9 Steps to Figure Out Your Chances of Getting a College Athletic Scholarship

girl with equation to calculate chances of getting a college athletic scholarshipIt would be nice if there was a formula somewhere that high school players could use to calculate their odds of getting an athletic scholarship. All they would have to do is to enter their stats, maybe their high school or club teams, and the formula would tell them their chances and even indicate how much of a scholarship to expect! Wouldn’t that be nice?

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Unfortunately, no such formula exists. And while various recruiting services may promise you a scholarship, the reality is that unless you are a nationally recruited athlete, there is no sure thing. The entire college athletic recruiting process comes down to a maze of dozens of possibilities that leads to an agreement between one player and one coach.

Recruiting Guideposts for Athletic Scholarships

However, there is some information available that you can use as guideposts through the process. The first guidepost is knowing what your odds are of playing at the college level. If you don’t play, you can’t receive a scholarship. The second post is understanding the chances for receiving the scholarships.

Odds of Playing at the College Level

So first you have to figure out what your odds are of playing at the next level. Before you start calculating the percentages, try the NCAA’s chances of competing in college athletics table. The table shows the probability of a high school athlete playing at the next level. It breaks down the percentage going to each division but it doesn’t include all sports.

If your sport doesn’t show up, try the following:

First, you need to figure out how many people are in the possible high school pool to play at the college level.

A Short Cut

The following process uses a percentage of the participants at the high school and college level to calculate the odds of competing at the next level. The NCAA is now using a simple calculation of dividing the number of college participants by the number of high school participants. According to their information, more complex calculations didn’t lead to substantially different percentages. Therefore, if you want a short-cut, ignore the calculation of percentages in the following steps and just divide one number by the other.

Find the Number of High School Players

Step 1.

Go to the National Federation of State High School Associations Participation Statistics. Select your year and sport. You might include the state if you are looking at a particularly large state where colleges don’t necessarily recruit out-of-state. However, to start with it’s probably best to select “all” for states. The results will be broken out by state and gender anyway.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to download the data to get the totals. When you open the spreadsheet, the fastest way to get the number is to highlight all of the numbers in the participant column. With the numbers highlighted, look at the bottom of the Excel window. You’ll see the total listed under “sum:” -no calculations needed! This is the shortcut number to use for high school players. 

Since they are for all high school students, you’ll have to take only a percentage of them. There are several considerations for calculating the percentage. You want only seniors which means no more than 25% although you can make the case that even fewer students participate as seniors compared to freshmen. Then there is what percentage are actually good enough to play at the college level. I think 10% is a safe number to start with but much will depend on your sport and your location.

You also need to take into account that for some sports, the participation doesn’t really happen at the high school level. Fencing and Equestrian are two examples. Yes, there are high schools that have teams but they don’t really represent the reality of the number of participants. For such sports, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the number of pre-college participants.

Find the Number of College Players

Step 2.

Go to The Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool

Step 3.

Select “Download custom data” and “Select All.”

Step 4.

After you click “continue,” select a year and then scroll down to the Sport Code and select the desired sport. Ideally this should match the year you selected for the high school count. Next, select the “Download” button.

Step 5.

You save the file or open it directly into a spreadsheet. The information you’re looking for is the “# Participants” column. Total the column and you have the number of players for the sport for the year you selected. (This is the shortcut number to use for college players.)

Step 6.

Now you have to decide what percentage you want to use for calculating the number of freshman participants. While 25% makes sense, you need to take into consideration that generally not all freshmen make it to their senior year.

Step 7.

Divide the number in step 6 by the number in step 1 for an estimated percentage of high school players who will play in college. Hopefully, this process shows you that this a best guess number.

Chances for a Scholarship

What about the second part, figuring out your odds for an athletic scholarship?

Step 8.

You can use the Equity in Athletics spreadsheet to figure out the average number of participants by sanctioning body and division.

Step 9. 

Match the average to the maximum number of scholarships allowed for each division. If you’re looking at D3 schools, obviously your chances of getting an athletic scholarship are zero since they don’t give out such scholarships. For a listing of the maximum number of scholarships allowed, visit Scholarshipsstats.com.

Scholarship Limitations

Keep in mind that these numbers are maximum allowed. That doesn’t mean all scholarships are fully funded. The NCAA and the schools are really the only ones that know what percentage of athletic scholarships are fully funded and they aren’t telling.

You also need to know if the sport is a head count or equivalency sport. Equivalency sports allow scholarships to be divided into partial scholarships where head count sports require one scholarship per player. You can see an example of the possible scholarship calculations at 11.7 Reality Check: College Baseball Scholarships.

Everything clear now? Of course, it isn’t. There really isn’t enough information to work with which is why the hoped for magic formula doesn’t exist.

But if nothing else, it should be clear that your odds of getting an athletic scholarship are low. According to the Want an Athletic Scholarship infographic, only 1/3 of D1 athletes have athletic scholarships. The percentage isn’t likely to be higher for D2 and we know that D3 athletes don’t receive scholarships. Just in general, that would mean that only one in five college athletes (not high school) receive some sort of athletic scholarship.

Some sports will have better odds than others. And you may be good enough to be one of the lucky ones. But given the probabilities of receiving a scholarship and the chances of injury, smart players will have a solid plan for attending and paying for college that doesn’t depend on an athletic scholarship.


9 Steps to Figure Out Your Chances of Getting a College Athletic Scholarship

19 thoughts on “9 Steps to Figure Out Your Chances of Getting a College Athletic Scholarship”

  1. A great article, Michelle, for us data wonks! Clearly, the odds of getting an academic scholarship at most of these schools is greater than that of an athletic scholarship. Parents should emphasize books as opposed to bats or balls.

    Although I do not know how to enrich the calculations provided by including NAIA schools and junior colleges, they can also be investigated in athletic scholarship searches. But even at these schools, given that most sports are equivalency sports, it is likely that the award will not pay for most of the cost.

    • Thanks. The data from the The Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool includes NAIA and junior colleges as well NCCAA and independents.

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