With numerous sports associations, massive turnouts for games and the major number of sports connected together through college, the US is one of the few nations where sports and academics go hand-in-hand. There are multiple opportunities for students to play sports while pursuing degree. Club teams are for students who would like to practice several days per week and play with other club teams from other universities. Such students do not receive scholarships, practices and tournaments are less competitive and are more participation oriented. Whereas varsity teams are organized competitions between universities that provide athletic scholarships to the talented athletes. Varsity teams are very competitive and require student-athletes to attend practices and competitions on a regular basis. .
The main reason why college sports in the US is so big is because it leaves very few sports behind. It’s why the US always has consistent sides at sporting events – they let the next generation concentrate on being the best that they can be. Students can get scholarships – and potentially become professional athletes – in football, baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rifle, rowing, skiing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo and wrestling. All of these have competitive college sporting divisions and this means that you have to know what you excel at most. Choosing what college sport to take up also means knowing the divisions.
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There is one other element of US college sports that you need to grasp – the divisions. Every year, students from all of the above sports take part in one of the three associations. You either go with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) , the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) . Deciding what is best for you can be a tough thing to work out.
The NCAA is the older of the two, formed in 1906 versus 1937. It includes over 900 member universities and more than 250 provisional members registered within three NCAA divisions. Division I is the most competitive. Annually NCAA Divisions I and II universities provide more than $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships to more than 150,00 student-athletes. Naturally, Division I is the most competitive and offers the most financial support, and potential exposure. Division III does not provide athletic scholarships.
The NAIA has is a governing body of around 350 smaller colleges. Annually NAIA gives an opportunity to more than 60,000 student-athletes to play college sports. NAIA has Division I and Division II, 90 percent of which offer athletic scholarships. NAIA institutions offer more than $450 million in scholarships.
The NJCAA consists of two-year institutions. Even though it has three divisions, scholarships are provided at the Divisions I and II. Usually after graduating from such college athletes tend to enroll either NCAA or NAIA to continue education and sports career.
The process when student-athlete is awarded a scholarship is can be lengthy and complicated for an international student. It is quite different from academic scholarship or financial aid application procedures. Athletic director and coaches play key roles when awarding scholarships. Even though scholarships are provided on a yearly basis, generally athletes get renewed for four years, which is an average time to complete undergraduate degree in USA. Students can receive either partial or full funding that covers costs associated with tuition, school supplies and books, as well as housing food and medical expenses. To be considered for an athletic scholarship athlete needs to meet all admissions requirements and maintain regulated by the school grade point average to retain the scholarship.
Benefits of being a student-athlete include but not limited to: prestige college education, excellent academic and support services, financial assistance, exclusive training opportunities, exposure and expereinces, sports specific professional medical care, connections and networking opportunities, as well as preparation for an adult life.