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MOMents - Chasing Scholarship Money

Keep your eyes on the report card.

As I enter the college application fray, I am frequently asked the same question. Do you think your kids will get an athletic scholarship?

The process is far from over, but if anyone is asking me what I think, the answer is no. I don't think my kids or most of their friends will get an athletic scholarship.

What no one asks, but what I think will happen, is that many students I know will get merit aid, a blanket term for the discretionary funds that many colleges seem to have at their disposal to reward academic performance.

I am asked the athletic money question on the playing fields and courts of Swampscott. Perhaps it is here that parents and kids alike dream about sports scholarships. And, in their dreams, pursue this goal without proper research. Do they know that Division III schools are not allowed to give sports scholarships.

Last summer, a parent I met watching the Bay State Games, noted that her own brother spent large sums of cash, almost weekly, all summer long traveling to lacrosse showcase tournaments. He was hoping to get his child seen by coaches, chasing an elusive lacrosse scholarship, she said.

In the chase, he spent nearly $3,500 per summer traveling to out-of-state competitions, staying in hotels with his family and eating on the road. She thought he would have been better off saving his money. We’ll never know.

But, what I do know, is that some students get athletic scholarships and many do not. Many talented athletes use their skills as a way to get into a college where they may be academically qualified, but not necessarily distinguished in the applicant pool on the basis of grades alone.

This will be true of other talents and demographic features as well. It depends what they need and whether you possess it. Do they have too many girls? Perhaps they will take boys with slightly lower scores and grades. Do they have to support a dance program, a marching band or a girls' wrestling team? Are you from a state where they have few applicants?

Academic standards exist within a wide range. If they need an oboe player, they may take one ahead of a slightly more academically qualified student without a particular needed talent. If they need to round out their badminton team, students with this skill may receive priority over someone else with stronger SAT scores.

The problem is that we don’t know what they want. We might stumble on it. But, what we can know, often by perusing the web sites or calling admissions and asking, is what they will pay for your good grades.

A friend who went through this last year said it boiled down to $1,500 for every academic A, a formula she did not, but could have known before her child was accepted. Then, she wondered, what her tuition bill might have looked like with a few more A’s and whether her child might have been more motivated to get them if she knew their financial worth.

Every school has a different formula and it’s hard to know, when you begin high school, where you want to go and whether the merit aid formula will be the same when you graduate. But, it’s worth keeping in mind that it might be more attainable than sports money.

Sports are great. From them, our children make terrific friends, stay in shape, learn many positive life lessons, form supportive communities and stay busy in healthy ways. If they end up with a scholarship, and some do, that’s great too.

But, the surer way to get money is with the A’s.  

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