Cost of playing College Sport in the USA

When a high school student starts talking to us about helping them find a college sports scholarship to the USA, the initial questions they ask are usually pretty similar. First off they want to know where they could potentially go, then the conversation normally develops into what college life and the training schedule would be like. The academic-side of college is normally further along in the conversation, as you would expect from most 18 year olds it's not as high as it should be. But the initial conversation no matter what sports scholarship the student is looking for usually touches on the same areas each time.

That is however, apart from the one question that most parents ask us straight off the bat... "how much is it going to cost?"

Obviously having a very different perspective to their son/daughters enthusiasm of studying in the USA, they are the purse string holders and reality checkers, who rightly want to know the exact process and costs involved. And when I say 'cost' I'm not just talking about our services, but also any of the hidden costs (if any) for the whole four year college experience. 

So this is my inspiration for todays blog, the cost of playing college sport in the USA.

So first things first, how much does the 'average' college cost to attend?

Well a typical benchmark that we tend to work off, is that the average college cost for tuition and fees is $20,000 a year (all figures will be in US dollars), with room and board coming to approximately $10,000 a year. Now please be aware at this point that all the figures here are average costs, there are lots of colleges that charge significantly more/less depending on a whole host of criteria (private or public, location, prestige, demand, etc). So the average cost so far is $30,000 pa if the student doesn't receive any scholarship aid.

Now if you are a student that has signed up for one of our free profiles and have contacted us to get onto either the Premium or Ultimate packages, we'll be able to evaluate you and can then let you know what type of scholarship aid you could likely receive.  But let's say for this example that we've evaluated you, you're eligible to play college sport, your aspirations match what we can realistically help you to attain and therefore we've accepted you onto the programme. 

If you are an above average student-athlete, which means you're not exceptional in your sport or academically, but you are obviously good at both (top regional level is minimum for most sports). Then you could potentially receive both sports and academic scholarship aid from good universities, as well as from other sources (if you know where to look).  So a good range of scholarship aid that we'd tell you that you could get would be $15,000-$20,000, leaving you to pay the difference of between $10,000-15,000 pa.

If you are exceptional at either your sport (international) or academics (top marks throughout school), then you could receive significantly more, even to the point of having it all paid for. But you need to be exceptional for this in most cases.  The only instances where this isn't the case is if you play a sport that is a 'head-count' sport and therefore coaches are only allowed to give out full-scholarships (speak with us), or if your aspirations on the level of college that you attend isn't particularly high.

To find out what your figure could potentially be, there's only one accurate way for us to tell you and that is for you to complete one of our free profiles, putting as much academic and athletic information down as you can for us to evaluate you.

costs involved in college sports scholarship

Ok so what are the other costs involved?

  • Well first off we have the SAT exam, which is $81 for international students, plus If you need to do SAT Subject tests it's an additional $54 per paper. And if you're after an SAT tutor to help you with the revision you're looking at anywhere between $30-60ph.
  • You'll need to register with either or both of the Eligibility Centres. So that's the NCAA, which is $120 for internationals and the NAIA, which comes to $95.
  • Your high school reports/transcripts may need to transferred across to an American equivalency GPA, which is between $140-200 depending on the organisation that you use.
  • For each college that you are interested in attending you may need to pay a college application fee, which varies from $40-100 each.
  • Your high school grades will need to be sent from your national education authority to the NCAA and some charge for this service. $20-40.
  • Student visa application fees vary from country to country, but they are normally in the $100-200 range.
  • Text books (if not included in your scholarship) can vary a lot obviously depending on the year that you're in and the Major that you choose, but expect to pay around the $200 a semester mark.
  • Health insurance is usually done through the college that you will be attending, with the cost being between $150-300 a semester.
  • Return flights are obviously a big expense, so it's important you shop around online and try to find the best deals (Certified members get exclusive deals with STA Travel and Air Tahiti).  We normally recommend that students fly back home for Christmas to be with their family and try to stay in the US during the summer months (traveling or working in summer camps are good options) if you don't want to pay for two return flights every year.  An average return flight from Auckland to Los Angeles is $1200-1300, plus whatever internal flight that you have.
  • The last added cost that you need to consider, besides general living expenses once you're over there, is the initial cost that you'll spend on things for your college dorm room. Things like bedding, table lamp, office stationary and anything you'll want to decorate your room, will need to be bought when you arrive at your college.

Now that you have some broad knowledge on all of the costs involved in finding a college sports scholarship, both before and after enrollment, I think it's important that I put down some other facts about the finances involved in your decision.

Students in New Zealand that want to attend the University of Auckland must pay on average $5,000 pa (still in USD) in tuition fees, a further $600 in student service fees and then an additional annual cost of living (according to the University) of $16,000-25,000 pa, which covers accommodation, food, transport and bills.  So at a minimum that's $22,000pa for the educational costs only. Now obviously there are scholarships available and you can get a government student loan, which is vital for a lot of students, but as a ball-park figure the average student needs to repay $22k a year once they graduate. 

For student-athletes this figure does not include the costs involved in your development in your sport, i.e. training costs, coaching, traveling, etc etc, that you/your parents must pay in order for you to continue to progress at a high level.  And whilst a few national sporting associations have the funds available to subsidize this for you, most do not have the money or infrastructure in place, which makes this process after you're older than 18 years old very much a user-pay system (unless you're at the very top), so it's therefore going to be expensive!

However, students that gain a sports scholarship at a strong American college programme can expect to receive a significant amount of investment into their athletic development from the college that they are attending.  These costs are not usually advertised by the college as they usually focus on the academic costs and they are not usually factored in from students or parents when they are weighing up their university options, but I think they are important to know before you make any decision on whether to attend a university in your home country or go to America.

college volleyball team celebrating

These costs include usually two or three full-time coaches ($15-25k pa), physical training sessions ($15k pa), mental training ($1.5k), equipment/clothing ($5k) and travel expenses that also involve you been given spending money whilst away ($15k pa). So that's a minimum of $51.500 a year being spent by the college for you to represent them, as well as the sports and academic scholarship aid that you are given to subsidize your education costs. So on average that's $71,500 a year being awarded to you, which comes to $286,000 over the course of your four year education!!!

So for all of you student-athletes still in high school that are thinking about your next step after you graduate, please be aware of all of the costs I've put down here and factor them in when you're making your decision. Good luck! :)

By Sheridan Adams