Best Colleges for Track and Field Scholarships: Get Ahead Fast

Securing a track and field scholarship is a competitive and coveted achievement for many high school athletes. In the United States, there are a variety of collegiate levels at which an athlete can compete, including NCAA Division I, II, and III, NAIA, NJCAA, and CCCAA colleges. Scholarships are often awarded on an equivalency basis, allowing coaches to distribute partial scholarships across the team. This method increases the number of athletes who can receive financial assistance. Athletes looking to compete and study at the collegiate level should be well-versed in the recruitment process and scholarship standards to enhance their chances of receiving a scholarship.


Selecting the right college for track and field involves careful consideration of both athletic and academic environments. Prospective student-athletes should research and identify colleges that fit their academic interests and athletic skill level. It’s important to understand that scholarship standards vary widely among institutions. The leading colleges for track and field scholarships have a history of strong athletic programs and often provide extensive resources for their athletes. Communicating effectively with college track coaches and understanding the financial aspects of scholarships are vital steps in navigating the recruitment landscape.

Key Takeaways

  • Equivalency scholarships increase the number of athletes receiving financial aid.
  • A balance of athletic prowess and academic fit is essential in college selection.
  • Understanding recruitment processes and scholarship criteria is key to securing funds.

Understanding Track and Field Scholarships

Securing a track and field scholarship can be a transformative opportunity for student-athletes, offering financial aid based on athletic prowess. Scholarships are awarded based on athletic ability, academic standards, and NCAA regulations.

Types of Track and Field Scholarships

Full-ride scholarships grant comprehensive cost coverage for tuition, room, board, and textbooks. These are rare and highly competitive. On the other hand, equivalency scholarships are divided into smaller, partial scholarships spread across multiple athletes, making them more common in track and field. Institutions may offer a mix of scholarships, combining both athletic and academic achievements.

Eligibility for Track and Field Scholarships

To be eligible for a track and field scholarship, athletes must meet certain criteria, such as performance standards set by the college or the NCAA. Additionally, maintaining a specific GPA and achieving minimum standardized test scores are often required to be considered for an athletic scholarship.

Scholarship Limits and Equivalency

Scholarship limits are dictated by the governing bodies like the NCAA, which sets the maximum number of scholarships a program can award. Track and field is categorized under the NCAA’s equivalency sports, meaning scholarships can be split among athletes in partial amounts. For example, NCAA Division I Women’s Track and Field allows 18 full-ride scholarships, but coaches can allocate these amongst more athletes, offering partial scholarships to stretch their budget.

College Track and Field Programs

College track and field programs provide athletes the opportunity to compete at various levels, from the highly competitive NCAA Division I to smaller schools in the NAIA and NJCAA. These programs often offer scholarships and the chance to participate in both indoor and outdoor events.

NCAA Track and Field

The NCAA administers the largest collegiate track and field programs across three divisions. Division I schools typically offer the most men’s track and field scholarships and boast the highest level of competition, culminating in prestigious National Championships. Division II and Division III institutions offer a more balanced approach between academics and athletics, though Division III schools do not offer athletics scholarships.

NAIA and NJCAA Programs

The NAIA provides a separate athletics organization from the NCAA, with its own set of eligibility requirements and championships. NAIA track and field teams can award up to 12 scholarships per team, which can be divided among athletes at the coach’s discretion. Similarly, the NJCAA represents junior colleges, which also award athletic scholarships and can serve as a gateway to NCAA competition for student-athletes.

Ivy League and Non-Scholarship Schools

While Ivy League schools and several other institutions do not offer athletic scholarships, they maintain competitive college track and field programs. Being part of an Ivy League team means competing at a high level with a strong emphasis on academic excellence. These non-scholarship schools still recruit top-tier athletes and provide significant financial aid packages based on need, rather than athletic ability.

Recruitment Process for Track and Field Athletes

The recruitment process for track and field athletes is a strategic endeavor requiring strong academic standing, timely communication, and proactive participation in camps and showcases.

