The average cost of a four-year college experience has increased dramatically during the past 10 years, and financial aid is becoming a hot topic in the college search for athletes.
Competition for athletic scholarships is fierce, and the majority of student-athletes and families are looking to need-based financial assistance or alternative forms of grants and scholarships to pay the freight. This article takes a simple approach in identifying key components of financial aid.
Financial aid packages are basically split into two simple categories: 1) The total cost of one year of college and 2) How the bill will ultimately be financed and paid. By filling out the FAFSA online at www.studentaid.ed.gov., your college of choice will create an “award package” that may include loans and scholarships. Below is a general breakdown of college costs:
Tuition and Fees
These are the costs of your education and they may vary based on your academic program and number of credit hours. Athletes need to be enrolled as full-time students (with rare exception) to be eligible to practice and compete.
Room and Board
If you plan to live and eat on campus, these costs will be included. The charges will vary depending on the room and meal plan you choose. If you plan to live off campus, you’ll need to make personal arrangements and estimate these expenses.
Books and Supplies
These expenses cover your course related materials.
These are the costs that don’t show up on the bill. They include books, supplies, travel, as well as personal expenses such as laundry, telephone and pizza. If you live and dine off campus, your room and board costs will also be considered indirect.
This will most likely be listed as a rough estimate in the financial aid breakdown. If a figure is not provided, you should determine your estimate based on how often the student plans to travel.
Earning an athletic scholarship is the ultimate goal for any prospective student-athlete, but in staying on point, this article focuses on alternative options to pay for a college education.
A grant is financial aid that does not have to be repaid once you receive your college degree, and the best way to begin your search for scholarships and grants is to comb through the files in the high school guidance counselor’s office. Your advisors should point you in the right direction, while offering deadlines and qualifications.
Internet sites such as fastweb.com, fastaid.com and scholarshipexperts.com are fabulous resources, and it would be a good idea to register and create a personal account. You may have to invest a little sweat equity, but if you grab the financial aid brass ring, it will be well worth the effort.
Government Grants are offered in an effort to grow interest in education, especially in areas where future employment can be forecast. Families and candidates will in many cases, demonstrate financial need. Pell Grants for example, are grants offered by the government to academically promising students who show financial need.
Private grants are typically based on a student’s merit or academic performance. They usually require a certain grade point average and/or involvement in extra-curricular activities such as the honors society or drama club, etc. Whether the grant focus is on leadership, community service or other “special interest” areas, beating the bushes with a persistent approach will give you the best chance of success.
University grants are designated for students entering or already enrolled in a particular program at their school and usually offered to attract more students to that program.
First, research the college website for “inside grants” that are specific to your school of choice (college of liberal arts, business, engineering, etc.). You can also contact the college financial aid office for more information on navigating inside grants. Athletic scholarships fall under this category.
Work Study is a smart concept that can provide students with some extra spending money. When I was a coach at Penn, nearly half of my student-athletes were involved in various work-study programs.
Typically, a student will devote approximately 10 hours per week to a work-study position. Whether the job is an administrative aid in the athletic department or carting books in the library, students will spend nearly half of the time studying and half the time working, but are paid by the university for the full 10 hours per week.
Student Summer Earnings is one of several options to help chip away at the college bill and the responsibility and personal choice of the student-athlete.
Summer is a great time to relax, but it also gives kids the chance to roll up their sleeves and seek employment, hopefully in the area of study they are concentrating. Ask your college coach if there are alumni support systems in the athletic department that helps student-athletes with summer employment.
In today’s climate, financial aid is a very important part of the college search for athletes. You can find what may be the perfect college fit, but if it is not affordable, your dreams could fizzle.
As daunting as navigating the financial aid arena may appear, an informed, organized and persistent approach will, in the end, serve you best. If athletic scholarships are not available or exhausted, remain proactive and be prepared to beat the bushes in an attempt to help develop the best and most affordable financial aid package possible.
Tom Kovic is a former 19-year head coach at Penn and the founder of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence," an educational guide for college athletics recruiting, and he has lectured throughout the country on the topic of college recruiting. For additional information visit: www.victory recruiting.com
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