NCSA: Financial terms student-athletes need to know

NCSA: Financial terms student-athletes need to know

High School Sports

NCSA: Financial terms student-athletes need to know


As college costs continue to rise, it’s more important than ever for student-athletes and families to educated themselves about what kind of financial aid options are available to them. However, there is a lot of information out there about the topic and it’s difficult to keep track of all the rules regarding athletic scholarships, grants, loans, merit aid and more.

That’s why NCSA has compiled helpful guides on our blog, including one about Breaking Down Financial Aid Terminology and one about How FAFSA Figures into Your Recruiting. Families should read and reference both of these resources but we’ll also break down some of the major takeaways in this article.

Types of financial aid

  • Athletic scholarships: These are financial aid packages awarded by college coaches and athletic departments for student-athletes who excel in their sport. Partial athletic scholarships can be combined with other types of aid, including academic scholarships, grants and other financial aid.
  • Grants: Sometimes called “gift aid,” grants are awarded according to need and don’t have to be paid back. There are four different types of grants that students can apply for by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • Loans: Borrowed from a bank or the government, loans must be paid back with interest over a set period of time.
  • Merit aid: This is financial aid awarded to students for their personal achievements, including academics, athletics, the arts and other areas.

Calculating the cost of college

  • Cost of attendance: This is the total cost of one academic year of college before financial aid, including tuition, fees, room and board, living expenses, books and supplies.
  • Cost after aid (net price): This is a personal estimate of how much a family will pay for tuition and fees minus any financial aid received.
  • Expected family contribution (EFC): Used by states and colleges to determine eligibility for federal and financial aid, the EFC considers a family’s income, assets and benefits.
  • Demonstrated need: The difference between your EFC and total cost of attendance.

The application

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): This well-known financial aid application allows students to apply for federal financial aid, loans and work-study programs. The federal government uses the FAFSA to determine financial needs and eligibility for financial aid based on the cost of attending college and the expected family contribution (EFC).
  • CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®: Around 200 institutions require students to complete a CSS PROFILE in addition to the FAFSA to evaluate eligibility for non-government financial aid.

Difference between the CSS Profile and the FAFSA:

  • Submission dates: CSS PROFILE submission deadlines vary by school and are usually between January 1 and March 31.
  • Application questions: The CSS PROFILE asks institution-specific questions based on the school you are applying to, while the FAFSA asks everyone the same generic questions.
  • Calculation method: The CSS PROFILE asks for more specific information than the FAFSA, including whether your family owns a home.
  • Minimum student contribution: Required for the CSS PROFILE but not the FAFSA.
  • Professional judgment: Financial aid counselors have more freedom to grant aid to CSS PROFILE applicants based on their circumstances.
  • Cost: The FAFSA is free to fill out but the CSS PROFILE has a fee. You can also apply for a fee waiver.

More about the FAFSA

By not completing the FAFSA, each Pell-eligible graduate misses out on an average of $3,908 for college. The majority of college student-athletes do not receive a full-ride scholarship, and that’s why it’s important to fill out the FAFSA to receive financial assistance. Here’s some more information about the FAFSA:

  • How college coaches use the FAFSA: Your Expected Family Contribution is important to college coaches who can offer partial scholarships because they take it into account when working with the college admissions department to offer a scholarship package. Depending on your ECF, coaches can work to offer need-based or merit-based scholarships.
  • Every student should fill out the FAFSA: Most colleges require students to submit a FAFSA to be considered for financial aid. There are also programs for students who were rejected from federal financial aid and some colleges take your application more seriously when your FAFSA has been submitted. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should submit a FAFSA.
  • When you should fill out the FAFSA: The FAFSA opens October 1 for the following school year (2020-21) and families are encouraged to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible because aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applications are considered until June 30, 2021 but most college deadlines are in February or March.
  • Steps to completing your FAFSA: Check out the government page for seven things you’ll need to fill out your 2020–21 FAFSA form.

Use this information to assist you in the financial aid process but don’t forget to check out NCSA’s blogs about Breaking Down Financial Aid Terminology and How FAFSA Figures into Your Recruiting to get access to even more resources.

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