There are over 1,000 college track and field programs across American colleges and universities. Each division level has a different number of track scholarships they can give out each year. Women’s track and field teams have 18 scholarships per team at the D1 level, 12.6 for NCAA D2 and 12 scholarships for NAIA programs. The vast majority of track scholarships are given as partial scholarships, but there is always the chance you can get a full-ride if you find the right program.
College Track scholarships are awarded to athletes by the coaching staff of each program. Each year coaches evaluate their team’s needs and use their scholarships to award their top performing athletes as well as try and attract new athletes. For this reason, most scholarships are partial scholarships as coaches are dividing their track scholarships up to attract several top athletes.
In order to be a scholarship-athlete you need to be able to come in and show potential early to be scoring points at the conference, regional and national level.
Unlike other college sports, coaches aren’t watching hours of film and evaluating athletes at camps to know if they are going to be good enough for their team. Track and field is simple in the fact that either you can get the time, or you can’t. That being said, each program has different needs and philosophies when it comes to awarding scholarship money. Unlike other college sports, most track coaches will be very upfront about what time you will need to make their team and to get a scholarship.
This is the top level of US college track and field. The athletes that are competing here are among the best in the world. For many athletes just competing at this level never mind getting a scholarship can be a tremendous accomplishment. It is always good to have a couple DI schools on your list but if your times don’t match up to the athletes currently on the team you might need to look at the other division levels.
Many of the athletes at the NCAA DII level have the times or ability to make the team at the DI level but choose DII because they can get a better scholarship package and be more competitive. This doesn’t mean the competition level is low, in fact the winning times and marks at DII are often very close to the DI times. The biggest difference is the depth of talent. If you are a fringe DI athlete, you can compete at the DII level and be much more competitive and probably get a bigger scholarship.
Without the ability to offer athletic scholarships many people feel that DIII sports and track and field in particular are among the purist forms of competition. Athletes at this level could compete at the DII level but have chosen DIII usually because the school is a better fit for them.
For a long time, people thought NAIA and DIII colleges were the same levels of competition. Over the last few years NAIA track and field has started to show they are much more competitive and actually closer to the DII calibre of athletes.
The junior college level has a very wide range of talent in track and field. Some athletes are at the Junior College level because they are academically ineligible to be at the NCAA DI level. Other athletes didn’t quite have the times or marks to move straight on to a four-year university so they are at a junior college working to improve and move on after a couple years.
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