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Athletic Scholarships for U.S. Undergraduate Study
Athletic scholarships are available to some students entering U.S. undergraduate programs (graduate students are not generally eligible for awards based on athletic abilities). Such students are then expected to play on their college’s team while attending the institution.
Scholarship availability varies widely by sport. A few of the types of sports where athletic scholarships may be available include soccer, tennis, swimming, wrestling, and volleyball, among many others. Few or no scholarships are available in some other areas, such as the martial arts and polo.
However, you will still want to provide information regarding participation in whatever sports in which you may be involved in your college application. It is likely to give you some advantage in the undergraduate admissions process as well as in competing for scholarship opportunities that consider diversity and general contribution to the campus community among selection criteria.
If you feel that you may qualify for an athletic scholarship, prepare evidence of your abilities and communicate with coaches for that sport at colleges in which you are interested to find out if the college offers athletic scholarships and if you seem to be an appropriate candidate. The coach can act as your advocate and will be involved in the decision process. If your coach in Iran can contact the U.S. coach directly, that can be helpful as well.
You still also need to contact the college’s admission office and complete all the usual application requirements for international students. You should receive news as to whether an athletic scholarship was awarded at around the time of your admission to the institution.
Evidence to Show Athletic Ability
It’s a challenge to show your skills at a distance but recommendations from coaches, a DVD clearly showing your athletic ability, and/or an “athletic résumé” can help. (Coaches may also refer to the resume as a "bio," "package," or "dossier"—basically it provides details on your history of play to help assess athletic ability and experience.) Here are a few additional tips related to preparing an ideal athletic scholarship application:
Begin communicating with coaches at schools of interest as early as possible, ideally a year or more before you plan to enroll.
Be concise. Keep your initial e-mail or letter short and factual. Your athletic résumé should be no longer than three pages, focusing on your most important accomplishments of the last two years. If you send a video, a five-minute, edited tape of highlights will be easier to watch and can show off your abilities better than a tape of an entire game.
Material to cover in an athletic résumé—academic credentials first (grade point average, test scores, any honors); sports experience (honors, competitions, teams, camps, personal statistics and records); other activities and interests as appropriate. List athletic accomplishments from most recent to less recent.
Provide numerical measurements (times, distances) for your athletic achievements when possible.
Include names and contact details for your coaches on your athletic résumé.
What recommendations from your coaches should include—not only a review of your physical skills but also background on your work and practice habits, your good sportsmanship, ways that you help and inspire others on your team. Praise should be based on specific examples and realistically reflect your particular strengths.
Review and polish. Make sure materials are easy to read, free of spelling and grammatical errors, identified with your name on each piece. Have someone else read over your writing, and look back yourself after putting it aside for a few days, to be sure you're saying what you want to say.
After sending materials, follow up with an e-mail or phone call to the coach. Keep in touch periodically as you go through the application process, to ask questions, to keep the coach aware of new developments, and especially to let the coach know that you're still interested.
You will need to fill out the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Eligibility Center forms before you can receive a scholarship from an NCAA member institution or practice with their team. Other athlet