March 1, 2008

3 and 1 Volleyball Scholarship Question

A rather unique question about a scholarship:

My daughter has been offered a 3-1 volleyball scholarship at a Division I school. We will pay the difference between total college cost and merit scholarship money the first year and receive a full scholarship for the next three years. Is this common? Vicki

It is not common, but then again it is not unusual. How is that for an answer?

The typical way in which these type of scholarships are presented, is for a coach to tell the family that after they Walk-On the first year, that they will be given a volleyball scholarship for the next 3 years. The coach may be graduating three middle blockers next year, and realizes that the next recruiting class is not very deep for talented middle blockers. So, by having your daughter Walk-On for this year, the coach can secure a top flight middle now and only have to recruit two for next year.

Some good and not so good observations about the offer:

1. If your daughter is a Senior and likes the school/program, then this may be the best option.

2. If your daughter is Junior, then I think it is a bit too early to make a commitment of this nature - keep working through potential schools that fit your desires.

3. What is the cost that you would have to pay? Private schools usually cost much more than public schools, after adding up all merit or need scholarships. If a public school is offering this 3-1 scholarship and the family will only need to pay a few thousand dollars, then this could be great. If it is a private school and the out of pocket costs in year one are in the tens of thousands of dollars, I would have some concerns.

4. Has the coach talked about the 5th year? The majority of student-athletes take 5 years to graduate because of the athletic time demands. A 4-1 scholarship is much better than a 3-1 (which realistically is a 3-2).

5. There is no way to 'contract' such a thing - Walk-Ons do not sign the National Letter of Intent. If the coach leaves before the player gets there, or leaves before the scholarship would be signed (late Spring Semester in college) then the player is at the mercy of the new coach. A trend that is now coming into play with new volleyball coaches, is that they are not honoring verbal commitments and not renewing players on scholarship that don't fit their exact desires. The old days meant that a coach would graduate a player through to have them exit the program; now they just cut them.

All and all, these type of scholarship offers can be a bit dicey; there are some positives and some negatives. If your daughter is a Junior, I would not accept this offer right now, but keep exploring other schools. If your daughter is a Senior and really likes the school/program, then I would want specific information about 5th year funding and being protected if the coach vacates the school (don't be afraid to ask and do not accept the answer of "I am not going anywhere or I have a contract" - things happen).

Good luck!