Top High School Athletes Seeking Scholarships: The Best NCAA Division I Athletics Programs for Women

womens sportsIf you’re a top national recruit, you’ll easily attract the attention of college coaches.

If not, you’ll need to be proactive to get their attention. This article gives you vital information on how to get accepted to the top college athletics programs and also provides lists of the best Division I women’s athletics programs for a variety of sports.

Cover Letter

It’s essential to create a list of target schools. Get contact information for coaches, including their email address and telephone number.

In your concise cover letter, let the coach know who you are, including your height, weight, and the position you play. Also include academic information and athletic and academic honors. Send a personal cover letter so it stands out from the crowd.

Résumé

Send coaches a professional résumé via email. This will include detailed statistics for all of your high school sports years, as well as your GPA and your SAT or ACT scores, along with your high school transcripts. A good GPA and SAT score indicates to coaches you’ll probably achieve at least the minimum college GPA needed to stay eligible to play the sport. A photograph of yourself makes the résumé more personal; it also gives coaches you’ve not met an opportunity to see your physique.

College coaches usually get a large number of emails, so you’ll need to grab their attention with the text in the email subject line. For example, if you’re a softball pitcher, put your excellent ERA in the email subject line. If you’re a volleyball player, include something impressive for your position. Don’t lead with numbers because it increases the chances your email will go to a spam folder. If a coach doesn’t respond, try again using different information in the email subject line.

highlight videoHighlight Videos

Most coaches don’t have the time or the funding to travel and watch athletic competitions, so highlight videos are a vital part of the recruiting process. They watch highlight videos to make initial evaluations of athletes before deciding who to watch in person. Provide a link in your résumé to an online video of your athletics highlights. Update your video during the season with great highlights.

If a few weeks go by without hearing from a particular coach, call her on the telephone and show your interest in her athletic program and let her know why you would be a good fit for her program. Be prepared to impress the coach with your knowledge of her program and the college.

When you call a college coach for the first time, be prepared to ask the following questions:

  • What do I have to do to earn a scholarship from your program?
  • Can I meet with you in an unofficial visit?
  • Where do you usually go to evaluate athletes?
  • Do you have any tournaments, camps, or showcases you think I should attend?
  • How is the recruitment process going for you, for my graduation year?
  • How should I update you on my progress in sports and academics?

Respond to every coach who sends you an email or leaves a telephone message, including a coach whose program is low on your list. Their school may turn out to be one of the few schools offering you a scholarship.

Academic Requirements

Currently, high school athletes seeking a Division I athletic scholarship are required to have at least a 2.0 GPA. However, the class of 2015 and beyond will need at least a 2.3 GPA. Currently, students with a core GPA of 2.5 need at least a 820 SAT score (combined on the math and critical reading sections) to be eligible. The new plan requires students with a 2.5 core GPA to have a minimum 1,000 SAT score.

You have a passion for your sport; you’ve worked very hard to become a top high school athlete; you have a strong desire to play your sport at the NCAA Division I level for a top program. If you’re having a difficult time in academics, take it as a challenge and apply the same focus, determination, and competiveness you apply to sports to academics, to make sure your scores are easily higher than the minimum academic requirements.

Athletic Scholarships

Approximately 2% of high school athletes acquire an athletic scholarship. In 2011, a new ruling allows NCAA Division I schools to give athletes scholarships for more than one year.

Most athletic scholarships are not full rides. For women, only basketball, gymnastics, tennis, and volleyball are head-count sports at the NCAA Division I level, meaning that all scholarships for these sports are full rides.

Full scholarships cover tuition, fees, room and board, and required course-related books. Scholarships for the other sports may be full scholarships, but it is highly likely that most of them will be partial scholarships. Coaches often divide scholarships to get more athletes for their program. A “counter” is an athlete receiving institutional financial aid that is countable against the aid limitations in a sport.

The NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund and non-institutional, need-based aid, such as Federal Pell grants, provide academic scholarships and financial aid to thousands of athletes.

Background Checks

Colleges usually perform thorough background checks on student-athletes they’re interested in, so be careful about the information and photographs you place in social media. If you have a Facebook page, only include photographs and information appropriate for coaches to see. Don’t let people place photographs of themselves or leave comments who don’t present themselves as a wholesome person. You may have to unfriend some people. Also, set your private settings at fully private.

After you’ve been communicating with a coach, it’s alright to ask how many other athletes she’s recruiting for your position and where you stand on the recruiting board. For every college on your list, find out how many juniors and seniors are going to graduate when you enter college and how many of them play your position. If a college roster has numerous freshmen and sophomores who play your position, you might want to look at other colleges.

showcaseCamps and Showcases

Participate in the camps and showcases attended by coaches high on your list. Let them know you’ll be participating in the event. It’s important to attend camps and showcases, but realize that even though you received an invitation, the majority of coaches mainly evaluate athletes they already know. If a coach hasn’t had a few conversations with you before the camp or a showcase, you may not be recruited at the event. Most coaches attending a camp have a list of athletes they want to watch. Coaches typically don’t scout at camps.

