Athletic scholarships may seem plentiful, but remember, the number of student athletes is also really high, and currently on the rise. Yes, more athletic scholarships are becoming available–according to the NCAA, athletic scholarships are up 10% compared to just five years ago. But for a more realistic look at the availability of scholarships for runners, consider this fact, also a statistic provided by the NCAA: each year, more than 600,000 female high school runners compete in track and field events, but there are just 4,500 scholarships available for female runners nationwide. Being an excellent runner can land you a college scholarship, but the competition is fierce, and having top-notching abilities as a runner isn’t always an instant-in at a college-level athletic program.
How to Earn Scholarships for Runners
If you are a member of your high school’s varsity team and you’re putting up impressive numbers, it may be time to look into getting a running scholarship. How do you know if you’re good enough to earn a division 1 or division 2 running scholarship? You should be winning some competitive races, be somewhat dominent in your school’s conference, and qualify for state and national competitions. Also, if you are a standout runner as a freshman, sophomore, or junior, you are probably already getting some letters of interest from college track programs. It may be more difficult for runners who enter their peak as a senior, but not impossible.
But the first indication of your ability to earn scholarship funding isn’t your performance on the track–it is your academic abilities. You will need to perform well on the SAT or ACT standardized test and have a GPA of 2.5 or higher in order to attend any D1 or D2 school on a running scholarship. Having said that, some top-notch programs can work around poor academics if you are setting state records at track meets, similar to the way some universities with high academic standards can accept football players who may not have the best grades, but show lots of promise in that sport.
The trick to landing scholarships for runners is self-promotion. Because of the limited number of scholarships available at both the Division 1 and Division 2 level, you simply can’t sit back and hope that a college will send you a scholarship offer. You will need to do some legwork (pun intended) and find the names and addresses of track coaches at colleges you’re interested in and contact them yourself.
When you contact a school as a running scholarship hopeful, you’ll need to list not only your grades but your personal bests at running events. You should also promote how much you run in the off-season, indicating your love of the sport and your dedication to it. The point is to show that you are interested in their program, that you have the skills to run for their team, and that you have the academics to be accepted to their university.
Differences in Scholarships for Runners
Put simply, Division One scholarships are few and far-between, especially compared to the number of young runners there are in the country. If you are a male runner, it is even more difficult, because there are fewer D1 scholarships for male runners. Generally speaking, the times listed below are the type of numbers that can earn you a scholarship for a D1 or D2 track and field program. Remember that there are no Division 3 scholarships for track and field. The numbers listed below are taken from a US News and World Report article on athletic scholarships, and may vary by institution, but are a good general guideline.
Men Division 1800 – 1:55 or under
1600 – 4:16 or under
3200 – 9:32 or under
5K – 15:48 or under
Men Division 2
800 – 1:59 or under
1600 – 4:26 or under
3200 – 9:52 or under
5K – 16:14 or under
Women Division 1
800 – 2:15 or under
1600 – 5:10 or under
3200 – 11:20 or under
4K – 14:55 or under
5K – 19:00 or under
Women Division 2
800 – 2:22 or under
1600 – 5:25 or under
3200 – 11:45 or under
4K – 15:15 or under
5K – 19:30 or under
The times above are simply good times to aspire to, nothing more and nothing less. Remember that every college track and field program is looking for a different type of student, and some schools standards will be higher or lower than others. That’s why it is important to contact programs you’re interested in, to find out what a particular coach is looking for, and to give yourself a time to improve to. Keep your grades up, be your own promoter, and work hard in the offseason, not just during competition times during the academic year.
Using YouTube to Earn Scholarship Interest
YouTube has become an incredible tool for athletes in just about every sport, a way to promote their achievements to anyone who types in their name, and an easy way to send a coach or assistant coach a video of your top performances. Simply copy and paste the YouTube video URL into your query and the interested party can watch you perform, no download or file transfer necessary. It may not be a requirement, yet, that a runner have YouTube highlights available in order to earn a D1 or D2 scholarship, but since YouTube is a free service and familiar to anyone who uses the Internet, it can be one of your best friends when it comes time to land a scholarship for your running abilities.
For an example of a great YouTube promotion video, check out this video, compiled by an aspiring track and field star named Derrek “Dayshawn” Williams:
What is good about his video is the lack of annoying soundtrack or sound effects, the facts he presents in the video, and the quality of the tape, showing off his best aspects clearly without being too over-promotional or cheesy. While some people may think that using sound and graphic effects makes your video stand out among the crowd, knowing D1 and D2 coaches (who see thousands of these videos a month), that kind of thing can quickly wear on your nerves. So put your best performances on video and let your abilities speak for themselves.
Every Division 1 and Division 2 school with a track and field team offers some form of scholarship for runners. The trick is to narrow down your list of schools to, say, 10, and send out well-written queries with facts about yourself, your grades, your performance, and a link to a video they can watch of you in action. If you write a good query letter, perform well academically, and are an excellent runner, you stand a decent chance of earning some form of running scholarship.