Academic Requirements

Student-athletes hoping to get recruited for track and field must maintain a robust academic record. The NCAA has specific eligibility requirements that include maintaining a minimum GPA and achieving a satisfactory score on standardized tests. Prospective student-athletes should ensure they meet the academic benchmarks of their desired institutions, as these requirements can serve as the first filter in the recruitment process.

Recruitment Timelines and Communication

The track and field recruiting process follows specific timelines, with communication peaking during certain periods of the academic year. For example, Division I coaches can start contacting athletes after June 15th of their sophomore year. It is vital that prospective recruits understand the importance of:

  • Responding promptly to any communications from college coaches.
  • Reaching out to schools of interest with a sports resume and highlight video.

Following appropriate recruitment timelines and communication strategies maximizes visibility and engagement with college programs.

Attending Track and Field Camps

Camps play a pivotal role in the recruitment process, especially specialized men’s track and field camps which can showcase an athlete’s prowess to college scouts. These camps offer the dual benefit of improvement through elite coaching and increased exposure. Athletes in events such as cross country can display their endurance qualities, attracting the attention of interested programs. More so, it is an excellent opportunity to interact with coaches, understand their styles, and evaluate if their program aligns with the athlete’s aspirations. Participating in track and field camps is an essential step for serious recruits looking to compete at the collegiate level.

College Athletics and Academics


Colleges with robust track and field programs offer comprehensive support systems to ensure student-athletes excel both on the field and in the classroom. Institutions prioritize a balance between rigorous athletic training and a solid academic foundation, often culminating in favorable graduation rates and a reasonable average cost after aid.

Balancing Sport and Study

Student-athletes face the challenging task of juggling intensive training schedules with demanding academic responsibilities. Colleges with prestigious track and field scholarships typically provide structured environments where athletics and academics coexist harmoniously. Institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University not only present opportunities for athletic development but also boast high general academic rankings.

  • Time Management: Key to success for student-athletes, with structured schedules for both training and study.
  • Dual Commitment: Emphasis on commitment to sport as well as maintaining academic standing.

Academic Support for Student-Athletes

Colleges offer various forms of academic support tailored to the needs of student-athletes. This ensures that the pursuit of athletic excellence does not come at the expense of educational attainment. The U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard and graduation rates serve as benchmarks for academic quality and student success.

  • Tutoring Services: Institutions provide dedicated tutoring to help student-athletes with their studies.
  • Advising: Academic advisors are assigned to guide student-athletes throughout their collegiate journey.

Table 1: Academic Support Resources for Student-Athletes

Resource TypeDescriptionBenefit to Student-Athletes
Tutoring ServicesSupplemental academic assistanceEnhances understanding of difficult concepts
Academic AdvisingPersonalized educational guidanceHelps with course selection and career planning
Study HallsStructured time for courseworkProvides an environment conducive to studying

Through proper academic support and an emphasis on balanced schedules, colleges strive to foster environments where student-athletes can thrive in both their sport and their studies, without compromising the educational value of their college experience.

Identifying the Right College Track and Field Opportunities

Selecting an apt college for track and field can significantly impact an athlete’s academic and athletic career. Hence, understanding the intricacies of collegiate track and field programs, their division levels, and performing a targeted college search are pivotal in making an informed decision.

Analyzing College Track and Field Programs

To ascertain the most suitable college track and field program, one must prioritize factors such as the team’s competitive edge, coaching quality, and training facilities. It’s essential to consider the team’s performance at regional and national levels, as well as its standing in NCSA power rankings. Assessing these can lend insight into the program’s dedication to fostering athletic prowess. Additionally, an athlete must weigh the balance between sports and academics; looking into the program’s general rank and grad rank offers a clear picture of academic support and opportunities available to student-athletes.

