The North Central College football team before a game.

Can Division III Give Athletic Scholarships?

Reviewed by Jacob Imm

Sep 08, 2021

Can Division III Give Athletic Scholarships?

Some of the most prevalent and widely sought-after scholarships offered by universities are athletic scholarships. Athletic scholarships allow students to attend universities through the merit of their sport or athleticism. Many high school athletes are willing to go to great lengths to earn an athletic scholarship, from training year-round, ensuring they are in top health for their sport, to talking to multiple schools to assess recruitment opportunities. 

Different college divisions have different rules around athletic scholarships. While numerous Division I and Division II college-bound players can receive athletic scholarships from the same program, D3 colleges handle financial aid for student-athletes a little differently.

If you’re considering attending a Division III school and are curious about participating in an intercollegiate athletics program, read on to find out what financial support is available. 

Why Don’t Division III Schools Give Athletic Scholarships?

So, can D3 give athletic scholarships? The short answer is no—not exactly

The goal for many Division III schools is to offer their students a well-rounded, comprehensive college experience—one that provides an even balance between academics and athletics without focusing solely on athletics. 

Division I sports can often feel like a full-time college career, leaving little time to get involved in other student organizations or pursue additional academic projects and research. 

As such, NCAA Division III institutions do not offer full or partial athletic scholarships to their student-athletes. 

But a D3 school may appeal to you if you’re  looking for a competitive level of play but still want to have time for studying abroad, participating in on-campus organizations and taking on extra opportunities to excel in the classroom. 

To participate in Division III sports, student-athletes are subject to the same admission requirements as non-athletes, including:

  • Grade-point average (GPA) – Schools today take a more holistic approach to reviewing applicant qualifications, but GPA will still be considered. It’s also important to note that different schools set different expectations surrounding academic eligibility for sports. Division III schools may require a minimum GPA for athletes to maintain their spot on the team.
  • Extracurricular activities – Again, each school has its own process of filtering through applicants. However, the admissions committee at a Division III institution will often favor  students involved in a number of different extracurricular activities due to their standards of providing a holistic education. 
  • Admissions essays – The admissions essay isa chance for students to highlight their strengths and let their personalities shine and it's a must for Division III college hopefuls. The essay gives you  an opportunity to impress admissions committees and put yourself in the running for a competitive, merit-based scholarship. 

So, if Division III colleges and universities don’t offer athletic scholarships, how do their student-athletes pay for school? Let’s dive into the specific financial aid alternatives in the next section. 

How do Division III Athletes Pay for School?

While Division III schools are not able to offer full or partial athletic scholarships, it’s important to note that they can provide financial aid to their student-athletes in other ways. 

In fact, 75% of Division III athletes receive some type of financial aid—which can be need-based or merit-based. So, while full athletic scholarships are not available, most Division III schools do help their students pay for college.

Student-athletes searching for options for financial support are recommended to fill out the FAFSA application to determine what kind of need-based scholarships they may be eligible for. 

But what’s the secret to earning a merit-based scholarship? Here are a few ways students can be rewarded based on academic performance.

Focus on schools with larger endowments 

Strictly from a financially savvy point of view, it makes sense for student-athletes to target schools that have more money to spend. The more financial resources available to institutions, the more aid they can give to prospective students. So, who’s sitting on the highest mountain of money? Private universities make up a majority of the institutions with endowments of more than a billion dollars. For freshmen at Trinity College, for example, an average of $58,374 is awarded in merit-based aid each year. 

Get involved in community outreach 

Merit-based scholarships are awarded for a number of reasons, but some may prioritize applicants who have shown some degree of dedication to their local communities. Getting involved in organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, The Humane Society, or Best Buddies are just a few ways young adults can participate meaningfully in their area while also boosting their chances of being considered for merit-based aid. 

Find out more about North Central College

Demonstrate leadership 

Experience in leadership roles also goes a long way when it comes to being considered as a recipient of merit-based scholarships. Student-athletes who have led their teams as captains could earn a few points in their favor, but let’s not forget about the multitude of opportunities to pursue leadership positions outside of the realm of athletics. Serving as president of a student council, debate team or theater group are also viable ways of demonstrating excellence and diversifying a resume. 

As you can see, there are a number of ways for student-athletes to receive the financial support they need from a D3 school without having to commit all of their time to athletics. 

For students who are reluctant to join an  athletic program at a D1 school but still would like a chance to earn a scholarship for their athletic prowess, consider pursuing a spot on a Division II school team. Let’s go over the financial aid options for Division II athletes next.

Do Division III Schools Recruit Athletes?

You may already know a bit about the rigorous recruiting process involved in Division I and Division II athletics, but did you know that a Division III college or schools also have a recruiting process of their own? 

In fact, when it comes to searching for and communicating with prospective athletes, the recruitment rules in place for Division III are designed to be more flexible  than those imposed on Division I and Division II programs. 

Starting in January of their junior year of high school, athletes may be contacted by a Division III school for an official visit, including a tour of the athletic complex, a personal invitation to a game or even a weekend spent with members of the current team. 

A Division III college can also reach out to high school players at any time with brochures, letters of interest, emails, or phone calls. 

According to a 2013 survey conducted by the NCAA, 71% of Division III athletes made their college choice based on the recruitment process. This number is even higher for certain college sports, including:

  • Men’s baseball (76%)
  • Women’s basketball (78%)
  • Men’s lacrosse (83%)
  • Women’s ice hockey (85%)
  • Football (86%)
  • Men’s ice hockey (88%)

Although the athletic recruitment process may be more stringent for Division I and Division II schools, recruiting remains a primary strategy for garnering new talent across all NCAA athletic programs. 

Start Your D3 Athletic Career at North Central College

If you’re interested in playing college sports while continuing to prioritize your education and free time, a Division III school may be a perfect option. Division III athletic programs—like the one at North Central College—are an excellent path for talented athletes who want a more well-rounded college experience. 

North Central College offers several merit-based scholarships, as well as need-based financial aid depending on certain income requirements. The College proudly competes in 27 Division III sports, including football, cross country, track and field, soccer, baseball, basketball and many more. In fact, NCC student-athletes have won 40 team national championships, as well as 142 individual and relay national championships, making NCC’s D3 athletic program one of the most successful in the country.

You don’t have to choose between playing a sport you love and pursuing the education you need for your future. Request more information, and start your journey to becoming a Division III college athlete today!




NCAA. (2020, November 4). Division II partial-scholarship model. NCAA.Org - The Official Site of the NCAA. 

Play Division III sports. (2015, June 12). NCAA.Org - The Official Site of the NCAA. 

Newton, K. (2021, April 22). Division 3 Athletic Scholarships Do Exist. . .Sort Of. Road2College.