WAY too many parents, kids, and advisors (high school coaches, grassroots/club coaches, etc) get caught up in the word “scholarship” and/or a “free” education. In our opinion, the focus should be on finding a reasonably affordable situation where the school and program are the perfect fits for the prospect in question. First, it’s important to understand that due to the common practice of splitting scholarships, (outside of D1 men’s and women’s basketball plus D1 BCS football, most scholarships are partial scholarships, not full scholarships), many if not most “scholarships” do not in fact provide a “free” education.
But additionally, we submit that there is no actual difference whatsoever between grants (and other financial aid) that come from a school and scholarships that come from a school. Grants and scholarships are the exact same thing, except for the reason behind the school’s decision to put an attractive financial offer on the table. And given that the goal should be to find an affordable college that makes sense for a kid in terms of academics, post-graduation career/alumni networking opportunities, finding the best possible peer group, and other factors that help dictate a young person’s long-term future, why would the technical title of the financial aid package matter?
Clearly, it should not matter at all, and yet tons of parents, kids, and advisors will shun D3 schools that call because D3 schools aren’t allowed to offer athletics-based “scholarships.” However, many D3 schools offer generous financial-need-based (if household income is under $50,000, expect to pay very little at D3 schools that are well endowed) and merit-based (merit can be academic-based, diversity-based, leadership-based, etc) grants. And some D3 schools offer more academic support, a more personalized approach, a terrific peer group, and a higher graduation rate (click HERE to see why the graduation rate is so important, and click HERE for an excellent article on the advantages of D3).
In short, our advice is for parents, kids, and advisors (particularly if the kid’s family is non-affluent and/or the kid is a good student, and particularly if that kid has essentially no other solid interest or offers) to listen to D3 coaches when they call and keep an open mind, because that D3 school might be both affordable and a perfect fit (. Thank you very much for reading.