Obtaining a college athletic scholarship for running is no easy task. Many college athletic programs have drastically cut back on the number of track and cross country scholarships in order to save money. Therefore, a high school runner should only hope to receive a scholarship if he or she is truly an elite high school athlete.
Scholarship Caliber Times
The first rule about scholarships for cross-country and track and field athletes is not to expect one. Athletic programs give few, if any, scholarships to track and cross-country coaches, so only the best recruits will get any money. What this means is that you have to run very fast in high school to have a shot at even getting partial scholarship. By “fast,” I mean AT LEAST a 4:20 mile and a 9:20 two mile. If you are aiming for a major conference school (Pac-10, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, etc.) you really have to run below 4:15 and 9:15, and place very high at state cross-country (preferably champion) to even begin talking about a scholarship.
While these times may seem out of reach, it is important to realize that Division II and NAIA schools also offer scholarships. The level of competition in these divisions is not the same as Division I, so it is easier to get a scholarship from those member colleges. So if securing a scholarship is really important to you, make sure to contact at least a few lower division coaches. Further, keep in mind that Division III and Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships of any kind.
Scholarships After Freshman Year
Keep in mind that while you may not be able to earn a scholarship as an incoming freshman, you may be able to get some money when you are a sophomore or junior, or senior. Coaches like to reward athletes for their proven contributions to the program, so just because you don’t get a scholarship as an incoming recruit does not mean that you will not get one later on. Therefore, it would be a mistake to choose one college over another solely because one school offers you money up front.
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