Be selective about attending college camps because coaches invite a lot of athletes to camps to make money from the camps for their sports program. Some of the money is added to the recruiting budget. There are basically two ways athletes receive camp information: either a coach is interested in recruiting them or, more likely, they’re in a database and the coach has no idea who they are or their talent level.

Depending on the sport, you may want to participate in a college camp the summer after you finish your sophomore year. When you’re a junior or senior, attend college camps operated by coaches recruiting you. Regarding showcases, find out which coaches are expected to attend, but realize not every coach on the list will attend the showcase.

If you’re going to a college camp with the objective of obtaining an athletics scholarship, find out where you are on the recruiting list and if the coach has a lot of interest in you before spending money to participate in the camp.

Gain knowledge of the NCAA rules and regulations regarding recruiting high school athletes. Register with the NCAA to be cleared for athletic scholarships. Also, for colleges on your list, complete the athletics questionnaire at their website.

The rankings of the best women’s athletics programs are based on consistent, year-in-year-out performance, league and national championships, the competiveness of their schedule, and the reputation of the athletics programs. The rankings are based entirely on the athletics programs.

basketballThe 10 Best Women’s College Basketball Programs

  • Connecticut
  • Tennessee
  • Duke
  • Stanford
  • Texas A&M
  • Baylor
  • Notre Dame
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Kentucky

NCAA Division I women’s basketball includes 338 programs. Each team is allowed 15 scholarships. All Division I basketball scholarships must be full-ride scholarships.

Your résumé should include points-per-game, field-goal percentage, three-point field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds-per-game, blocks-per-game, assists-per-game, and steals-per-game. Choose the items above which pertain to your position. Also include your vertical jump height and 5-10-5 shuttle time. Provide your height and weight.

The best videos include offense and defense skills. The video should include scoring highlights, blocked shots, quickness, steals, rebounding skills, and great assists.

Often basketball coaches show up at showcase events and AAU tournaments to watch basketball players they’re already familiar with, so it’s important to send your résumé and make contact with college basketball coaches before participating in these events. Let the coaches know the AAU team you’re in and which showcases you’ll be participating in.

volleyballThe 10 Best Women’s College Volleyball Programs

  • Penn State
  • Stanford
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Hawaii
  • Nebraska
  • UC Berkeley
  • Washington

NCAA Division I women’s volleyball is a head-count sport, so all scholarships are full scholarships. Each team can provide 12 scholarships. There are 327 Division I women’s volleyball teams.

Contact the coaches you’re interested in and show them why you should get a scholarship. Your résumé should provide statistics, including the number of games played, kills-per-game, total number of kills, blocks-per-game, total number of blocks, solo blocks, receiving percentage, aces, digs, assists-per-game, total number of assists, and attacks. Make a highlight video showing your best offensive and defensive skills, as well as great plays you participated in.

Join a good club team. College coaches heavily recruit volleyball players based on their club and travel teams. Use the Internet to find club teams in your area and find out which teams produce the most college volleyball players.

Send information about your high school and club playing experience to the coaches on your list. Participate in events the college volleyball coaches attend. Participate in college volleyball camps.

Many college volleyball coaches suggest that players participate in a volleyball league year-round. Some camp coaches suggest a jumping program, such as jumping rope. Many camp coaches suggest that volleyball players also participate in other sports because cross-training is helpful.

Many top level Division I volleyball coaches use the recruiting guidelines shown below:

  • All-American
  • All-region
  • All-state
  • All-league/district
  • Club team experience at the national level

The 10 Best Women’s College Soccer Programs

  • Stanford
  • Duke
  • North Carolina
  • UCLA
  • Notre Dame
  • Florida State
  • Wake Forest
  • Oklahoma State
  • Maryland
  • USC

There are 314 NCAA Division I women’s soccer team and each one has 14 scholarships. Soccer is an equivalency sport, so all scholarships are not full scholarships. That means coaches are able to divide up the scholarships among as many athletes as they choose.

Many college soccer coaches don’t have the resources to find every qualified soccer player. Many coaches expect soccer players to take the initiative and contact them. Your résumé should provide your 40-yard-dash times with and without a ball, your one-mile time, and your vertical jump. Also, include your height and weight. Offense players should include the number of games and minutes played, goals-per-game, goals-per-season, assists-per-game, assists-per-season, number of shots per game, number of shots per season, and total points.

Goalies should include the number of games started, their win/loss record, goals-against average, total goals against for a season, shots on goal saves, saves percentage, and shutouts.

