By tamara ScholarshipExperts.com recently published an infographic, “Athletic Scholarships: Debunking the Top 5 Myths About the Elusive Sports Scholarship,” which does a great job of analyzing many of the misconceptions about winning athletic scholarships. For example, did you know that full-ride, athletic scholarships are not available for students in every sport, or that less than two percent of all high school athletes are even offered a sports scholarship? For those who are lucky enough to earn an athletic scholarship, the average amount typically falls somewhere between $2,000 and $10,400 per year. That’s hardly enough money to make a dent in your college expenses at an NCAA school. Does this mean you should give up your dream of playing college-level sports or forget about pursuing athletic scholarships? Of course not! You just have to be smart and know how to give yourself an advantage. Here are a few tips to consider if you want to score athletic scholarships. Do Your Research The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has different rules and levels of scholarships. Currently, only Division I and Division II schools can offer athletic scholarships, and only 637 U.S. colleges play within these divisions. If you play for a Division III school, you can only earn academic or other non-athletic scholarships. Each year, the NCAA awards more than $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships, but it’s not the only player on the field. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) also provides scholarships through colleges that play within its league. Each participating sport has a limited number of scholarships, which may be offered as full or partial awards. There are nearly 300 colleges in the NAIA awarding more than $450 million in scholarships. If you plan to attend a junior or community college, you may also receive athletic scholarships from Division I and Division II National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) schools. Make Connections Although college coaches cannot actively recruit until the summer before your senior year, this doesn’t mean you should sit back and wait for them to call you. Only one percent of high school athletes are actually ‘discovered,’ so it’s up to you to introduce yourself. Here are some ways you can self-recruit. Send introduction letters or emailsCall and ask questionsHave your high school coach reach out by email or phoneTry using a free recruitment tool, like BeRecruited. Promote Yourself Before you self promote, be sure to clean up your image. You want to impress coaches, so use a professional email address and make sure your online presence is spotless. You’ll want to take down any questionable photos on your Instagram account or Facebook page, and make sure you’re only tweeting positive messages. Posts about obsessive partying or lack of interest in school may came back to haunt you. Many colleges have strict social media policies, especially for student athletes, so start practicing good social media etiquette ASAP! Next, try these methods to get your name out there. Create a quality highlight video and send it out to coachesSet up a YouTube account and post clips from your gamesHost a blog and chronicle your athletic journey Keep Up Your Grades You might think that your athletic ability alone will help you score an athletic scholarship, but you would be wrong. You’ll need to meet the admissions standards at any college you are considering, which means your academic record must also be up to par. If you aren’t accepted to the college, you most certainly cannot play for its team. Another incentive for keeping up your grades is that it may lead to other types of scholarships, such as merit-based awards. Nearly 85 percent of all scholarships awarded at private colleges are based on academic achievement. Scoring an athletic scholarship may be a longshot, but you can increase your odds by following these tips. Don’t forget to look for other scholarships, as well. Use a free scholarship search tool, like ScholarshipExperts.com, and apply to as many as possible. With a little luck and determination, you’ll not only become a successful college athlete, but a scholarship winner, too!