Dreaming of an athletic scholarship? Here’s a dose of reality.

As a parent cheering on your high school athlete from the bleachers, every score made or opponent beat may give you visions of college recruiters lining up with offers of huge scholarships.

You may proudly think that all the money and time invested over the years will finally pay off. This is it! You don’t have to worry about rising college costs because your teen’s education will be covered by the athletic scholarship.

Before breaking out the bubbly, it’s important to be aware of the difference between head count and equivalency scholarships.

Head count scholarships are what your dreams are made of: The full ride scholarship. Head count sports are only offered at the NCAA Division 1 level for the following: Basketball (men and women), Football (FBS only), Tennis (women only), Volleyball (women only) and Gymnastics (women only). That’s it. They are rare and limited. It’s the athletes at the top of their game (we’re talking the kind of talent that wins national titles) who are offered these scholarships.

Full rides can only be offered to a set number of athletes in each sport, so there’s a team cap on the number of athletes that can be on a full scholarship. By the way, they are only one-year contracts, not four. That means if your athlete gets injured, can’t meet academic requirements or even if there is a change on the team staff, every year will be a waiting game to learn if the scholarship will be renewed.

Equivalency scholarships have no restriction on how many athletes can be on scholarship, but there is a limit on the number of scholarships a team can have. The good news is there is bigger pool of money and they are available for all other sports and division levels. The catch is most are partial scholarships, so your responsibility as a parent is to figure out how much they will cover and come up with the rest.

Myriam DiGiovanni

Myriam DiGiovanni

After writing for Credit Union Times and The Financial Brand, Myriam DiGiovanni covers financial literacy for FinancialFeed. She is also a storytelling expert and works with credit unions to help ... Web: www.financialfeed.com Details