Only a few lucky and talented students get scholarship money to play college sports, especially at the NCAA Division I level. Less than 1 percent of all high school athletes receive any scholarship from a Division I school: even rarer is the student who receives a full ride. By far, football players get the most scholarships, but if football's not your game, rest assured that scholarships exist in basketball, volleyball, hockey, lacrosse, swimming, soccer, tennis, baseball and softball, gymnastics, and more. However, the growing number of sports that offer scholarships means even more competition for the limited scholarship money across the board.
How do you beat the odds, even if you're not the best on the team?
Be a student first
This should go without saying, but if you want to be a college athlete, you have to be a college student. If you get a scholarship but don't maintain the academic requirements for your college, you won't be keeping your scholarship. And while in high school, if you don't have the grades and college entrance exam scores to get into the college of your choice, collegiate coaches will never even look at you (even if you're the best player on the team). It's never too early to shine, academically, so spend your first two years of high school worrying as much about your grades as your sport. By your junior and senior years, your grades and SAT/ACT scores are as important to securing a scholarship as sending out letters to coaches and attending recruiting events.
If nothing else, remember this: more scholarship money is available for academics than for athletics. Good grades could earn you the same end reward.
Be more than a student/athlete
Brains and athletic prowess aside, more and more colleges and universities are now seeking well-rounded student-athletes. If you're active in a church, provide care for younger siblings on weeknights, volunteer at a senior center on weekends, and are involved in school politics, a college will have pretty clear insight into your character. This could all help educate their decision to recruit you.
Don't overlook opportunity
Many high school athletes are told by well-meaning parents or coaches that they should be playing in the Big Ten, Pac Ten, or Big East conferences at some athletic powerhouse. Don't get cocky. Every year, a whole lot of talented high school athletes sit by their phones waiting for college coaches to call. Don't assume they'll find you: You have to recruit yourself. Don't ignore interest from Division II or III schools because you're waiting for your favorite Division I school to come knocking. If you assume you deserve better and blow off smaller schools, they might have awarded their scholarship money to someone else by the time you come back around.
Think big picture
Finally, before accepting any athletic scholarship, pretend for a minute that you don't play sports. Would you still be happy attending that school? If so, then it's probably a good fit for you.