Understanding Division Levels

Collegiate track and field in the United States is organized into different division levels: NCAA Divisions 1, 2, and 3, NAIA schools, and junior colleges. Division 1 schools are often seen as the most competitive, providing the most significant number of athletic scholarships; however, they also demand excellent track recruiting times and a high level of commitment. Lower division levels and NAIA schools might offer more personalized attention and better balance between athletics and academics. Additionally, NCAA Division 3 and some junior colleges do not offer athletic scholarships, but they still present quality track and field programs where athletes can grow and compete.

Researching Colleges and Universities

An effective college search activity involves not just analyzing the athletic program but also examining other crucial factors such as avg. cost after aid and scholarship opportunities. Prospective student-athletes should scrutinize the costs entailed and the likelihood of obtaining an athletic scholarship, which often varies by division level. Tools such as the NCSA College Recruiting platform can guide athletes through their college search activity by providing a list of favorites based on personal preferences and highlighted NCSA favorites. It’s also beneficial to inspect potential colleges’ conference affiliations to understand the level of competition they will face.

Track and Field Scholarship Standards

In college track and field, scholarship standards and athlete expectations vary widely by event and division level. Coaches leverage these standards to allocate their limited scholarship funds effectively across their teams.

Event-Specific Standards for Scholarships

Coaches look for track and field athletes who meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks, which differ substantially based on the event. For sprinters, quick reaction times and explosive power are imperative, with top athletes often required to clock under 10.5 seconds in the men’s 100-meter dash or under 11.5 seconds for women. Jumpers must demonstrate exceptional agility and jumping ability, often needing to exceed marks such as 7.30 meters for men and 6.00 meters for women in the long jump to be considered for scholarships.

Middle distance runners and distance runners are evaluated based on times for events such as the 800-meter, 1500-meter, and 5,000-meter races. Winning times might need to be below 1:50 for men and 2:10 for women in the 800m to stand out. Throwers have to show remarkable strength and technique, with scholarship-worthy benchmarks including throws over 18.00 meters for shot-putters or over 60.00 meters for discus throwers.

NCAA Track and Field Scholarship Limits

The NCAA imposes strict scholarship limits on its member institutions, which must be adhered to by all programs. Division I schools have a limit of 12.6 scholarships for men’s teams and 18 scholarships for women’s teams, which coaches can distribute across their rosters as partial scholarships to support more athletes. For NCAA Division II, the limit is set at 12.6 scholarships for both men’s and women’s teams.

NCAA Division III schools, however, do not award athletic scholarships, so athletes competing at that level must seek financial aid, academic scholarships, or other forms of support. It’s important for track athletes to understand these limits as they will impact the type of financial package they could be offered.

Notable College Track and Field Teams

When discussing elite college track and field programs, Stanford University stands out. Its athletic prominence is backed by a history of success, illustrated by a substantial number of alumni who have earned medals on the world stage. Prospective student-athletes aiming high consider Stanford an aspirational choice, however, admission into both the university and the track and field team is notably competitive.

Moving to the southeast, the University of Florida boasts a storied track and field program. The Gators have a legacy of grooming athletes who excel both academically and on the track. The program is well-funded and provides substantial scholarship opportunities for talented student-athletes.

In the landscape of men’s college track and field, recruiting is a critical aspect. Scholarships are limited, and the process is highly selective. Athletic prowess, academic achievements, and potential for development are key factors considered by coaches during recruitment.

Schools like Stanford and the University of Florida are benchmarks in college track and field recruiting, setting trends and standards. They maintain robust recruitment programs aimed at attracting top-tier talent. Both programs highlight the synthesis of academic excellence and athletic achievement, appealing to athletes who strive for balance between the classroom and competition.

Here’s a glance at the programs:

UniversityNotable AchievementsRecruitment Stance
Stanford UniversityNumerous medal-winning alumniHighly competitive
University of FloridaSignificant scholarship offeringsBalances athletics with academics

These institutions represent the pinnacle of track and field programs, attracting student-athletes who seek to push their limits and achieve at the highest levels.

