Understanding Financial Aid Packages

It is important for students and their parents to understand how financial aid works for student-athletes.  Each NCAA Division level is governed by its own set of rules.  During the recruiting process, college coaches may ask for CSS Profiles/FAFSA before offering athletic scholarships.  Below is a brief summary of the main differences and a link to more detailed information from the NCAA. 

Athletic Scholarships:  Athletic scholarships are awarded by institution based on the merit of the performance of the individual.  All Division I and II soccer programs are classified as "equivalency" sports, meaning that the NCAA restricts the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships.   

Division I:  Soccer teams can separate the scholarship awards between the roster up and till a maximum of 9.9 for the men and 14.0 for the women.  Coaches are allowed to award anywhere from 1%-100% for any individual student-athlete.  

Division II:  Soccer teams can separate the scholarship awards between the roster up and till a maximum of 9.0 for the men and 9.9 for the women.  Coaches are allowed to award anywhere from 1%-100% for any individual student-athlete.   

Division III:  The NCAA limits Division III teams to no athletic scholarships.  If you qualify for merit or need-based aid, you can qualify for financial aid.  The NCAA also require Div. III schools to show how much aid they give to athletes on sports teams. 

Need-Based Aid
Student need-based aid is related to the need of the family after completing either the CSS Profile and/or FAFSA forms.   Need-based aid is awarded on the student/family financial need.  When financial aid is determined through need-based aid, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is determined.  Universities will work towards maximizing this aid gap.  It has often been noted that filling this financial gap, is maximized when the student has higher SAT or ACT scores.

Merit-Based Aid
Merit-based scholarships and grants are awards from educational institutions and organizations.  This aid usually comes from outstanding academic achievements in high schools grades and/or outstanding SAT or ACT scores.  Sometimes merit-based aid is awarded to students by such organizations as local club, Boy Scouts, YMCA etc.  Merit-based grants do not need to be repaid.  Athletic based scholarships are also a form of merit-based aid.

How are athletic scholarships combined with need-based and merit-based aid?  
It is possible at Division I and II schools to combine merit-based aid with athletic scholarships up to the need-based financial aid eligibility limit.  There are some limitations with combining need-based aid with athletic scholarships. 

For more information, visit NCAA's Scholarship page.