Which Sport Is Easiest To Get A Scholarship?

Athletic scholarships can vary widely across different sports and different divisions in the NCAA. For a number of reasons, certain programs are allotted more scholarship capacity than others and there are different restrictions on how scholarship pools can be distributed. Much of this is determined by specific NCAA guidelines on how many scholarships each sport’s program is allowed to give.

The key thing to understand is that some sports give more scholarships than others, but this does not necessarily mean that these sports present the easiest opportunity to get a scholarship. There are certain factors to consider for determining the easiest sports to get a scholarship, such as the number of athletes competing for spots, the size of the roster, the size and funding capacity of the school, and of course, the amount of scholarships that are allowed to be given per the NCAA. For men’s sports, lacrosse, ice hockey, and baseball have the highest percentages of high school athletes receiving collegiate scholarships, and the same goes for ice hockey, lacrosse, and soccer in women’s programs.

To reiterate, there’s an important difference between the sports that give the most scholarships as a whole versus the sports where athletes have the best chance of getting a scholarship. For information on sports that give the most scholarships, check out this blog. For this article, we’re going to focus on which sports are easiest to get a scholarship, the factors that determine this, and how it can apply to your recruiting process.

Which Men’s Sports Are Easiest To Get A Scholarship?

As we said before, lacrosse, ice hockey, and baseball are the easiest men’s sports to get a scholarship in. A good way to measure this is by looking at the percentage of high school athletes that advance to play in college and receive some kind of athletic scholarship. Let’s analyze lacrosse, hockey, and baseball so you can get an idea of how the numbers and various factors make these the easiest men’s sports for receiving a scholarship.

Lacrosse: In recent years, there have been about 110,000 players competing in high school lacrosse, and over 14,000 playing in college. This means that over 12% of high school players make it to the next level, which is greater than most other sports. Further, in Division I men’s lacrosse, there are about 75 programs, and each program is allowed to give 12.6 athletic scholarships on an equivalency basis, so these scholarships can be distributed fully or partially among as many players as the coach decides. So, there are over 1,000 scholarships available in Division I men’s lacrosse, and just over 3,200 players in the division, which means there is a large percentage of college lacrosse players who will access these scholarships, and the numbers are very similar across Division II lacrosse. Lastly, lacrosse is primarily popular in America, so there is very little international competition that you might find in other sports. By looking at the strong percentage of high school players who advance to college, as well as the amount of scholarships available relative to the number of competing players, it’s evident why lacrosse is the easiest men’s sport to get a scholarship.

Ice Hockey: Hockey is a more competitive sport in terms of making it to the college level, but the scholarship numbers are still favorable to many other sports. There are typically around 35,000 players in high school hockey programs, and around 3,500 competing in college, which means about 10% of players will go on to compete at some college level, and this is still a good yield relative to other sports. However, athletic scholarships are only given at the Division I and Division II levels (this applies to all sports), where about half of those 3,500 collegiate players are. Similar to lacrosse, men’s hockey is an equivalency sport, and teams in Division I are allowed to distribute 18 full scholarships across the team, which is also a high number relative to other sports. In Division I Men’s Hockey, there are about 60 programs and 1,700 total players, meaning that there are over 1,000 scholarships available for these players, which again is a very strong ratio. However, it’s also important to note that there are a lot of international players who compete for college roster spots, as well as players who opt out of high school hockey for elite junior league and club teams. While hockey is still one of the easier men’s sports for getting a scholarship, you should be aware that the data is not always fully comprehensive due to these other factors.

Baseball: Baseball is a much larger sport than lacrosse and hockey, but the chances of getting a scholarship are still high relative to other sports. There are over 500,000 high school baseball players in the US, and over 11% of those players move on to compete at the college level. For Division I Men’s Baseball, teams are allowed to give 11.7 scholarships on an equivalency basis. With ~300 programs and ~10,000 total players in Division I, there are athletic scholarships available for about 35% of players in the field, which again is a strong number relative to other sports.

Looking at this kind of data is a good way to assess how easy it is to get a scholarship for any given sport. Using these three sports as an example, it’s important to realize that scholarships are most accessible where there is a high rate of players that advance from high school to college, and a good number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA relative to the number of programs and total players.

Which Women’s Sports Are Easiest To Get A Scholarship?

For women, the easiest sports to get a scholarship are ice hockey, lacrosse, and soccer, and this is a result of many of the same reasons discussed above. Let’s take a closer look at these sports.

Ice Hockey: Nearly 20% of the 10,000 high school players in women’s ice hockey go on to compete at the college level, which is a far greater percentage than most other sports. Per the NCAA, Division I Women’s Ice Hockey programs can give 18 equivalency scholarships per season. There are only 35 programs and around 900 total players, which is highly favorable given that there are about 650 total scholarships available. The lower competition for college roster spots in addition to high scholarship capacity among schools creates a very strong opportunity for getting a scholarship.

Lacrosse: There are around 95,000 players in women’s high school lacrosse and over 13,000 competing in college, which presents a strong rate of about 13% of players advancing to collegiate levels. In Division I Women’s Lacrosse, there are 115 programs, ~3,500 total players, and programs can give up to 12 equivalency scholarships per the NCAA. So, as a whole for Division I, around 1/3rd of players are technically covered for full scholarships, but as an equivalency sport, the scholarships are generally divided into partial amounts. Regardless, scholarships in women’s lacrosse are far more accessible than many other sports.

Soccer: Women’s soccer is highly popular, with over 380,000 players competing at the high school level. Generally, about 10% of these players will advance to make a college roster spot at some level, which, like we’ve said before, is a relatively good rate. The NCAA grants Division I Women’s Soccer programs with the ability to give 14 equivalency scholarships per season, which is on the higher end compared to several other women’s sports. Further, there are over 330 Division I Women’s soccer schools, and ~9,500 total athletes in the division. Using these numbers, you can see that there are about 4,600 total scholarships available, covering almost half the players for full scholarships, but to reiterate, as an equivalency sport these scholarships are divided into full and partial awards at the discretion of coaches. Along with the other sports analyzed above, the key thing is that there is a large scholarship pool relative to the number of players, which is why soccer is high on the list of women’s sports for obtaining a scholarship.

Remember that while the numbers and data never paint the entire picture in terms of scholarship access, the same factors set certain sports apart from one another and these are important things to consider as you approach different opportunities throughout recruiting.

Things To Keep In Mind

Athletic Scholarships Are Rare: The reality of recruiting as a whole is while some sports are more favorable than others for receiving a scholarship, athletic scholarships are very rare and none are “easy” to get. No matter the sport, there is always fierce competition to play at the highest levels and there is always a limit on the amount of scholarship money available. Some opportunities are more achievable than others, but getting an athletic scholarship is difficult and they are only attainable at the highest levels of collegiate sports.

Looking At The Full Picture: Remember that there are certain factors that play a major role in comparing different sports and how easy it is to get a scholarship. It’s important to look at the level of competition to play beyond high school, the number of programs and total players, and of course, the NCAA limits on scholarships for each sport. You don’t want to overthink the scholarship process as a whole but it can also be very helpful to be aware of how different opportunities compare as a result of various logistics and factors.

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