One night when Michelle Batts was a senior in high school, she wanted to finally put an end to the stressful three years she spent focused on getting recruited for college softball. The star first baseman made up her mind, ready to choose Loyola University Chicago.
Fifteen minutes later, she got a phone call from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offering full-tuition plus the cost of room and board for an athletic scholarship.
"It was pretty crazy," said Batts, 20, in a telephone interview with WalletPop. "I thought I had to take it. ...It's pretty much like a business. If you don't take it now, it will go to someone else."
Batts, now a senior at Northwestern majoring in radio, TV and film, can consider herself one of the lucky ones: Only 2% of high school student-athletes are awarded athletic scholarships for college, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
There is also a common misconception that all of these athletes receive a full-ride -- an all-expenses-paid college education For most students on athletic scholarships, that's not the case.
While the NCAA regulates the number of athletic scholarships that can be handed out per sport at each institution, it is up to the coaches to decide how to split the money among recruits – which could mean more opportunities for athletes to receive partial aid through athletic scholarships.
As an example, Chris Rogers, assistant athletic director for compliance at Ohio State University, explained that the NCAA allows men's track teams at Division 1 schools to award up to 12.6 athletic scholarships: "They can hand it out in any way they want, he noted. "They can give out 12 full-rides and .6 to someone else. But they are probably dividing it and giving scholarships to 40 to 50 guys."
As a star athlete in soccer and track, high school senior Matt Biederwolf is one of the many students hoping to land one of the athletic scholarships for college.
The 17-year-old from Crystal Lake, Ill., has been writing letters to university coaches and creating online profiles designed to help with his recruitment – which is what most experts recommend in order to get noticed for athletic scholarships.
But the challenging part, Biederwolf said in a phone interview, is finding a match both in academics and athletics.
"I have to find a school that has the coach that is interested in me and that has the potential majors and minors that I'd like to go into," he said.
There are a number of resources available for those who need assistance in their search for athletic scholarships, including the NCAA eligibility resource center, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, National Junior College Athletic Association, AthleticScholarships.net and CollegeSportsScholarships.com.
Landing athletic scholarships for a full ride is rare