Ivy League Sports Scholarships – Do They Exist?

ivy league sports scholarships

If you are looking for Ivy League sports scholarship you came to the right place!  Not because I can help you get one, because the truth is nobody can because they do not exist.   The Ivy League does not give athletic scholarships at all, in spite of the fact that they compete in Division I.  That does not mean there is not plenty of money available to athletes who want to play a sport in the Ivy League, as nothing could be further from the truth.  There are many buckets of money available to student-athletes who want to play their sport at an Ivy league institution.

The key word in the last sentence was “student-athlete” and notice student comes first.  The schools that make up the Ivy League are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.  (click the links to see their athletics websites)   Each of those schools have an extremely high academic bar to gain admission.   All of them base admission on each candidate’s academic achievements as well as personal strengths and accomplishments such as athletic achievement, other extracurricular activity and community service.   That is not to say that these schools have not experienced broad success in Division I college athletics, because they most certainly have.  They are fiercely competitive in sports and frequently finish on the top of Division I athletic conferences.

Ok…so you know they are tough to get into academically, but what about the price?   Well, Ivy League schools are among the most expensive to attend in the US and they do not give athletic scholarships.   But the good news is that they all have huge endowments and make financial aid packages readily available to a large majority of their students.   The admission process is “need-blind” which means you will be admitted on your academic, athletic and other accomplishments, regardless of whether you need financial aid or not.   Once admitted the financial aid office will help you to make this incredible experience affordable and rewarding.

One of the serious benefits of playing a sport at an Ivy is that your financial aid is not based on your athletic performance, so even if you decide to quit your sport, you will not lose your aid package.   Try to quit your sport at another Division I school and see how quickly they rescind your scholarship.  Remember that pretty much every scholarship in Division I and all of them in Division II are renewable every single year.   The fantasy term “full-ride” is something created by the media and propagated by people who do not know what they are talking about.   Most scholarships are renewable every single year, although Division I has recently allowed schools to provide longer term guarantees.   Just because they are allowed to offer multiple year guarantees on athletic scholarships does not mean they do.   Deals for more than one year are few and far between, so now you know that too.


IVY League Sports Scholarships – NO.  Likely Letters – YES

coach sez ivy pressure

Because there are no athletic scholarships in the Ivy league, they also do not use the National Letter of Intent.  Instead they use what is called a “Likely” letter which has the effect of a formal offer of admission.  The caveat is that the student-athlete must maintain their high level of high school performance and of course…must actually graduate!  The Likely letter is the Ivy League’s way of bringing some type of certainty to the recruiting process.  These letters are given to student-athletes who have informed the coach of their intention to play for them, have all of their admission application materials submitted and they have been reviewed by the admission office.   It is important to understand that a Likely letter means you will get into the school, but it is not binding like the NLI and there have been cases of student-athletes telling a coach what they want to hear, in order to get more than one Likely letter.  Because Ivy admission spots are so precious and valuable, coaches try to discourage this but there is nothing they can do to stop it.

Ivy coaches can initiate requests for a Likely letter for an Ivy prospect, but only the Admission Office can actually issue one.   Likely letters cannot be issued before October 1, of the prospective student-athlete’s senior year, so don’t panic if you don’t get one.   Coaches can ask admissions for them, but remember there are a lot of sports aside from yours that are asking for Likely letters as well.  It is also important to remember that Likely letters are never offered until all of your admission application materials have been submitted and reviewed.

If you are serious about playing your sport at an Ivy league school, here are a few things you can do to get an idea of where you stand in the process.

  1. Ask the coach what you need to do to get a Likely letter from the school.   You can be sure that they will tell you.

2.  Ask the coach how many Likely letters he or she has available to give out.   This should give you a pretty good idea of where you stand on their list.  If the coach says they have 3 Likely letters to give and you are not going to be given one of them, then you know you are not one of the top 3 recruits.   There is still no reason to panic, but you know where you stand.  Pretty simple stuff for a smart kid like you.

Don’t be surprised if you get a lot of pressure to from the coach to commit to the Ivy program.   Coaches frequently tell recruits that they have a spot for them today but that might change next week or even an hour from now.   They will sometimes tell you that if you don’t commit they will be forced to offer your spot to another recruit who is willing to commit right now.  It is an unfortunate side effect of not using the NLI, which locks a student-athlete into the school for at least one year, but it happens all the time.

If you are really sure that you want to play for an Ivy League school and you know which one, you can dramatically increase your odds of admission by applying ED or Early Decision.  This shows the school that you are completely committed to them because if you are admitted you are bound to attend.   The upside is that the applicant pool is much smaller so you are more likely to be admitted.  Also if you are not accepted it gives you time to contact other schools and continue the recruiting process.


What Role Does the Academic Index (AI) Play In The Recruiting Process?

Role of AI on ivy league sports scholarships

As a league, the Ivy’s use something called the Academic Index or AI.  The purpose of the AI is to compare the academic qualifications of athletes as a group to the overall student population at the school.  A student-athlete’s AI is calculated based on test scores and GPA and it assigns a number value to each student.  The Ivy League does not accept athletic recruits with an AI under 176, which roughly adds up to a B average and a score of 1120 on the first 2 parts of the SAT exam.  There are occasional exceptions, but they are rare to say the least.  A majority of the recruited student athletes have an AI of at least 200 which is an A- average and a 1300 on the first 2 parts of the SAT exam.

If you want to calculate your AI, I have included a link to download an Excel spreadsheet here.

It is important to note that just because you AI falls in the “recruitable range” does not  mean that you will be accepted to the school.   What is does do is give you a measurement tool to determine if you are in the recruitable range.

To make matters even more confusing, each school within the Ivy league has different AI requirements.  The rule states that the mean AI of all athletes on campus must fall within one standard deviation of the mean AI of the whole student body. If, for example, the average student on the Princeton campus has a higher Academic Index than the average Penn student, the Princeton athletic recruits must also meet a higher standard.

The general rule of thumb is if you have a minimum of 700 on each part of the SAT and a GPA of 3.5 or better, you re on solid academic ground to be recruited to an Ivy League school’s athletic program.  Ivy coaches are looking for student-athletes that can make the grade with admissions and who are competitors on the athletic field as well.

I hope that goes you a pretty comprehensive overview of the Ivy League recruiting process and provides some clarity on the topic of Ivy League Sports Scholarships.   They simply do not exist.  Oh yeah… on last thing…Ivy League football has some different requirements and works differently, but that is a topic for another blog post.

You can get more information on the Ivy League and the athletic recruiting process in my Free Resource Center by registering on this page >>>>  FREE RESOURCE CENTER

If you have questions or comments I would love to hear them in the spacer below.


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