Carlyn Powers wanted a small Christian college. That was important to her. She chose HSU over several Division I scholarship offers. Brittany Vacca wanted to go to a top Physical Therapy school. She was starting at a top Division I and was on scholarship. She transferred to HSU to get the grades she needed to get into Physical Therapy school and still have the opportunity to play soccer at a high level. Amy Kuykendall had many full ride scholarship offers. She got an accounting degree and was quickly able to pay off any loans. When she visited HSU she could see that our team could play at a very high level, had a culture that she would fit and she would get a great education. Carlyn, Brittany, Amy and many others had to see tremendous value in Hardin-Simmons University because they paid much more to attend HSU than they would have elsewhere. Cost is only one factor in the decision. We also have a number of student-athletes who are not heavily recruited but end up working harder and having more successful collegiate careers than some of their peers who received scholarships. If you are motivated and have a vision for what you want to achieve, you can maximize your opportunity.

Coach Marcus Wood, Women’s Soccer Coach of Hardin-Simmons University

Division III athletic scholarships don’t exist. But opportunities should abound!

Here is another great article about scholarships: 3 Reasons College Coaches Won’t Give You an Athletic Scholarship

If you want to be a college athlete…

If you are frustrated because coaches are not calling you…

If you are ready to get coaches to notice you…

Then the How to Get Recruited Guide will give you a step-by-step plan to turn your talent into offers. There’s a lot to learn about the recruiting process. How to Get Recruited condenses mountains of advice, and converts it to simple action steps that will get college coaches calling.

How to Get Recruited: Got Talent. Get a Plan. Get Recruited.


Please take a moment to help out your friends and teammates, by clicking on the “sharing is caring” buttons below.



P.S. Come join our Facebook group, The Recruiting Code. This is the place to be for parents and coaches to talk about college recruiting. Come learn from each other, share stories and get information that will help your child become a college athlete.