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How to Win a U.S. Athletic Scholarship

There are over 138,000 sports scholarships in the U.S. and awards vary from a few thousand dollars to nearly $30,000 for one academic year.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   29-01-2014
Former cricketers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel stumbled on an unusual path to baseball thanks to winning contracts through the “Million Dollar Arm Hunt” reality TV show staged in India. Sports agent J.B Bernstein discovered Patel and Singh through the reality show by auditioning 40,000 cricketers in India. Bernstein brought the 18-year-old Indians back to the U.S. to train with legendary University of Southern California pitching coach Tom House.

The cricket-loving pair adapted surprisingly well to baseball and developed effective pitches which topped out at around 90 mph. Singh became the first Indian to appear in a professional baseball game in the U.S. on July 4, 2009.  He pitched the seventh inning, while Patel pitched the eighth inning.

“This is the most amazing thing I've been part of," says University of Southern California Pitching Coach Tom House who trained the duo.

"This is like medical science. It's turning raw athletes into pitchers."

Still, most South Asian student athletes can’t expect to win a reality TV show and parachute to America. For them, it means enlisting in a highly-regulated sports recruitment process.

The Good News

Indian tennis player Charoo Agrawal landed a sports scholarship to study at Florida Tech

Over a thousand U.S. universities and colleges give athletes the opportunity to play for their teams as a means of paying for their education. There are over 138,000 sports scholarships and awards vary from a few thousand dollars to $30,000 for one academic year.

Across the Ivy League, led by endowment-rich members like Harvard, Yale and Princeton, about 13 percent of each university’s incoming class is composed of athletes chosen from coaches’ lists.

The Florida Institute of Technology’s location, on what’s known as the Space Coast of the Atlantic Ocean, puts students in an ideal spot for water sports such as surfing, boating, kayaking. A popular engineering school for South Asian students, Florida Tech offers generous athletic scholarships.

“We do give out a lot of scholarship for sports. We have 22 sports teams. The scholarships can vary from small awards to cover full tuition,” says Florida Tech Admission Counselor for International Students Marivi Walker.

“We have a wonderful girl (Charoo Agrawal) from India on our tennis team.

Times Higher Education ranked Florida Tech among the “Top 200 Universities” in the world in 2013. “The ranking reflects our academic reputation throughout the world. On the athletic side, we compete in one of the toughest NCAA division II conferences in the country. Our student athletes are challenged academically and athletically,” says Florida Tech Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications Ryan Jones.

Will You Get a Scholarship for Your Sport?

Scholarships are awarded for baseball, basketball, rowing, cross-country, fencing, American football, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, lacrosse, skiing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, women’s field hockey and wrestling.

A few universities offer scholarships for archery, badminton, bowling, equestrian sports and squash.

The Recruitment Process

Sports scholarships are granted by the university or athletics association with athletic directors or coaches playing a key role. If you can’t afford the $1,000 or so that many parents pay these days to hire a private athletic-recruiting counselor, you may wish to follow these steps to get started on scoring a “do-it-yourself” athletic scholarship:

1.   You should contact college coaches directly to inform them of your interest in their program. Draft a sports resume that includes all your accomplishments and include sports stats, teams played for, number of years and tournament results.

2.  Familiarize yourself with the three athletic associations that govern U.S. college sports as they set the rules regarding scholarships.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sits at the top of pyramid with over 900 member universities. Only top student athletes tend to be recruited by the NCAA which dictates how many athletic scholarships each sport can offer in Division I and Division II.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has around 350 smaller colleges as members.

National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has member colleges which are accredited two-year institutions.

Visit the NCAA website (, or that of one of the other athletic associations mentioned above, to view both the list of universities that offer your sport at the varsity level and the eligibility rules for being considered for a sport scholarship at their member universities.

3.  If you are applying to a university that is a member of the NCAA, register in the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. This is an agency that provides initial eligibility certification for prospective NCAA athletes. It provides eligibility certification results to colleges.

4.  Do include a reference from a current or former coach in your correspondence with university coaches.

5.  Compile an eight-minute action video of you playing and then post it on YouTube and send college coaches that link.

6.  For a token fee, students can showcase their abilities and post their action pictures on sites like,,,, and College coaches are willing to scout talent on the Internet, especially since the sites don't charge them to view student profiles.

7.  Receiving notice of a coach’s interest in you is a great start, but you need to apply for admissions to the university through the same channels as other students. Take the SAT, as well as submit all application materials on deadline.

If you are not confident about the “do-it-yourself” approach, then hire a private athletic-recruiting counselor. US college coaches get scouting recommendations on students coming from all over the world.

You can also work with a sport scholarship agency or placement service to connect with US universities seeking international student athletes and offering scholarships. These firms charge a fee, but can make navigating the often complicated recruitment process clearer. They also offer student access to their network of coaches.

Athletic scholarships must be renewed each year and that's at the coach's discretion. It is not easy being a student athlete balancing course work and playing competitive sports.

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.



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james blackburn
Hi I am currently studying first year A level physics maths and english. I am a strong soccer player and have aspirations to study aeronautical engineering at Florida Tech and play soccer. I would like some advice and support on applying for a scholarship. many thanks James
12 June 2015

Bishir Adamu
24 June 2014

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