Do Division III Schools Give Scholarships?

Depending on your goals for your college experience, you may be considering competing at a Division III school. One of the major questions most student-athletes have when considering a Division III school is what kind of scholarships are available.

Unfortunately, Division III schools cannot offer athletic scholarships. However, don’t let this deter you from applying to a Division III school. About 75 percent of Division III student-athletes receive some form of merit or need-based financial aid.

Because Division III athletics is much less competitive than Division II and Division I, the NCAA has ruled that these schools cannot offer scholarships based on athletic ability. However, student-athletes are still eligible for academic or need-based scholarships. Sometimes the overall financial aid package can be higher than what a Division I or II school may offer.

Why Don’t Division III Schools Offer Athletic Scholarships?

You’re probably wondering why Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships. There are a few reasons why Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, but it ultimately comes down to the NCAA rules. The reasoning behind the rule is a bit more complicated. Here’s a quick look at the breakdown:

Well-Rounded Experience: Division III schools are designed to offer a balanced college experience with an emphasis on academics and athletics. While athletics are competitive, it’s not at the same level that Division I and II operate at. There are more opportunities to participate in nonathletic activities at a Division III school. As a Division III student-athlete, you are more likely to be able to study abroad or participate in an internship. This structure prevents these schools from offering scholarships based on athletic ability.

Academic Emphasis: A strong emphasis on academics means that Division III schools can offer scholarship opportunities based on educational performance. Division III schools often provide a more comprehensive array of majors or more specialized fields of study that can’t be found at higher division levels. Keeping your GPA up and scoring high on tests has a good chance of boosting your potential to receive funding.

Unique Structure: There are 448 Division III schools in the U.S., and they are concentrated mostly in the Northeast, South and Midwest regions. There are 183,500 student-athletes at Division III schools across the nation. Division III schools are unique, as they usually have a smaller student body. Often Division III schools are private universities. For this reason, tuition and fees can be higher, making it all the more important to find the best scholarship opportunity available.

A Division III school may be on the top of your list, and finding out that funding is limited can be discouraging. But compared to Division I schools, Division III schools actually provide a higher percentage of academic and need-based funding than athletic scholarships. Fifty-nine percent of Division I student-athletes receive some level of athletics aid, while 80 percent of Division III athletes receive some form of academic or need-based scholarship. The average Division III student-athlete receives about $17,000 in institutional gift aid. So don’t discount a Division III school just yet; there may be a spot for you on the team.

How Can You Receive A Division III Scholarship?

While there aren’t opportunities for athletic scholarships with Division III schools, you can still find funding if your heart is set on a Division III school. Many student-athletes prefer to attend a Division III school because of the financial aid package they can receive. To receive the best financial aid package as possible, here are some areas to look into:

Application: Start by applying to the schools you’re interested in and going through the application process to receive a financial aid package. The listed tuition and fees that are on the school’s website are only part of the story. There may be opportunities for you based on academics or need that only the admissions department or coaching staff can identify.

Academics: For these scholarships, student-athletes often have to maintain a minimum grade point average or other academic requirements. It’s important to know what these requirements are because it can affect how much time you set aside to study for a particular class.

University Size: The amount of funding available depends on the financial stability of the university, not just the prospective student-athlete. By applying to larger universities, you can have a higher chance of receiving a better financial aid package. These universities tend to have larger endowments or money that has been given to the university to be used for specific purposes. Doing some research to compare the endowments of similar universities can help determine how much funding they have to offer.

External Scholarships: While not ideal, there are always opportunities for scholarships outside of the academic institution you attend. If a school is a perfect fit, but the financial aid package isn’t affordable, it may be worth the work to find funding outside the university. Many businesses and local organizations offer scholarships or grants for students in their communities. Applying to these scholarships can add to the financial aid package and bring the overall price of education down.

These scholarship opportunities will vary from school to school, so it’s up to you to put in the work to find out what is available. It takes time to apply to student loans and government grants, so you’ll want to find out about Division III scholarships ahead of time. Your family will likely be responsible for some college expenses, so knowing what those are and how much to pay ahead of time will probably be very important.

What Is The Division III Schools Recruiting Process Like?

You don’t need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center if you are planning to attend a Division III school. These schools set their own admission standards. This means the recruiting process is much less stressful than recruiting for a Division I or II school. Student-athletes consistently choose Division III schools to maintain this balance between academics and athletics. Division III schools generally have smaller class sizes, and students tend to have more exposure to their professors. Student-athletes have more free time and ability to participate fully in both academics and athletics.

However, that’s not to say that the recruiting process for a Division III school is not competitive. Many top Division III programs even recruit potential Division I student-athletes. It’s essential to position yourself to stand out among the crowd during the recruiting process. The best ways to do this are to be proactive and research the schools you want to attend.

Research: Start by exploring the schools that you’re interested in. You’ll want to research the coach as well as the sport at the school because coaches can have a significant impact on your college experience. It may be a good idea to watch a few live stream games to get a sense of the team’s playing style and check the ranking and winning record over the past five years. Having a good idea of what the athletics program is like before an official visit can help you decide what questions you need to ask or specific things you’re interested in. Don’t forget to research the academic options available as the school may offer a particular major that isn’t available at many other schools.

Proactive: Being proactive can go a long way in setting you apart from the competition. Reaching out early to college coaches can be a way to differentiate yourself and show your interest in the program. Ask the coach to allow you to take an official visit to the school. While there, have an intentional conversation with the coach and ask questions about the program. Building a relationship with the coach can also be helpful during the scholarship process, as you can communicate what you’re looking for in terms of funding.

Things To Keep In Mind

Ultimately, whether or not you pursue a Division III university depends on what your priorities are for your time in college. If you’re looking for a well-balanced college environment that allows you to take advantage of many collegiate opportunities outside of athletics, then a Division III school is for you.

Employment: If you are not able to get a scholarship or grant to cover the school’s tuition and fees, you might consider working while you’re in college or on breaks. Make sure you find out what your opportunities for employment are while you’re a student. These can vary between schools and depend on whether you are in season or not.

Loans: If all else fails, schools will usually offer loans as part of the financial aid package. Loans can help ease the financial pressure during school, but remember that you will have to pay loans back after college.

Travel: Division III athletes travel significantly less during the season than higher levels do. You won’t have to miss as much class as you would in higher division levels. You will likely go by bus unless you’re traveling for an NCAA championship. This is another element of Division III athletics that maintains the balance between athletics and academics.

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