Communicating with College Track Coaches

Effective communication with college track coaches can significantly influence an athlete’s chances of obtaining a scholarship. The approach should be professional, personal, and reflect an athlete’s achievements and potential.

Best Practices for Outreach

Initial Contact: When reaching out to a college coach, it’s crucial to craft a well-thought-out email that stands out. The email should include an engaging subject line, a brief introduction, and key athletic statistics that showcase the athlete’s abilities. Clearly stating intentions and including a call to action can prompt a response from the coach. Athletes can learn more about constructing a compelling email How to Email a College Track Coach – College Reality Check.

Follow-up Communications: Persistence is key, but it should be balanced with respect for the coach’s time. Follow-up emails should be sent if there is no response after a couple of weeks, updating the coach on recent athletic achievements or schedule changes. However, athletes should avoid overwhelming the coach with frequent messages.

Building a Recruitment Profile

Athletic Resume: An athlete’s recruitment profile should be concise yet comprehensive, including personal bests, academic achievements, and extracurricular activities. This profile acts as a resume and should highlight why an athlete would make a valuable addition to the team.

Visual Proof: Coaches often appreciate video evidence of an athlete’s performances. Including footage of recent competitions can help coaches assess form, technique, and competitiveness. Videos should be high-quality and carefully edited to showcase the best aspects of an athlete’s performance.

Financial Considerations

When assessing potential colleges for track and field scholarships, students should closely evaluate the cost of attendance. This figure includes not just tuition but also room, board, and additional expenses like books and travel.

Academic scholarships may significantly reduce the financial burden for student-athletes. They should explore these opportunities proactively, as eligibility often depends on GPA and standardized test scores. Many institutions offer these awards independently from athletic scholarships, which can provide additional financial relief.

Athletic scholarship funding for track and field is often awarded on an equivalency basis within the NCAA, meaning coaches divide a limited number of scholarships among multiple athletes. Considering this, full scholarships are rare, and students should prepare for partial funding.

Here’s a rough estimate of average athletic scholarship amounts across divisions:

  • NCAA Division II:

    • Men: $5,548
    • Women: $6,814
  • NCAA Division III: Students should note that these institutions do not offer athletic scholarships, but often have other forms of financial aid available.

Students are encouraged to research the track programs at the colleges they are interested in and discuss financial options with coaches. Reputable sources like a guide to track, field & cross-country scholarships can provide more depth into what can be expected for financial aid in these programs.

Frequently Asked Questions


Navigating the world of track and field scholarships can be complex. This section addresses key questions related to women’s programs, Division I and II criteria, academic requirements, and strategies for becoming a more competitive scholarship candidate.

Which colleges offer the best women’s track and field scholarship programs?

Many colleges offer strong women’s track and field scholarship programs. Institutions such as the University of Michigan and Florida State University are known for their robust support for female athletes in track and field disciplines.

What are the eligibility criteria for a D1 track and field scholarship?

For a D1 track and field scholarship, student-athletes typically must meet performance standards that vary by event and maintain a certain GPA. These criteria are determined by institutions like the NCAA, which sets a minimum GPA of 2.3 for NCAA Division 1 eligibility.

How competitive are track and field scholarships at top Division I schools?

Track and field scholarships at top Division I schools are extremely competitive. They seek athletes with exceptional athletic performance and a commitment to their sport, often those with the potential to contribute to the school’s legacy in national competitions.

What academic requirements must be met to maintain a track scholarship?

To maintain a track scholarship, athletes must meet the academic standards set by their educational institution, which may include holding a minimum GPA and making satisfactory progress towards a degree.

Which Division II colleges are known for their track and field programs?

Division II colleges with notable track and field programs include the University of Tampa, Saginaw Valley State University, and California Polytechnic State University.

How can a student athlete increase their chances of receiving a track and field scholarship?

A student athlete can increase their chances of receiving a track and field scholarship by achieving strong athletic performance, showcasing their abilities in competitions, maintaining good academic standing, and proactively communicating with college coaches and recruiters.

Helpful Resources

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