Recruit Me Monday - Financial Aide Outside of Athletic Scholarships

For the high school athlete looking to play at the collegiate level, the recruiting process can be one of the most exciting times of their life. It can also become one of the most confusing and difficult processes for parents and players if they are unaware and unprepared for everything the process entails. Over the next few weeks we will be sending an email out once a week with information covering the recruiting process and what to expect and prepare for. We will cover the following areas: Eligibility/Academics, Important dates for prospects and college coaches, D1 scholarships, Financial Aide outside of athletic scholarships, communications with college coaches, and college visits.

After looking over our earlier story that explained how baseball teams are allowed to give out 11.5 full scholarships to complete a roster of 35 players, it’s obvious that the average NCAA Division I baseball player on athletics aid still has to come up with a good chunk of money on his own to attend college and play baseball. One very common source used to supplement partial baseball scholarships is academic honors awards. Once again there are pages and pages of fine print on this topic but I will just hit on the big picture items for you.

Every college has a different structure when it comes to handing out academic honors awards to incoming freshmen based solely on their high school academic record – criteria to receive them and the amounts vary from school-to-school. 

The general rule states that this money must count against the program’s 11.7 scholarship total unless certain criteria are met to exempt it from the 11.7 calculation.  These criteria are set up to assure that there is a nationwide standard baseline in terms of what is exempted – essentially preventing a school from creating a scholarship with easy criteria that sports programs could then use to gain an advantage over their peers. 

The standards that must be met in order to receive an academic honors award AND it not count towards the baseball program’s 11.7 is as follows - you must meet one of the following criteria based on your high school academic record: 1) ranked in the upper 10% of your high school graduating class; 2) a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.50 (based on a 4.00 scale); or 3) a minimum sum ACT score of 105 (all four areas added together) or a minimum SAT score of 1200 (critical reading plus math). 

If you meet one of these three criteria you are then eligible to receive an academic honors award at a college and this money will not count against the baseball program’s 11.7 baseball scholarships.  So, if you have a 3.50 high school GPA, for example, and you receive a 40% baseball scholarship and 20% academic honors award you are only taking up 40% of the baseball program’s 11.7.

If you do not meet one of the criteria and still are eligible to receive a 20% academic honors award from the college this amount must count toward the 11.7.  In most cases, if this happens it’s likely that the coaches will request that you do not accept the award – as they only intended to commit 40% of their 11.7 to you.  This might sound kind of harsh and unfortunate but the problem is easily solved if you make sure you meet one of the three criteria listed above – which, to be honest, usually have to be met in order to receive an academic honors award at most colleges anyway.

Like mentioned above the academic honors award structure at different colleges varies and you would have to research this on a school-by-school basis to see what you might be eligible for.  Let’s say you have a 3.65 GPA – this might qualify you for a big academic honors award at a lesser academic college and it might get you nothing at a more academic school.  

Bottom line is if you meet one of the three criteria outlined above you are then eligible to receive whatever the school provides in terms of academic honors awards and it will not count against the baseball program’s 11.7.

In terms of real world applications of these rules – college coaches are going to target the best players possible that fit their needs, this goes without saying.  However, most coaches have a very good understanding of the academic honors award structure at their school and have a tendency to veer towards prospects that meet the criteria for this money when all else is equal. 

As we have discussed, a lot of recruiting involves coaches making decisions over similarly talented players.  Player A and B, for example, bring similar talents to the table in the eyes of the coaches at a school.  Player A is eligible to receive a nice academic honors award at the school but Player B is not – in most cases, the player they offer first will be Player A.  It’s just easier to convince a kid to attend your school with the possibility of that extra academic money sitting there. 

This is in addition to the ancillary benefits of adding a smart kid to your program – clearly the success of programs like Rice, Stanford, Vanderbilt, etc., proves that good students that are also good at baseball wins games.

Long story short, academic success matters to college baseball coaches – more than you might think.

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