Receiving an athletic scholarship to compete at the college level in the USA is the ultimate goal for many student-athletes. But it isn’t just about competing in college sports - students will also be studying towards a college degree. For international student-athletes, there are many misconceptions about how the scholarship offers work, and how they tie in with your studies at the actual university. Sport is the gateway to the USA for many student-athletes around the world. However, it is important to remember that you will always be a “student” first, before being an “athlete. But what happens after you finish your undergraduate degree? Let's take a look at how you can fund postgraduate studies with a sports scholarship.
How long is a Bachelor’s degree?
Often called a “college degree,” an Undergraduate Bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete. You can, in general, transfer about half of a degree's required credits from a Junior or community college. These credits are split up among your required subjects, and are specific to each individual university.
Once they have graduated with an undergraduate degree, many students choose to go on to earn a Postgraduate degree (Master's and Doctoral degrees)
Earning a Postgraduate degree
A Master's degree provides education and training in a specialized branch or field. It can only be studied after receiving your Bachelor’s degree. Students typically spend between two and three years studying to earn a Master’s degree. Again, this is a general timeframe, as it is possible to earn some Master's in just one year.
A Doctoral degree, often called a PhD, is the highest academic credential that a student can earn in the USA. It is designed to prepare students for college faculty and research scholar positions. It can also help in other careers that require advanced knowledge and research skills. On average, a student will spend four to six years earning a Doctoral degree. This period of study will follow receipt of their Master's degree.
To sum this up - if you are looking to earn the most prestigious academic credential in the USA, it can take you up to 13 years to achieve, depending on your field of study. 13 years of studying in the USA will most certainly be a costly process, especially for international students. That is why most student-athletes seek to earn a sports scholarship. This can help them fund their studies for the majority of the process.
Now, let’s have a look at sports scholarships in the USA and how they tie in with funding your Postgraduate studies.
NCAA Division I and II schools provide more than $3.6 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 180,000 student-athletes. Division III schools do not offer athletics scholarships. The NAIA awards over $800 million in athletic scholarships to student-athletes competing at institutions in this conference each year.
How long Can You Compete For?
The NCAA gives you 5 years to compete in 4 seasons athletically, with the fifth year being a red-shirt year. A red-shirt year gives athletes the opportunity to sit out a year of competition, for reasons such as injury or competition for playing time. Any athlete that sits out will still be allowed to compete in all four years athletically.
This allows for student-athletes to remain on scholarship for a fifth year AFTER they have finished their Bachelor's degree. A common path taken in this instance is to enroll in a Master's degree, with the first year of study covered by your athletic scholarship. This has been done by many students, and can open up many opportunities for students at postgraduate study level.
The NAIA, on the other hand, does not have an age restriction. However, they do take away seasons of competition for any participation in sports at a similar level after high school graduation.
NCAA DIII schools do not follow the same eligibility guidelines as schools in D1 and D2. Each school and conference individually determines eligibility standards at the DIII level.
How Long Do These Scholarships Last?
Coaches renew these scholarships on a yearly basis. Meaning that at the end of each year, the coach decides on the renewed amount of your scholarship. If you’ve been a great asset to the team, they might even increase your scholarship percentage for the following season!
With thousands of student-athletes competing in the NCAA and NAIA, most student-athletes will only receive funding from a scholarship for their undergraduate studies.
So What Are Your Postgraduate Scholarship Options?
If you are lucky enough to get into a postgraduate program at the university where you graduated, you might be able to receive some funding for the first year of your Master’s degree. Students who have that fifth year of eligibility available will most likely be the ones to receive the funding. This, however, will always depend on the university and athletics department.
Other student-athletes might also be able to stay on their team, not as an actual athlete, but sometimes as a graduate assistant coach. This could mean that your tuition costs at the university will be covered, and you would only need to cover your living expenses and your own books/supplies.
In many ways, the availability of funding for postgraduate study will depend entirely on the institution and sports team. There are also other avenues of finding sponsorship or funding for postgraduate study, such as corporate or other university funding, so you don't need to rely on a sports scholarship.
Remember, it’s always the perfect time to begin your journey towards studying at the university of your dreams. Sign up here for a free consultation with one of our recruitment experts. You could join over 300 student-athletes already placed in the USA, competing at the highest level and earning a world-class degree!