College Athletics Recruiting and Navigating Financial Aid

College Athletics Recruiting and Navigating Financial Aid

By Tom Kovic

Financial aid is an essential component for many families to consider as they move forward in the college athletics recruiting process. College costs continue to increase, and the family that makes a concerted effort in developing financial aid planning as part of their overall college recruiting plan will have a greater chance of gaining a manageable package.

Financial aid is readily available for families who qualify, based on need, merit or athletic ability. For those institutions that do not offer athletic scholarships, or where athletics aid is exhausted, there are cases where college coaches can assist families in getting a financial aid “pre-read.” These early evaluations can be constructive in offering a strong indication of what the family contribution will be in the first academic year of attendance.

The college coach is your “point person” here, and he/she can act as an indirect conduit to the office of financial aid to assist the family in a vital area of recruiting.


Financial aid pre-reads are in many cases a useful tool that many college coaches use as a means of providing prospects and their families with a “ballpark” figure as to what the family can expect to pay for a college education in the first year of attendance. It is crucial that the family request a pre-read early in the recruiting process, but not before sincere interest in the coach’s program has been established. The family should first determine the individual institution’s policy on providing financial aid pre-reads through direct communication with the college coach.

For a family to receive a timely and accurate financial aid pre-read, the following information is typically required:

  • Prior year income/business taxes with all W-2 forms.
  • Divorced/separated paperwork (if applicable).
  • Completed monthly budget worksheet (provided by the coach)
  • Admissions data (standardized test scores, class rank, etc.)

Turnaround time in achieving the pre-read is roughly 2 weeks, and this information should give parents a close estimate to what the family financial aid breakdown will be in the first year of college attendance. Note: financial aid packages can change from year to year based on changes to personal family finances.


Some institutions will attempt to “come in line” with financial aid offers from other institutions. Matching typically occurs in schools from the same conference, or similarly “select” schools. It is good to make a comparison, but out of respect for the college coaches, I encourage families to compare financial aid packages with those schools that are serious potential choices. Remember, the college coach is your “go to guy” in this process, and clear and timely communication will facilitate the process!


Most institutions offer “internal scholarships” where prospective student-athletes could be looked at favorably. Research the colleges on your radar for all institutionally related scholarships (academic, community, etc.), especially leadership grants, which seem to be gaining popularity. These awards are typically selective and reward the “cream of the crop,” prospective student-athlete and those prospects with substantial financial need. Communicate your financial aid concerns with the college coach, who may recommend potential candidates for consideration of these awards.

Families should feel comfortable sharing any outside offers or completed financial aid pre-reads from other institutions and determine where your child ranks in the coach’s recruit priority list. If the prospect is considered a “blue chip” athlete and the school of interest does not offer athletic scholarships, carefully probe the coach’s feeling about asking the office of financial aid to take a hard look at the family’s request to determine if there are any options to possibly “sweeten the pot.”

The four-year college experience is a tremendous investment in our children’s future. The premium for a quality college education is seemingly heading “north,” and I strongly suggest that families begin preparing for this vital component of college recruiting early and with enthusiasm.

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the Founder/ Principal Advisor at Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families navigating the college recruiting process. For further information visit:

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