When Can Colleges Offer Athletic Scholarships?

When college coaches can offer athletic scholarships to students varies by sport and division. The rules continue to change. What we outline here today may not be accurate for tomorrow, a month from now, or a year from now. So we strongly encourage you to ALWAYS check with the NCAA to ascertain the current rules for your sport.

When College Coaches Can First Contact You

Before we get into when colleges can offer scholarships, let’s address when their coaches are even allowed to first contact you. You may have heard about Johnny or Jane so-and-so getting offered a full scholarship from a college coach when they were in seventh grade. This scenario is extremely unlikely. Most Division I and Division II coaches are not allowed to reach out to an athlete before June 15th of the student’s sophomore year in high school. This does not mean, however, that the coaches are not recruiting. They are looking at athletes early on – in seventh, eighth and ninth grades – but they cannot commence a conversation with a student that young. There are ways, however, that coaches skirt this contact rule. For example, they may reach out to a club coach and then the club coach will tell the athlete to contact the college coach. This avoids direct contact by the college coach. And by all means, students can reach out to the college coaches themselves at any time.

When College Coaches Can Verbally Offer Athletic Scholarships

Just as there are initial contact rules related to age, there are also rules as to when a college coach can verbally offer a high school athlete a scholarship. A college coach cannot offer a verbal commitment or scholarship offer before September 1st of the athlete’s junior year of high school. There are some caveats to this date depending upon the sport, such as football, men’s/women’s basketball and baseball, but this is the general rule.

When an Athletic Scholarship Offer Becomes Binding

A verbal scholarship offer is not binding. Either party can get out of the offer. An athletic scholarship offer only becomes binding when you officially sign the offer.

Some Things to Note About the Availability of Athletic Scholarships

We want to stress that it is unlikely that a student athlete will receive a full ride scholarship. Full athletic scholarships are few and far between. Our video What Percent of College Athletes Get Full Ride Scholarships dives into the topic in depth. Plenty of students and parents come to us saying, “Johnny plays soccer and we’re looking for a full scholarship.” Well, that’s most likely not going to happen. So, don’t bank on an athletic scholarship paying for Johnny’s college education. In reality, 90% of the students that come to us who want to be athletes in college end up not playing at all because doing so just doesn’t match their needs academically and socially.

We hope this information answers your question about when colleges can offer athletic scholarships. But again, just as a disclaimer, what we state today may absolutely be different in the future as the rules are continuing to change, so please look at the NCAA website for the most current rules.

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