There are some exceptions, but the top level Division I college soccer programs use the recruiting requirements shown below:

  • All-American
  • All-state
  • Three-to-four-year varsity starter
  • Olympic development program experience
  • All-league/district
  • Extensive club experience

softballThe 10 Best Women’s College Softball Programs

  • Arizona
  • UCLA
  • Alabama
  • Arizona State
  • Florida
  • UC Berkeley
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Texas A&M

Each of the 286 NCAA Division I softball teams has 12 scholarships. Softball is an equivalency sport, so usually scholarships are not divided equally among players. For example, pitchers usually receive larger scholarships than position players.

Most softball players need to contact college softball coaches and let then know they’re interested in playing for the team. Find out if the programs you’re interested in have players returning for at least one more season who play your position. Usually, softball coaches value pitchers the most.

Send coaches your résumé and highlight video. The résumé should include your batting average, runs, rbi’s, hits, doubles, triples, and home runs. Put your statistics in a table. The video should include your best hitting, fielding, and throwing highlights.

The résumé of a pitcher includes her win/loss record, ERA, strikeouts-per-game average, strikeouts-per-season total, and opponents’ batting average. Her video should show the softball from start to finish of every pitch so coaches can judge speed, movement, and location. Use a radar gun to show coaches how fast you can throw a softball.

Being part of a club team is very important. College softball coaches often watch club teams at high profile tournaments.

The important high school softball achievements are shown below:

  • All-state
  • All-league
  • Four-year starter
  • MVP

field hockeyThe 10 Best Women’s College Field Hockey Programs

  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Old Dominion
  • Wake Forest
  • Duke
  • Penn State
  • Michigan
  • Connecticut
  • Syracuse
  • Ohio State

All of the 78 Division I field hockey teams can provide 12 scholarships. Field hockey is an equivalency sport, so coaches can divided the value of the scholarships among as many field hockey players as they choose.

College coaches watch field hockey players at summer tournaments, camps, and showcases. A large number of summer field hockey camps are held across the nation. If you’re seeking a scholarship, participate in an elite-level camp. Attend a field hockey camp held on a college campus. Join a competitive team that plays in prestigious tournaments.

Send coaches a great highlights video. Send coaches high-quality references indicating that you make your teammates better players. Find out if the teams you’re interested in need players for your position.

The important high school and club achievements for NCAA Division I, Tier 1, are shown below:

  • Club competes in national tournaments
  • Three years all-league/district
  • Two years all-state
  • One year all-American

The important high school and club achievements for NCAA Division I, Tier 2, are shown below:

  • Club team competes in state or national tournaments
  • Three-year starter
  • Three-year all-league/district
  • One-year all-state

gymnasticsThe 10 Best Women’s College Gymnastics Programs

  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • UCLA
  • Utah
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Florida
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon State
  • Michigan

All women’s gymnastics scholarships at the Division I level are full scholarships. Each of the 64 Division I women’s gymnastics programs can have 12 scholarships.

Coachers mostly use video to evaluate gymnasts. After they narrow down the list of candidates, they watch gymnasts in person. Gymnastics coaches often give scholarships to gymnasts whose strengths match their needs. Most Division I gymnasts are expected to be competing and placing very well at Level 10. They’re expected to participate in regional competitions. Some gymnastics programs seek gymnasts who competed at the National and International level.

Attending a college gymnastics camp gives you the opportunity to meet college gymnastics coaches. Impress coaches at college gymnastics recruiting showcases.

lacrosseThe 10 Best Women’s College Lacrosse Programs

  • Northwestern
  • Maryland
  • Syracuse
  • North Carolina
  • Florida
  • Virginia
  • Georgetown
  • Massachusetts
  • Duke
  • Notre Dame

Each of the 87 NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse teams can have 12 scholarships. Lacrosse is an equivalency sport, so all scholarships are not full scholarships. Therefore, coaches can divide the value of the scholarships among as many lacrosse players as they choose.

Impress coaches at summer lacrosse camps. The camps also help improve your skills. College lacrosse camps are held throughout the United States; however, most of the camps are held in the eastern portion of the country. Send coaches game highlights of your best offensive and defensive skills and great plays you’ve been involved in.

Many top level NCAA Division I Lacrosse coaches use the recruiting guidelines shown below:

  • All-league/district
  • All-state
  • All-American
  • Participation at camps and showcases
  • Club/travel team experience
  • Four year high school starter

rowingThe 10 Best Women’s College Rowing Programs

  • Washington
  • Brown
  • Virginia
  • Princeton
  • Yale
  • Stanford
  • UC Berkeley
  • Michigan
  • Ohio State
  • USC

Rowing provides a large number of scholarship opportunities. Each coach can provide 20 scholarships. Rowing is an equivalency sport, so all scholarships are not full scholarships. The coaches can divide the value of the scholarships among as many athletes as they choose. There are 81 NCAA Division I women’s rowing programs.

