If you are a high school student who is considering college athletics, don’t overlook the lesser-known NAIA programs. Many times schools associated with NAIA can offer very lucrative scholarship/grant packages and you are given the opportunity to continue on in your sport while focusing on academics. NAIA schools often reward students for being student-athletes with the emphasis on STUDENT. Many athletes look at NCAA schools only, and they neglect to even take a look at NAIA schools and that can be a big mistake. The level of play is very high at NAIA schools, just like in the NCAA. If you get the opportunity, visit one if your area to see how talented the level of play really is – you will not be disappointed.
If you are unfamiliar with the NAIA program, here’s a quick overview. The NAIA, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, is made up of 60,000 student-athletes in 13 sports with 23 national championships. There are close to 300 colleges and universities that participate with over $450 million in athletic scholarships. According to the NAIA website, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
NAIA rules on financial aid are straightforward. Each school determines how much aid it awards to an individual student-athlete. Under no conditions may anyone else provide direct financial assistance to any student-athlete. Scholarships, grants-in-aid or student loans are controlled by each institution through the same committee that handles all student loans and scholarships.
Each sport has a maximum cap of how much financial aid can be given to students in a particular sport. It can make full or partial grants to students in a sport. To be eligible for athletic scholarship funding from an NAIA school, students must me two of the following three criteria: have a minimum ACT score of 18 or minimum SAT score of 860, have a minimum 2.0 GPA, or have graduated high school in the top half of your graduating class. Few NAIA schools will offer full ride scholarships to athletes, but partial scholarships are more common. The NAIA offers national championships for men in cross country, soccer, football, indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. Women’s national championships are offered in volleyball, soccer, cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, basketball, softball, tennis, and golf.
Don’t rule out NAIA schools when looking for colleges where you could be a student-athlete. For more information about opportunities from the NAIA, visit http://naia.cstv.com