Financial aid is an important component for many families to consider as they move forward in the college athletics recruiting process. College costs continue to increase, and the family that makes a concerted effort in developing a financial aid plan as part of their overall recruiting process will have a greater chance in gaining a financially viable package.
Financial aid is readily available for families who qualify, based on need, and for the most part packaging is not based on merit or athletic ability. For those institutions that do not offer athletic scholarships, or where athletics aid is exhausted, there are cases where college coaches can assist families in getting a financial aid “pre-read.” These early evaluations can be very helpful in providing families with a strong indication to what their family contribution will be in the first academic year of attendance.
The college coach is your “point person” here and he or she can act as an indirect conduit to the office of financial aid in an effort to assist the family in a very important area of recruiting.
Financial aid pre-reads are in many cases an effective tool that many college coaches use as a means of providing prospects and their families with a “ballpark” figure as to what the family can expect to pay for a college education in the first year of attendance.
It is important that the family request a pre-read early in the recruiting process, but not before sincere interest in the coach’s program has been developed.
The family should first determine the individual institution’s policy on providing financial aid pre-reads through direct communication with the college coach.
For a family to receive a timely and accurate financial aid pre-read, the following information is typically required from the financial aid office:
· Prior year income/business taxes with all W-2 forms.
· Divorced/separated paperwork if applicable.
· Completed budget worksheet (provided by the coach)
· Admissions data (standardized test scores, class rank etc.)
Turn around time in completing the pre-read is about two weeks and this information should give parents a close estimate to what the family financial aid breakdown will be for the coming cycle. Note: financial aid packages can change from year to year based on changes to personal family finances.
Some institutions will attempt to “come in line” with financial aid offers from other institutions. Matching typically occurs with schools from the same conference, or similarly “select” schools. It is good to make a comparison, but out of respect for the college coaches I encourage families to compare financial aid packages with those schools that are serious potential choices. Remember, the college coach is your “go to guy” in this process and clear and timely communication will facilitate the process!
Most institutions offer “internal scholarships” where student-athletes could be looked at favorably. Research the colleges on your radar for all institutionally related scholarships (academic, community etc.), especially leadership grants, which seem to be gaining popularity. These awards are typically selective and reward the “cream of the crop,” special interest prospects and those with strong financial need. Communicate your financial aid concerns with the college coach, who may recommend potential candidates for consideration of these awards.
It is important that the family share with the coach any outside offers or completed financial aid pre-reads from other institutions, and determine where your child ranks in the coach’s recruiting priority. If your child is considered a “blue chip” athlete and the school of interest does not offer athletic scholarships, carefully probe the coach’s feeling about asking the office of financial aid to take a hard look at the family’s request to determine if there are any options to possibly “sweeten the pot.”
The four year college experience is a tremendous investment in our children’s future. That being said, the premiums for a quality college education are seemingly heading “north” and I strongly suggest that families begin preparing for this important component of college recruiting early and with enthusiasm.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director 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. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.