5 Facts you Need to Know about Full Ride Scholarships in the USA

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A full ride, it seems to be the dream of any student-athlete that is looking to continue onto a collegiate career. However, there are some key facts that you need to know before signing the dotted line, especially if you are looking to play down south.

1) Headcount sports offer only full-ride scholarships

NCAA sports fall into one of two buckets, either headcount or equivalency. Headcounts offer full-ride scholarships and there is a specific number of scholarships that these sports that they can hand out. Players will either have a full ride or will be considered a walk-on. The larger headcount sports are Division I men’s and women’s basketball, Division IA football, Division 1 women’s tennis, Division 1 women’s volleyball and Division 1 women’s gymnastics.

2) Equivalency sports typically only offer partial scholarships

Typically, equivalency sports do not offer full rides, but rather coaches have a pot of scholarship money they can use for the full team. Coaches have all of the options, and will normally pool their money to the top athletes. Thus, a top athlete on the team will receive more money than those who are not starting for instance. Athletes are still eligible for academic, merit or need-based support from their school of choice.

3) Some sports offer larger scholarships within the team than others

It is not fair, but this comes down to simple economics. Baseball, for example, tends to grant larger scholarships to pitchers rather than those who are everyday players in the outfield. As well, in track in field, sprinters tend to run in more events than those in long distance and thus are granted more money.

4) If you are not getting the scholarship numbers you like, you can move down a level

If you have only been considering Division 1 schools, it might be time to reach out to some Division 2 schools. Being a top-tier recruit in Division 2 might make bring you bigger payday. Coaches and athletic directors will want to bring you in and showcase why their program is the best fit for your talents. Plus, many of these programs offer a full or almost full scholarship for top athletes, and the rest of the team will be filled with walk-ons. Unless you are determined to play at a specific school, the opportunities in Division 2 for money and playing time should not be

5) Most athletic scholarships are not guaranteed for all four years.

Due to the nature of athletics in the NCAA, the vast majority of scholarships are actually one-year contracts that need to be resigned every year. Some schools are offering multi-year contracts, but these are extremely rare, and only for top tier players. Typically, you will have to earn your way into the sophomore year, and that presents a challenge for some players.


No matter if you are looking to Division 1 on a full ride, or looking at other options, the fact of the matter is full ride scholarships are complicated beasts. They are not guaranteed, nor should be taken lightly, and if you choose to go this route make sure to be educated on what the contract says, and what it means.

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