Key Points about Outside Scholarships

The end of the school year will be arriving before we know it, bringing with it graduations and awards ceremonies where many scholarships will be awarded to high school seniors to help pay for their college education.

For those students who will be playing a sport at an NCAA Division I or II university, it will be important to remember some key points if they receive one of these scholarships from their high school, local civic club, parent’s employer, or other organization.  Local organizations providing these scholarships should also keep these key points in mind.


The NCAA considers any financial aid for an athlete that comes from a source other than their family, or the college or university they are attending, to be “aid from outside sources.”  This “aid from outside sources” is classified into three categories.  Those three categories are:

•    No relationship to athletics ability;
•    Athletics participation not major criterion; and
•    Athletics participation as a major criterion.

Here are some key points about outside aid classified into these three categories:

No relationship to athletics ability:  A scholarship program that requests or encourages an applicant to include their athletic participation or achievements as part of the application process cannot be classified in this category.  The organization that awards the scholarship may be asked to confirm that it did not consider athletics participation or achievements in selecting the athlete who receives the award and must not restrict the athlete’s choice of college institution.

Athletics Participation not Major Criterion.  Scholarships fit in this category if athletics participation or achievements are one of the criteria considered in awarding the scholarship, but are not the major criteria for awarding the scholarship.  Organizations awarding scholarships in this category are strongly encouraged to provide written notification of the award to the financial aid office of the college that the athlete will be attending.

Athletics Participation as a Major Criterion.  Scholarships are classified in this category if the athlete’s athletics participation and achievements are the major criteria for awarding the scholarship.  In fact, if applicants or nominees are required to be an athlete in order to be considered for a scholarship, then that scholarship will automatically be considered to be in this category.  Furthermore, if the recipient of a scholarship from this category was recruited by the college they will be attending, the recipient will be considered a “counter” for financial aid purposes and the value of the scholarship will be counted toward team financial aid limits as if it were an athletic scholarship awarded by the college.  Scholarships in this category should be sent to the financial aid office of the college the recipient will be attending so that the aid will be properly tracked for NCAA limits.

Athletes attending an NCAA Division I or II university will likely be asked to indicate on a form for their athletic department whether they are the recipient of an outside award.  In addition, an awarding organization may be asked to provide a copy of their application or nomination form and a list of criteria for the scholarship.

If you have questions about outside awards, or other questions about college athletic scholarships, contact Rick Allen at 913-766-1235 or at  You can also subscribe to the Informed Athlete monthly newsletter at, or join the Informed Athlete Facebook fan page

About Rick Allen

25+ years NCAA Rules Expertise, including Director of Compliance at 2 major DI schools

Former President of National Association for Athletic Compliance (NAAC)

Conducts compliance reviews and audits at NCAA Schools throughout the U.S.

Consulted with NAIA schools transitioning to NCAA membership status

Dad of a DI & DII student-athlete

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