Whenever the Virginia men’s lacrosse coach overhears two kids talking about “so-and-so got a full ride to Georgetown” or “Carolina gave him a full scholarship,” he figures they’re probably off base.
Unlike football and basketball — where nearly every Division I player gets a full scholarship — lacrosse players very rarely see their tuition, room, board and fees covered for an entire four years.
The “full ride” is one of many myths that student-athletes and their parents may encounter when navigating the NCAA athletic scholarship maze during the recruiting process. Time to shed some light on that and several other commonly held misconceptions.
Myth 1: Scholarships Will Find You
Organization and communication are the cornerstones of the recruiting process. It is important for young athletes to organize first — put their goals on paper and then build a checklist of things that need to be done, which includes picking up the phone and calling college coaches. E-mail coaches with your personal profiles. It is important to take a proactive approach.
“I think the one thing that folks don’t realize is that they have a tremendous laterality, as far as initiating communication with the college coaches, which essentially gets them on the radar screen,” said Tom Kovic, the founder of Victory Collegiate Consulting. “I think that there is a little too much caution that athletes and families take when it comes to getting on the radar as far as athletic scholarships. I think they’re afraid that they’re going to come off appearing cocky, and that is not the case at all.”
Coaches do their best to scour the country in search of recruits, but they can only be in one place at a time. If you believe that you have something to offer a program, it can’t hurt to reach out to that school.
Myth 2: The Well Runs Deep
Under the NCAA, including Divisions I, II and III, only 30 percent of student-athletes are on any form of athletic scholarship. Division III doesn’t offer any athletic scholarships, nor do any Ivy League schools. And the majority of the D-I and D-II teams are not fully funded, meaning they do not have the resources to offer the maximum amount of scholarships allowed by the NCAA.
A fully-funded Division I men’s lacrosse team has a maximum number of 12.6 scholarships to hand out. On the women’s side, the max is 12. That number can essentially be divided up however a coach chooses, but the max is for the entire program, not per class. Some schools try to reward upperclassmen for their loyalty to the program by upping their scholarship going into their senior years, which may leave less than three scholarships for a coach to go out and recruit nine or 10 incoming players.
“If you just look at the scholarship offerings, you’re probably talking about the top 150 guys in the country, and there’s probably 4,000 kids going in to play college lacrosse at all the levels every year,” said Matt Wheeler, a four-year letterwinner at Wesleyan University who, along with former teammate Chris Meade, co-founded lacrosserecruits.com — a Facebook-style Web site designed to market high school lacrosse players to college coaches.
Myth 3: The “Full Ride”
One of the most common misconceptions is that a scholarship, whether it is full or partial, lasts four years. By definition, a scholarship is a one-year renewable grant. Renewals are not automatic, and the college must notify the student in writing by July 1 of his or her scholarship status. Therefore, even the proverbial “full ride” — a rarity at virtually every program — is only guaranteed for one year.
“In my 17 years at Virginia, I think we’ve done it three times, where we’ve given somebody a full scholarship,” Starsia said. “What we’re talking about in general are pieces of scholarships. Our goal every year is that everybody gets something.”
If a typical, fully-funded Division I men’s lacrosse team has 40 players on its roster, there’s a good chance that 35 of those players receive a percentage of a scholarship — likely less than half of one full scholarship. Another two or three may receive need-based financial aid only, while another two or three are paying their own way entirely.
Myth 4: Summer is Scholarship Season
Unlike the recruiting process, which is full of regulations and stipulations as to when and how a coach can contact an athlete, a scholarship offer can be made at any point. Just don’t expect to hear one too early.
For a coach that starts out recruiting, say, 20 players, it would be imprudent to make specific dollar-amount promises in the beginning of the process. Nobody wants to be in a position where they have to go back on their word. So it becomes an ongoing dialogue, where the two parties get down to particulars as the signing period nears.
“What we tell boys when they’re sitting here early in their junior year is, `You’re a scholarship candidate for us,’” said Starsia. “So if the boy has five or six schools he’s going around to visit, when they come back to us and say, `Hey Coach, I’m getting pretty close to making a decision,’ then we’re going to give them the information (i.e., a dollar amount) they need in order to complete that picture.”
In most cases, the first binding agreement between an athlete and a program that is offering an athletic scholarship is the National Letter of Intent signing, which takes place in November or April of the senior year.
Myth 5: No Scholarship = Full Price
If a prospect is not offered an athletic scholarship in his or her freshman year, that doesn’t mean he or she is not eligible later. There also are a number of other options that can be explored through the college’s financial aid department. They include: need-based financial aid, grants and loans.