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Are You a Candidate for an Athletic Scholarship?

Students in 2009 (and their families) can expect to pay about $80,000 for a four-year college program. What’s more, that figure continues to rise at the rate of 6.5% every year. If you are considering a private school, go ahead and double it. If, however you’ve been a good sport – literally – throughout high school, chances are you can look beyond standard student loans, financial aid and grants for assistance. Why not apply for an athletic scholarship? About $1.2 billion in scholarship money is awarded to students every year in exchange for their performance on various fields. Here are a few of the basics for you to kick around:

1. Age matters! To qualify to play sports at the college level you must be between’ and 24 years old. Your chances of landing a scholarship decrease the longer you wait to attend college after high school graduation, so plan to go straight from high school to college.

2. There are 29 sports recognized by the NCAA (National College Athletic Association) The women’s list is a little longer and includes: Archery, Water Polo, Volleyball, Basketball, Bowling, Track & Field (Indoor and Outdoor), Cross Country, Tennis, Equestrian, Fencing, Synchronized Swimming, Swimming and Diving, Field Hockey, Golf, Squash, Softball, Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Skiing (Cross Country and Downhill), Rowing and Rifle.

The men’s sports are: Wrestling, Baseball, Water Polo, Basketball, Volleyball, Cross Country, Track & Field (Indoor & Outdoor), Tennis, Fencing, Swimming and Diving, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, Rifle, Skiing (Cross Country and Downhill), Lacrosse and Soccer.

3. Unless you and your athleticism has already become a household name in your region, don’t count on a recruiter finding you. Instead, prepare a sports portfolio of your efforts and make sure that it gets on the desk of the coach you are trying to play for at the college level. A bio of your life in sports and as many newspaper and/or broadcast TV clips of your highlights will be fine.

4. Before you can be considered for an athletic scholarship, you need to have earned admission to the college based on your academic offering. (Note: The SAT is the entrance exam required for collegiate sports consideration.)

If you are talented (and lucky!) enough to secure financial support for your college expenses based on your ability to play sports, you should keep your eye on your major. While there are some college athletes who go on to lucrative careers in professional sports, the majority of them find work their chosen field and find a different kind of success.

John Barnett is a high school baseball and soccer coach. He earned a masters degree at an online college and is considering several online colleges for additional study.

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