An international student with the American dream has a long way to go, but being an athlete can give you a clear advantage. More than a thousand colleges and universities in the U.S. offer opportunities for young talent to leverage their skills for funding their education through an athletic scholarship. But when it comes to making the best of this opportunity, everything boils down to understanding the process and taking the right steps. If you are looking to use your sporting prowess to propel your study abroad plans, here are the best pieces of advice for you.


Even before you consider any other aspect of landing in the U.S. as a student-athlete, you need to know the governing bodies well enough. The country has three organisations setting the rules and requirements for college sports. These include the following:

  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) – The NCAA governs intercollegiate athletics across three divisions. While Division I and II comprise public universities, Division III represents smaller private colleges
  •  National Association Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)- The NAIA also represents smaller private colleges and universities
  • National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)- It represents community colleges.

The NCAA Division I and Division II, the NAIA, and NJCAA offer athletic scholarships. While the NCAA Division III colleges do not provide them, nearly 80% of student-athletes still get some kind of financial aid. Students need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Centre to play at Division I or II school. As a part of the eligibility requirements, they have to graduate from high school, complete 16 core courses, and also have a specific GPA to be certified as a qualifier. Further, prospective students must meet the requirements to be certified as amateur athletes. It makes sense to research the amateurism requirements for the division you plan to pursue before going ahead. Apart from reviewing the organisations, international student-athletes must also check schools, scholarships, and division levels to seek the best fit.


If you are a budding student-athlete who wants to study in a U.S. university, getting a head start with admission requirements is extremely important. You have to stay a step ahead with researching your options at least 18-24 months before seeking admission. It is equally vital to go the extra mile with practice and performance so that you have good chances of gaining an athletic scholarship. Additionally, you have to excel with your high school grades and prepare for the standardised admissions tests and English language proficiency tests to meet the admissions requirements, just as the regular international students have to do.

Beyond the generic requirements, there are a lot of details that international student-athletes have to sort out. You need to understand the eligibility process for student-athletes because there will be special requirements set by the organisations that regulate college athletics. For example, the NCAA decides eligibility on the basis of a combination of the core course GPA and SAT or ACT test scores. A clear understanding and timely preparation give you an early start with the criteria.


The athletic scholarship process involves the assessment of athletes by the college coaches, whereby they decide the amount to be awarded to the students. It is crucial to get noticed every way you can. Conventionally, it was done at venues like camps and events, but things have changed a lot due to the pandemic. Students no longer have an opportunity to highlight their sporting skills, and college coaches aren’t travelling to look for recruits. Right now, the best way to gain exposure and earn a scholarship is by being visible online and actively connecting with college coaches there.

Sending game videos to coaches is a good idea. You can get seek guidance from club coaches in your home country as they may share some valuable insights about the U.S. collegiate system. Consider collaborating with a reputed recruiting service to help you with the process, from sending across introductory emails to initiating conversations to reach out to coaches and abiding by other rules and requirements for admission and scholarship.  

The U.S. university system offers a host of opportunities for young athletes. You can earn a degree of your choice while continuing to compete. The best part is that you can access athletic scholarships, making it ideal for international students looking for ways to cut down their study abroad expenses. All you need to do is follow these steps, and studying in America will be a lot easier than you may have ever imagined. 

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