Athletic Scholarships: Junior College is NOT a Last Resort

junior college route provides opportunity for competition and educationEach year, more than 7.5 million American high school students participating in school athletic programs hope to earn an NCAA athletic scholarship, and while about 7 percent of them will go on to play that sport in college, less than 2 percent of them will be awarded athletic scholarships.

There are about 138,000 athletic scholarships available for Division I and Division II sports (Division III does not offer athletic scholarships, but many have academic scholarships they award student athletes), which yes, certainly does sound like a lot. But to put it another way, about a million boys playing high school football are vying for roughly 19,500 football scholarships, and nearly 603,000 girls compete in track and field in high school, and they’re competing for around 4,500 scholarships.

Not trying to burst your bubble, there’s nothing wrong with aiming high. College is a major expense, and every parent would hope for a little help covering some of that cost, whether it be through academics or athletics. While big NCAA scholarship are rare, they also aren’t an athlete’s only option right out of the gate.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) awards full and partial scholarships to athletes at its 525 member colleges throughout the country. In the 2012-13 school year, the NJCAA awarded about $122 million in scholarships to about 50,000 athletes. And, to be honest, the junior college path is often a much more realistic path for teens for several different reasons, and shouldn’t be viewed as a “last resort”.

Junior colleges give student athletes the opportunity to develop academically

It isn’t just about sports! Junior colleges offer smaller class sizes and more professor interaction. Just like in athletics, the change from high school level to college level can be a shock (and statistics definitely prove it), but a community college acts as a bridge between the two and gives student athletes the chance to “warm up” and not immediately get lost among hundreds in a lecture hall.

Junior college athletes have two years to improve their game

Competition at the junior college level is still going to be much more intense than what an athlete would see at the high school level. Plus, chances of getting significant game action as a freshman and sophomore is much, MUCH higher than in an NCAA DI, II or even III school, so athletes have a better opportunity to develop their skills needed to excel at the NCAA level. It’s a much smoother transition.

Save money at a junior college while knocking out those core classes

I mentioned how rare NCAA scholarships were, but even rarer are full rides. Generally, only six NCAA sports (men’s football, basketball and women’s basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and tennis) offer full-ride scholarships (tuition, books, living expenses, etc.), so the majority of student athletes will have to make up the difference, whether it be through student loans (you pay those back), financial aid or personal funds. Junior colleges are much cheaper, so the financial dent is much less, if at all.

Junior colleges offer great opportunities to student athletes – they get to play the sport they love while getting their college education at little to no cost to them, or their parents. And, they’ll be more experienced for a four-year school both academically and physically. Who wants to be a benchwarmer for two years?

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