Division 3 Athletic Scholarships and Your Student-Athlete

Division 3 Athletic Scholarships and Your Student-Athlete

If you are the parent of a serious student-athlete, then chances are you’re becoming familiar with the scholarship policies of schools at various levels of competition.

Division 1 schools offer the most scholarship money, but also put the highest demands on student time, and are incredibly competitive. Meanwhile, you may have heard that there are no Division 3 (D3) athletic scholarships. 

That’s not exactly true.

What is a more accurate statement is that there are no Division 3 athletic scholarships that are administered by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which provides funding for scholarships at other levels.

Instead, student-athletes who are interested in playing sports at a Division 3 school will often find that there are considerable Division 3 scholarships available, just from other sources.


Do Division 3 Schools Give Athletic Scholarships?

Division 3 colleges do not provide athletic scholarships per se, but instead provide scholarships based on need and merit, like most other universities.

That means that parents, with students interested in pursuing a Division 3 athletic career, should familiarize themselves with how merit-based and need-based aid work.

That does not mean that athletics counts for nothing. Some of the best ways to demonstrate leadership experience, gain an appreciation for community service, and generally prove that your child has all the “soft” factors that make a great admit is through sports.

As extracurricular activities count towards consideration for D3 merit scholarships for athletes, admissions committees are always happy to see someone who is willing to play ball, literally.


What Can D3 Schools Offer Athletes?

Don’t think that your child will somehow be cheated out of a student-athlete experience by going to a D3 school; nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, due to shorter seasons, they will likely be able to enjoy a more balanced time while pursuing their degree.

After all, many Division 3 schools are academic powerhouses; while the Ivy League is a Division 1 conference (but one that treats scholarships like a D3 school), the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), has some of the top colleges in the country and is firmly a D3 conference.

That doesn’t mean that competition is anything other than fierce. Some of the most heated rivalries in college sports exist between Division 3 schools.

While Amherst—Williams may not get the media coverage of Michigan—Ohio State or Auburn—Alabama, you can bet that students and alumni take the games very seriously.

Finally, Division 3 schools try to put the student first. At schools with NCAA athletic scholarships, a student must continue to play for the scholarship to be valid.

Division 3 admits have no such requirement; if after a season or two continued involvement is not in the student’s interest, there is no financial consequence for your child walking away from a sport.


How Do D3 Athletes Pay for School?

Because there are no sports scholarships at the Division 3 level, student-athletes have to pay for college like the majority of other applicants. However, they do have a couple of advantages at hand.

First, they stand out, meaning they are more likely to get preferred consideration for merit-based rewards.

Second, many Division 3 schools already offer substantial financial aid packages and offer preferred acceptance to athletes. After all, just because there aren’t scholarships doesn’t mean that these programs are not incredibly competitive, and coaches (and admissions officers) are pragmatic: They know that successful sports teams are a great way to build rapport with alumni. 

In fact, being an athlete can help students gain admission to universities where they would otherwise be waitlisted, like Williams, Hamilton, or Amherst.

These colleges, like practically all others in the NESCAC, offer comprehensive financial aid packages for many middle-class families. As you can see in the table below, other Division 3 colleges still work to meet the financial needs of student-athletes.

