If you are a talented track and field athlete, your athleticism might just be your ticket to a sports scholarships in the USA. While the NCAA gets the most attention, student athletes shouldn’t dismiss the benefits of a NAIA track and field scholarship.
Why Go for a NAIA Track & Field Scholarship?
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) was founded in 1937 and consists of about 300 participating schools and 60,000 student athletes. While it doesn’t have the elite status which comes with NCAA Division 1, the NAIA is also very competitive and allows students and opportunity to continue playing sports they love while getting an education.
NAIA is on par with NCAA Division 2. The athletic and academic standards are lower than with the NCAA, so NAIA scholarships are a good opportunity for athletes who probably won’t get an NCAA scholarship. Don’t let the lower standards fool you. The top NAIA schools have excellent facilities and great coaches. So you will have an opportunity to improve your athletic abilities in the competitive environment of NAIA.
It is worth noting that most NAIA schools are much smaller than the large NCAA universities. Many student athletes, especially international students, do better in this smaller, more intimate environment. Your team will also be smaller with the NAIA. Average NAIA Track & Field teams are 21 members (women’s) and 25 (men’s), compared to 38 and 39 members with the NCAA.
Playing Track & Field in the NAIA
The NAIA offers both indoor and outdoor Track & Field. There is only one division with NAIA Track & Field, and most schools offer scholarships.
- Indoor Track & Field: 21 events for men and women
- Outdoor Track & Field: 24 events for men and women
Do You Also Run Cross Country?
The NAIA also has Cross Country as a fall sport. You can also get a scholarship to run Cross Country, even if you already have a Track & Field scholarship. However, note that there are limits to how many scholarships schools can award. So you could get a partial scholarship for Cross Country, and another partial scholarship for Track & Field, to add up to a larger or a full scholarship.
Average NAIA Track &Field Scholarship Amounts
- Men’s Track & Field: About $6,500
- Women’s Track & Field: About $6,800
NAIA Track and Field Schools
At the NAIA website, you can see a list of participating schools for each sport. Here is the number of participating schools and a link to where you can see the list:
- Men’s Indoor Track & Field: 139 schools (list here)
- Women’s Indoor Track & Field: 143 schools (list here)
- Men’s Outdoor Track & Field: 170 schools (list here)
- Women’s Outdoor Track & Field: 174 schools (list here)
Eligibility requirements with the NAIA are pretty straight forward. To be eligible for the NAIA, you must meet TWO of these three requirements:
- Achieve a minimum of 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT (Critical Reading and Math only.)
- Achieve a minimum overall high school GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
- Graduate in the top half of your high school class.
USA students can apply for eligibility when they are halfway through their senior year. International students will have to wait until they complete their senior year. By this point, you should already have a scholarship offer and know where you are going to school. Do not delay in applying for eligibility! Otherwise, your scholarship might not be funded and you will not be allowed to compete until eligibility goes through! You can register at the NAIA Eligibility Center.
Note that you must pay a fee to apply for NAIA eligibility. For the 2015-2016 season, the fee is currently:
- $75 for US and Canadian high school students
- $100 for US and Canadian college transfer students, or students who have had more than a summer break after graduating from high school
- $130 for international students
How Good Do I Have to Be to Get a Scholarship?
Track & Field is a highly competitive sport with many high school students playing the sport. Only about 1% of USA high school students will get an NAIA Track & Field scholarship, and the numbers are even less for foreign students. However, that doesn’t mean you should get discouraged.
To see how you compare athletically, go to the NAIA Track & Field championship pages. There you can see results. How do you compare to the top students?
Remember, it isn’t just athletic ability which counts towards getting a scholarship in the USA! Coaches are also looking to see that you are mature, a team player, and ready to handle the demanding life of being a student athlete. Learn about how to apply for a sports scholarships in the USA here.
Want to know whether you qualify for an NAIA Track & Field scholarship? Fill out the free assessment form here.