Every parent dreams about their kid getting a “free ride” for college with a scholarship; after all, who wouldn’t love to have their child gain a college education in preparation for a promising career while playing a sport they love? Still, there are consequences for pushing children to strive for a college scholarship. Is there a better way?
What’s the point of a college scholarship?
A scholarship is money awarded to students to help them further their education, either by the college, a business, a non-profit, or another organization. Scholarships are gifts that don’t need to be paid back – but they do not come free from encumbrances. An athletic scholarship, for example, comes with the expectation that the student will maintain a certain grade point average and perform well on the field. Some scholarships are contingent on the recipient’s pursuit of a particular career, such as medicine or library science. Others may require a demanding service commitment, like mentoring middle school students.
An outside scholarship – one awarded by an entity other than the college itself – might make a student a more attractive candidate to that school. The money you bring in as a student means less money your school has to allocate to financial aid.
A generous scholarship will allow a student to attend college for free, or at least very little out of pocket. It can also make it possible for the student to focus on studies and sports without holding down a part-time job. Should the scholarship amount be greater than what’s needed for tuition and living expenses, the fortunate student can save that money for other goals after graduation.
All in all, who wouldn’t love a scholarship? Since we are about supporting the Christian lifestyle and sports, our focus will be on athletic scholarships.
Who’s goal is a college scholarship?
If your child has been playing a sport at an elite level, have they shown that their love for the sport may translate into a higher calling? Like being a high-level coach for other athletes. How serious is your student-athlete about their sport? Professional athletes have been asked what makes them great, and passion, while necessary, is not the only driver. They also have a purpose for what they do — these athletes demonstrate a laser focus on getting better each day. They often have particular goals that they actively pursue, such as being on an all-star team or going to the Olympics.
Does your student-athlete exhibit this type of focus and commitment? Do they have the internal motivation to strive for the Olympics or professional sports regardless of the sacrifices needed along the way? Is a scholarship worth the push? If your student-athletes take an active part in their betterment, you may want to explore what’s necessary to get a scholarship.
Could the scholarship dream be more about a parent living vicariously through their student to realize their aspirations?
If you could not go to college but see a path to higher education for your children through a scholarship, would you lead them that way or allow them to arrive at their own choice? If your child’s scholarship helps them launch a promising career, you could share in their glory.
What does the student really want, and have the parents even bothered to ask?
Suppose your student loves the camaraderie of high school sports but doesn’t have the drive and motivation to reach that higher level of performance needed for scholarship consideration. In that case, their game will start to suffer as the pressure escalates. Parents can push all they want, but college recruiters who vet athletes for a sports scholarship can readily identify a lack of fire in the belly to achieve great things. Students will prove that the scholarship was not what they wanted through their behavior.
What are the family and child-parent relationship consequences of pushing children too hard?
We’ve all seen the parents who constantly coach instead of just being supportive. I freely admit to having fallen into this trap with my children when they were young. My child played for a club soccer team. These club teams are ultra-competitive; they join leagues that involve extensive travel for games as the children get older. Club sports represent a significant lifestyle and financial commitment for the athlete and their family.
At first, my son loved all of it – the demanding practice schedule, the excitement of facing new teams, and the fun of being on the road with his teammates. He was a key player on the team and very competitive, so he enjoyed winning. On the flip side, he hated losing, and those losses led to dark days indeed. If his team wasn’t doing so well, it became a fight just to get him to participate in practice and go all out in a game. Soccer caused a lot of arguments and quite a few tears in our home.
Is all the stress and frustration worth it?
From my personal experience, no, the stress and frustration involved with my son’s opportunity to play – and shine – at a higher level are not worth the potential rewards, including a possible path to an athletic scholarship. My son enjoyed playing soccer and loved being part of a strong team, but this was a fun activity, not a deep passion he wanted to take as far as he could. We allowed him to quit the team, which felt like the best path for us as a family. For now, he’s left the sport that was a major part of his life for seven years; he doesn’t even kick the ball around with his friends for fun. He walked away because of the stress.
Some of his club teammates, on the other hand, have had opportunities to play with the Olympic Developmental Team. Those boys thrive on intense hard work, something they share with professional athletes, and are still striving on their own and as part of the team to better their skills every day. Pursuit of an athletic scholarship would seem like a logical next step for them. But not everyone has that drive, and not everyone needs to push to get college paid for with a scholarship.
Scholarships can lead to a great lesson about setting goals and stewarding the resources God provides.
The Bible calls us to be good stewards of what we are given. In Luke 16:10, it says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
And in 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
If you want higher education for your children, you need to make a plan. Do not rely on outside forces to create opportunities for them. An athletic scholarship could be the path but start with a well-researched plan that identifies a range of options. If a scholarship is not in the cards, find out other ways to finance that education and help your student realize their dreams.
If college is a goal, is there another way to pay for it?
There are ways to pay for college without a scholarship, even when parents have not set aside the funds. Explore financial aid programs, work-study programs, and grants, and encourage your student to pursue available internships. Internships (paid or unpaid) provide industry experience during and after college; after they graduate, many interns become employees of the company they intern and start their careers on the fast track. Industries where aspiring interns can find paid internships include banking, accounting, advertising, public relations, IT, government, and fashion.
Most colleges offer financial aid programs. Your family may need to meet specific income requirements that vary depending on the institution. Keep in mind that most financial aid comes in the form of loans, and students will need to pay them back when they graduate or leave school. Visit your prospective college’s financial aid office for more details.
Grants are similar to scholarships as the student will not need to pay them back when they complete their education. Parents can look into available government grants if their student is determined to attend college without taking on student loan debt. The Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and work-study programs are all options. It’s worth starting ahead to understand and meet their financial requirements, but they are worth the effort if you can help offset ever-rising college costs.
If your student wants to play their sport at college, they can try out for the team once they are accepted. They don’t need an athletic scholarship to participate, just initiative and commitment. A step down from the college team, Intramural programs are also an option. If making the team is a serious goal, encourage your student to network with the coaches and take advantage of any extra training programs to improve their prospects to make the team. Coaches are often willing to discuss the options with a student-athlete willing to go the distance.
What are your thoughts? What do you think about encouraging children to strive for a college athletic scholarship?
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