Do Division II Schools Offer Athletic Scholarships?

As a high school athlete, you might be interested in competing at the Division II level for a variety of reasons. Maybe you think you will receive more playing time there than you would at the Division I program. Maybe Division II coaches are already reaching out to you. Whatever the reason is, you are probably wondering if Division II programs offer athletic scholarships.

Division II schools do give athletic scholarships across a wide variety and men’s and women’s sports. However, while it is possible to receive a full-ride, in order to provide more athletes with scholarship money, Division II schools often offer partial scholarships to cover a portion of the college expenses.

Just like at NCAA Division I schools, each sport has a different number of athletic scholarships they are able to offer to athletes, although typically a few less scholarships per sport than at the Division I level. Unlike Division 1 schools, where many more athletes receive full-ride scholarships, Division II schools spread these fewer scholarships across more athletes allowing the schools to fill their team rosters while sharing the available scholarship money among their athletes. Division II schools do allow athletes to pursue academic scholarships to help meet their full academic costs and offer other benefits that may be worth exploring. Below you will find information to explain some of the differences with Division II scholarships and to see how you can take advantage of them.

Scholarships Across NCAA Divisions

When it comes to college athletics, money is a big motivator for every party involved, which is why the NCAA has strict policies concerning scholarships at all levels. When it comes to scholarships and athletics-based aid, each NCAA Division varies drastically.

Head-Count Model: In the NCAA Division I, scholarships are often full scholarships that cover all expenses that relate to college. Some Division I sports (football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball) are “head-count” sports, which means that each scholarship awarded in these sports must be given to one individual.

Equivalency Model: All other Division I sports and all Division II sports are “equivalency” sports, which means scholarships in these sports can be divided among multiple athletes at the coach’s discretion. These partial-scholarships do not cover all expenses that relate to college and the amount of the scholarship can vary between individuals. The NCAA established the “partial-scholarship” model in-place in Division II athletics to allow Division II schools to give athletic-based aid to recognize it’s athletes’ skill and work, while staying in the institution’s athletic budget.

Academic Scholarships: NCAA Division III athletic programs are not allowed to offer any athletic scholarships to student-athletes. Therefore, Division III schools must rely heavily on merit based scholarships to fund their tuitions.

Division II Football: The NCAA allows Division II football programs to give the equivalent of 36 full scholarships. Since football teams have many more than 36 players, the schools will split the 36 scholarships into multiple partial-scholarships, of different values, in order to give as many players athletics-based aid as possible. This differs from NCAA Division I FBS Football, where programs are allowed to give 85 “full-ride” scholarships to athletes.

While it is possible to obtain a full athletic scholarship to an NCAA Division II school, it is very unlikely. Amongst the 110,000 Division II athletes, only a small number of them receive full athletic scholarships that cover all of their expenses. Most Division II athletes will receive some amount of athletics-based financial aid to help with their scholastic expenses. The student-athletes who receive partial-scholarships use academic scholarships, student loans, and employment earnings to cover the rest of the expenses.

Division II Scholarship Breakdown by Sport

The NCAA determines the maximum number of scholarships allowed per sport. It’s up to each school to decide how many scholarships will actually be offered for each sport. Since the budgets at each institution vary, every school may not be able to award the full number of scholarships for each sport.

As stated above, NCAA Division II schools usually award athletes with partial scholarships, which is why some of the sports have fractional scholarship limits.

For example, Division II men’s and women’s cross country teams are given the money to cover the cost of college for 12.6 full scholarship athletes. Coaches can break down those 12.6 full scholarships amongst the entire roster, giving players “partial-scholarships”, in any manner they desire.

The chart below describes each of the men’s and women’s NCAA Division II sports and their equivalency scholarship limits.

Men’s Sport Scholarship Equivalents
Baseball 9
Basketball 10
Cross Country/Track 12.6
Fencing 4.5
Football 36
Golf 3.6
Gymnastics 5.4
Ice Hockey 13.5
Lacrosse 10.8
Rifle 3.6
Skiing 6.3
Soccer 9
Swimming/Diving 8.1
Tennis 4.5
Volleyball 4.5
Water Polo 4.5
Wrestling 9
Women’s Sport Scholarship Equivalents
Basketball 10
Bowling 5
Cross Country/Track 12.6
Equestrian 15
Fencing 4.5
Field Hockey 6.3
Golf 3.6
Gymnastics 6
Ice Hockey 18
Lacrosse 9
Rowing 20
Rugby 12
Sand Volleyball 5
Skiing 6.3
Soccer 9.9
Swimming/Diving 8.1
Tennis 6
Volleyball 8
Water Polo 8

What Does This Mean For Me?

Depending on your sport, there is scholarship money in Division II athletics. While the partial-scholarship or equivalency model of athletics-based aid for student-athletes means you are less likely to go to school for free, your athletic talents can help pay for your education. This partial-scholarship model also means that you might receive different amounts of athletics-based aid from your teammates. You also should know that some athletes may not get any scholarship money at all, so this is an important thing to ask college coaches when you visit different schools.

Apply For Academic Scholarships: Even if you do not receive a full scholarship, there are still other ways to help you pay for college. As a student-athlete, you are allowed to apply for academic scholarships on top of your athletic scholarship. These academic scholarships will pay different amounts and you are allowed to apply to as many academic scholarships as you would like.

Your Athletic Scholarship Can Increase: Since athletic scholarships are not four-year contracts but a one-year contract that can be changed year-to-year, the amount you receive as a freshman can differ from the amount you receive as a senior. Some coaches distribute their scholarships based on talent, offering the top players full-rides and dividing the remaining scholarships among the other players. Other coaches distribute scholarships based on seniority, increasing the amount of the scholarship each year.

Your Athletic Scholarship Can Decrease: Just as athletic scholarships can increase do to your seniority or contribution on the field/court of competition, they can also be decreased or even taken away for bad behavior, athletic performance and grades. It is vital to your academic scholarship that you are a diligent student, a dedicated athlete and exhibit excellent character.

Talk To Coaches: Since Division II scholarships are varied across different institutions, it’s important to build relationships with coaches during the recruiting process. Ask them how much athletic scholarship money you will receive and if they have a system for determining how much it increases and decreases from year to year. Each coach will also know the varied resources and academic scholarships their current and former athletes have used to supplement the cost of tuition.

Things To Keep In Mind

NCAA Division II Programs Use Partial-Scholarships: NCAA Division II programs do give out athletics-based aid (scholarships) to student-athletes. They are usually distributed in the form of a partial-scholarship that pays for some, but not all of an athlete’s tuition. Each student-athlete can and will receive differing amounts of scholarship money and the overall amount is decided by the coaching staff.

Athletic Scholarships Are NOT 4-Year Contracts: Athletic scholarships are one-year contracts that coaches have full discretion over. They can reward dedication and improvement by increasing your scholarship amount or they can take away your scholarship because of unacceptable actions.

Academic Scholarships Are Available: Even though you may not get a “full-ride”, do not let that discourage you from playing Division II sports. There are other ways to offset the cost of your college education and academic scholarships can help bridge the gap between your athletic scholarship and your total costs.

Think About The Fit: While athletics-based financial aid is a big factor in your college decision, it should not be your only factor. There are plenty of reasons that you may choose to compete at the Division II level, such as: the smaller campus, more personal atmosphere, less intense year-round commitment for athletes, and the potential to make a greater impact for the team equally important.

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