Contact coaches and let them know you’re interested in being part of their rowing program. Only rowing coaches in the top programs have a big enough travel budget to watch a few regattas every year.

Coaches consider strong, tall athletes, even if they don’t have much experience rowing. Some coaches take athletes with no rowing experience. Athletes need to have good balance, timing, and stamina.

cross countryThe 10 Best Women’s College Cross Country Programs

  • Villanova
  • Stanford
  • Florida State
  • Providence
  • Syracuse
  • Georgetown
  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Iowa State
  • Vanderbilt

Cross country is an equivalency sport, so all scholarships are not full scholarships. The coaches can divide the value of the scholarships among as many athletes as they choose.

Track and field and cross country share scholarship money. NCAA Division I women’s cross country teams can provide 18 scholarships. There are 333 Division I women’s cross country programs.

Coaches are very interested in an athlete’s 5k time. Your times should be established on a track. Coaches don’t strongly consider cross country times because conditions and courses can be very different.

track and fieldThe 10 Best Women’s College Track and Field Programs

  • Texas A&M
  • LSU
  • Oregon
  • Kansas
  • Arkansas
  • Texas
  • Stanford
  • Clemson
  • Oklahoma
  • Arizona

NCAA Division I women’s track and field teams can provide 18 scholarships. Track and field is an equivalency sport, so all scholarships are not full scholarships. The coaches can divide the value of the scholarships among as many athletes as they choose. Track and field and cross country share scholarship money. There are 314 NCAA Division I women’s track and field programs.

Track and field scouts review the results of specific meets. Coaches typically recruit from specific regions. College track and field summer camps give you an opportunity to showcase your abilities to coaches and help you improve your skills. College track and field coaches often videotape and evaluate athletes’ performances at the showcases. Get to know the coaches you’re interested in.

tennisWomen’s College Tennis

NCAA Division I women’s tennis is a head-count sport, so all scholarships are full scholarships. Each of the 320 NCAA Division I women’s tennis teams can provide eight scholarships.

It’s vital that you actively pursue tennis coaches. A great highlight video is crucial to convince tennis coaches to see you. Find out which tournaments the coaches you’re interested in attend and qualify to play in them. Coaches rely heavily on tournaments and the rankings tennis players earn. Coaches at the top programs look for tennis players with national and international experience. Coaches evaluate tennis players from all over the world.

Many top level Division I, Tier 1, tennis coaches use the recruiting guidelines shown below:

  • High school #1 varsity singles
  • All-league/district
  • All-region
  • All-state
  • All-American
  • Top 200 ITF ranking
  • Top 100 USTA ranking (age group)

Many top level Division I, Tier 2, tennis coaches use the recruiting guidelines shown below:

  • High school #1 player
  • All-league/district
  • All-region
  • All-state
  • All-American
  • Top 300 ITF ranking
  • Top 250 USTA ranking (age group)

ice hockeyWomen’s College Ice Hockey

Each school can have 18 ice hockey scholarships.

Ice hockey is an equivalency sport, so usually scholarships are not divided equally among players. There are 34 NCAA Division I hockey programs.

The most common way to acquire an ice hockey scholarship is playing in a junior women’s ice hockey league. Summer ice hockey camps provide the opportunity to impress college coaches with your skills and improve as a hockey player.

golfWomen’s College Golf

The NCAA allows Division I women’s golf programs six scholarships.

Not all the scholarships are full scholarships; coaches can divide the scholarships among as many golfers as they choose. There are 238 women’s NCAA Division I golf programs.

The top NCAA Division I golf programs look for athletes with top finishes at the USGA the AJGA and at regional and state levels. They also seek athletes with a high Polo Golf ranking.

skiingWomen’s College Skiing

A skiing camp is a great place to showcase your skills and increase your recruiting opportunities.

The NCAA allows every Division I women’s skiing program seven scholarships.

Not all the scholarships are full scholarships. Skiing coaches can divide the scholarships among a larger number of athletes.

fencingWomen’s College Fencing

Each NCAA Division I women’s college fencing program can provide five scholarships.

Not all the scholarships are full scholarships. Coaches are able to divide the scholarships among as many fencers as they choose.

Attend a college fencing camp to showcase your skills to college fencing recruiters. High school fencers should watch some college tournaments to see the intensity of fencing at the college level.

swimingWomen’s College Swimming

College swimming camps give you an opportunity to impress coaches and improve your skills.

NCAA Division I women’s swim teams cam provide 14 scholarships.

Swimming is an equivalency sport; thus, all scholarships are not full scholarships. Coaches can divide the scholarships among as many athletes as they choose. Swimming and diving share scholarship money.

There are 192 women’s NCAA Division I swimming programs.

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