D3 Schools Offering the Largest Avg Needs Based Grants

Updated: 3/18/2021
NameState4 yr Grad RateAvg % of Need Met FreshmenAvg Need- based award FreshmenTotal Price '20-'21 (OOS price for state schools)
University of ChicagoIL89100$60,895$81,531
Claremont McKenna CollegeCA85100$60,818$73,775
Amherst CollegeMA85100$59,559$79,600
Wesleyan UniversityCT84100$58,419$78,735
Williams CollegeMA90100$58,125$66,540
Colorado CollegeCO84100$57,862$78,080
Pomona CollegeCA89100$57,415$75,960
Wellesley CollegeMA84100$57,380$77,020
Washington and Lee UniversityVA92100$57,313$77,600
Swarthmore CollegePA87100$56,923$74,090
Vassar CollegeNY87100$56,675$77,270
Bard CollegeNY6682$56,536$74,712
Smith CollegeMA83100$56,078$77,698
Colby CollegeME88100$55,762$76,925
Franklin and Marshall CollegePA78100$55,102$78,571
Washington University in St LouisMO88100$54,751$79,586
Johns Hopkins UniversityMD87100$53,723$77,348
Haverford CollegePA88100$53,527$78,628
Bowdoin CollegeME88100$53,004$69,960
Pitzer CollegeCA77100$52,894$76,586
Middlebury CollegeVT83100$52,823$76,946
St Lawrence UniversityNY7689$52,542$75,550
Carleton CollegeMN88100$52,349$77,100
Occidental CollegeCA81100$52,303$76,016
Grinnell CollegeIA78100$51,770$73,244
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMA85100$51,721$73,750
Skidmore CollegeNY82100$51,600$76,670
California Institute of TechnologyCA81100$51,195$77,718
University of RochesterNY7898$51,171$78,028
Bryn Mawr CollegePA79100$50,941$76,780

D3 Merit Scholarships for Athletes

Finally, there is the matter of merit scholarships, especially for athletes. While the NCAA places firm limits on the amount of outside funding students who receive NCAA scholarships may receive, those rules don’t apply for Division 3 athletes.

Instead, they can get a full range of merit scholarships, which differ by university, and some of which exist to reward athletic prowess.

You can find colleges that offer merit scholarships for athletes with our easy-to-use, online College Insights Tool. Filter, sort, and compare the results for information not only about merit scholarships, but test-optional, early decision, early action, need-based aid, and more.

Competition at Division 3 level colleges is aggressive,  and just because your child plays a sport does not mean that they will be automatically accepted.

However, for many families whose children would be borderline at other divisions, going to a D3 school is a viable option, and may permit them to get financial aid beyond what they would otherwise receive.

D3 Schools Offering the Largest Avg Merit Aid Awards

Updated: 3/18/2021
NameState4 yr Grad Rate% Freshmen W/Out NeedAvg Merit Award Freshmen w/out needTotal Price '20-'21 (OOS price for state schools)
Trinity CollegeCT7851%$58,374$76,850
Washington and Lee UniversityVA9255%$54,293$77,600
Swarthmore CollegePA8744%$54,256$74,090
Wesleyan UniversityCT8459%$43,624$78,735
Hollins UniversityVA5224%$40,131$57,410
Whitworth UniversityWA6820%$38,864$62,890
Beloit CollegeWI7228%$36,511$66,497
Hendrix CollegeAR6621%$34,937$64,160
Susquehanna UniversityPA6518%$33,994$67,430
Allegheny CollegePA6622%$33,300$67,560
Albion CollegeMI5317%$32,818$64,655
Clarkson UniversityNY5919%$32,143$72,270
Hartwick CollegeNY5214%$31,302$62,893
Agnes Scott CollegeGA6419%$31,077$58,300
Oglethorpe UniversityGA3926%$30,779$59,410
Washington & Jefferson CollegePA7017%$30,666$64,552
Kalamazoo CollegeMI7222%$30,345$64,237
Millsaps CollegeMS6020%$30,229$58,474
Randolph CollegeVA5318%$29,844$40,972
Maryville CollegeTN4517%$29,682 $52,324
Colby-Sawyer CollegeNH5318%$29,595$60,626
Wabash CollegeIN6626%$29,109$60,200
The College of WoosterOH7226%$28,971$69,300
Alma CollegeMI5112%$28,680 $57,672
Coe CollegeIA6211%$28,636$58,554
Luther CollegeIA7218%$28,490$59,775
Centre CollegeKY8030%$28,358$58,710
Cornell CollegeIA7021%$28,293$60,448
Washington CollegeMD6524%$27,949$66,556
Central CollegeIA6814%$27,873$28,880






Kevin Newton

Kevin Newton

After pursuing his dream master's degree at the University of London, Kevin Newton found himself spending as much time helping friends find ways to pursue degrees in Europe as he did working. To that end, he founded An Education Abroad to help other American high school students realize the advantages of earning degrees in Europe. To learn more, follow him on Twitter @BA_abroad or visit www.aneducationabroad.com.