Paying for College

Volleyball Scholarship for High School Star?

iStock

My daughter is a star of the high school volleyball team, and has been since freshman year (she is now a senior). So far, no college scouts have come to see her play and we haven't gotten any interest from colleges about her joining their team, but I'm sure it's just because we're from a small town that scouts don't visit. How do we get their attention? We are really hoping for a sports scholarship.

The college admissions process is complicated and confusing. And when you add athletics — especially the hope of a scholarship — to the mix, then it becomes even more convoluted! That’s the bad news.


And the even worse news is that the majority of students who expect to earn a sports scholarship don’t get one ... or, if they do, the dollar amount may even be less than they might receive without athletics via an academic merit scholarship or through need-based financial aid.

But the good news is that some student-athletes actually receive significant athletic bucks. And if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you may succeed in helping your daughter to land them. However, you’re very late getting started, so don’t delay!

One of the “problems” with volleyball is that it can be tough to assess just how good a player really is. Swimmers, runners, long-jumpers, javelin-throwers, etc. all have times or distances that can be easily compared, even when the athletes hail from very different backgrounds and leagues. So these students, in search of scholarship money, can tell pretty quickly how they stack up against the competition. But with volleyball, it’s trickier. And there can be a quantum leap between being a high school star (especially in a small town) and being a college recruit. So here are some suggestions on how to proceed:

Step 1: Speak With Coaches

If you haven’t done so already, talk to your daughter’s coach and get his or her take on where your daughter fits into the volleyball world beyond her immediate orbit. Some coaches have a strong sense of this. They may have played at a high level in college themselves and know what’s “out there.” Other coaches, however, can be like parents ... that is, they are wowed by a local star and not fully aware of just how steep the competition is elsewhere.

If your daughter has played on club volleyball teams or attended volleyball camps, then there should be other coaches you can contact, too, in addition to her school coach. Try to get as much feedback as you can get from coaches. Ask if they see your daughter playing at the top level (Division I) or at the Division II or III level ... or even not at all. If a coach seems optimistic about your daughter’s college chances, request recommendations of specific colleges and universities where she might be a good fit.

Also ask these coaches to network for you ... to contact colleges coaches or anyone they know who can put in a good word for your daughter. Again, because she won’t have times or distances to prove her talent, a glowing recommendation from a coach can be key.

Step 2: Find Online Resources

Consider reviewing lists of volleyball scholarships such as this one. There’s a lot to absorb, so have a cup of strong coffee and put on your reading glasses (even if you don’t usually wear them ;-)) before you begin.

You'll find a long list of colleges that offer volleyball scholarships, along with admission statistics to give you at least a vague sense of whether your daughter will be in the ballpark academically. If you see a number in the column that says, “Avr Women’s Scholarship,” then you’ll know that this college does offer $$ for volleyball. BUT ... don’t get too excited if that number is big. It is not the average dollar award for volleyball players. It is the average award for all female athletes. Depending on how important women’s volleyball is at a particular college, that figure may be higher — or lower — for volleyball players.

If you don’t see a number in the column, it means that there are not scholarships for volleyball players. But if your daughter likes a college anyway, she might qualify for another type of scholarship there, so don’t necessarily rule out the school right away.  Athletic scholarships can be offered by Division I and Division II schools, but are not permitted in Div III. However, if your daughter is interested in a DIII school, and if the coach there is eager to have her on the volleyball team, this may push her toward the front of the line when the college is doling out academic merit scholarships ... which can be as good as (or better than) some sports scholarships. Similarly, if your family qualifies for “need-based aid,” your daughter’s volleyball prowess might help to snag her a spot at a swanky DIII school with great financial aid, even if she’s a borderline applicant there academically.

Step 3: Know the Stats

Read all the other information on that and other sites. You'll learn facts such as the following:

- Only 1.2 percent of all high school volleyball players will be on a DI team

- College volleyball coaches are awarded an average of 13 full scholarships per season. So, depending on the size of the roster, than money must be divvied up among more than 13 players.

- You are already behind the eight ball if you haven’t ticked off many of the to-do list items that you’ll find at the bottom of the page. By senior year, most prospective college athletes have already contacted coaches, sent videos and resumes, registered for the NCAA clearinghouse, etc. So if your daughter has a lot of catch-up to do, she should jump on this today!

Step 4: Contact College Coaches Via Email, Online Forms

Because she’s a senior, your daughter probably already has colleges in mind that she wants to attend. Whether or not these schools offer volleyball scholarships, if they have a women’s team then she should be in touch with the coach immediately. The best way to do this is to go on the college’s athletics web pages and look for a link to a form that will be called something like, “Prospective Athlete Recruitment Questionnaire.” Your daughter should fill it out and return it ASAP, and she should also send an email directly to the coach. In the email, she can mention that she’s interested in this college and has submitted the recruiting form, but she should also tell the coach a bit more about herself that the form doesn’t reveal. It’s fine (actually, mandatory) for her to brag about her volleyball accomplishments. And if she knows that she will be a strong contender academically as well, she should mention this too. (College coaches don’t like to waste time pursuing athletes whom the admission office will ultimately reject due to too-low grades and test scores.)

If your conversations with your daughter’s coaches have netted names of other colleges to consider or if the site listed above provided additional ideas, then fill out those online forms and contact the coaches, too.

Step 5: Use Free Recruiting Resources

You can find a vast number of services that help match student-athletes to colleges for a fee. Some are reliable, some are not. Better yet, there are websites that are free to athletes and which promise that college coaches are scouring them to find new prospects. While the majority of coaches don’t find their top recruits through these sites, there’s really no downside to creating a profile. When my son was applying to college several years ago, he created a rowing profile on one of these free sites, BeRecruited. He was contacted by one or two services that wanted to charge us for help, but he also heard from several coaches -- a couple who were from colleges that were reasonable fits for him. Eventually he decided not to row in college and didn’t pursue any of those opportunities, but I was pleasantly surprised that he got on legit coaches’ radar screens through the free profile. Your daughter might also try here and here. I’ve not had personal experience with them, but they’re worth a shot if you don’t get dunned for any dough.

Step 6: Chat with College Confidential Members

You can find lots of threads about athletic recruiting in general and about volleyball in particular on the College Confidential discussion forum.

Because many families jump start this process when students are just entering high school, you’re late to the game — so to speak — but that also means that you can benefit from the legwork that other parents have done already.

But again, don’t dawdle because there’s lots to do this fall, and many colleges coaches have already honed in on the seniors they want on their rosters.

Good luck and happy hunting!

******

If you’d like to submit a question to College Confidential, please send it along here.