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Recruiting 101
Spring Signing Week '14: Scholarships - Details Matter

If you've been playing junior tournaments for years, the chances are that the subject of college scholarships has come up often in your house. It's only natural that you would like all your hard work to be rewarded. For parents, a scholarship is often seen as the light at the end of the tunnel - the financial gift for spending years paying for lessons, entry fees and travel. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

The limitations to athletic scholarships by the NCAA is not even the main fact that you need to worry about. Many universities won't even be able to offer those. Others, like the Ivy League, won't give athletic scholarships. And of those that do, you'll find quite a few (mostly on the men's side) that give partial scholarships.

You need to sit down with your parents and have a frank talk about what is needed for you to go to college. Yes, it would be wonderful after all these years of physical, emotional and financial outlay to get a tennis scholarship, but do you need one? If so, do you need it to cover everything?

A term you should become very familiar with while you are making the college decision, is COA, Cost of Attendance. This is the number that it will cost you to attend a school, including tuition, room, board and books.

Step one is to stop concentrating on whether or not you are getting a full (or any) scholarship to a school and starting thinking about the COA and the inclusions in your award. Here are the questions that you need to ask if they aren't spelled out in your scholarship offer:

If it's a "full scholarship":

  • Does it include room and board?
  • Does it include books?
  • Are there any other expenses that aren't included?

If it's a "partial scholarship":

  • Does it include a percentage of my expenses?
  • Can I get an equivalent dollar amount of what's included and what's not?
  • Do you expect me to get a larger scholarship in coming years?

After those questions are answered, you can truly calculate your COA and discuss that number with your parents. The initial instinct may be to go with the school that is giving you the most, but it does not have to be that simple.

First, you want to get back to the need question. Forget the ego. It's not about what you think you deserve because of all your years as the greatest tennis player in your community, state or even the nation. It's about where you want to go and what you need to get there.

If the team you feel the most comfortable on is not offering a full scholarship, but your parents can swing the tuition, it's time to sit down and discuss what's really important here. Is it bragging rights that you got a scholarship or being at the right university? It shouldn't take you long to figure out that answer.

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