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Should You Bank on an Athletic Scholarship?

Many young athletes dream of one day playing their sport at the college level. However, it is very difficult to make an NCAA team, and winning a full athletic scholarship proves to be even harder. Using lacrosse as a representative example, only about 12% of athletes playing at the high school level continued to play in college, with just 3% playing at the Division I level.1 An even smaller fraction received a partial or full scholarship for doing so.

Instead of banking on an athletic scholarship, it makes sense to have a financial plan in place to pay for a college education.

According to the College Board, for instance, tuition and fees alone at private, four-year colleges averaged nearly $38,000 in 2020. Four-year public colleges averaged $10,500 for tuition and fees for in-state students.2 Financial aid is always a possibility, of course, but many families simply do not qualify for need-based awards and turn to loans instead.

Another point to consider: Even if an athletic scholarship is awarded, it often covers less than a student’s annual college costs. The number of scholarships available in a given year is limited by NCAA regulations, meaning that many college team members participate without financial assistance. In addition, many Division I and II programs offer only partial scholarships, while still other colleges offer no athletic awards at all.

Many college students seek part-time employment to help with college expenses. However, with time commitments to practices, weight training, team community service, and mandatory study hall, student athletes don’t have much time to hold a part-time job. Overnight travel to games further limits an athlete’s opportunities for work.

Thankfully, an athletic scholarship isn’t the only way to finance a college education.

Prospective student athletes may also have the opportunity to receive academic money, grants, private scholarships, or financial aid. Importantly, there are numerous savings strategies that, when utilized correctly, can help make financing a college education a reality. A common savings tool is a 529 Plan designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. 529 Plans have numerous tax advantages, and the account balance can be used for tuition, books, and other education-related expenses at most colleges and universities.

Time can also be a powerful tool for accumulating enough money to pay for college. By saving for educational expenses well before a child reaches the teenage years, you have the opportunity to benefit from compound interest, which can help grow your savings exponentially.

Rather than banking on your child receiving an athletic scholarship, Jemma Financial is here to help you plan ahead and fund your child’s education. If you’re not sure where to start, our team of experienced Financial Advisors can help guide you on the right path toward creating an individualized, well-thought-out savings plan.

1 Estimated probability of competing in college athletics,

2 “Trends in College Pricing 2020,” CollegeBoard, October 2020.

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