Do you play a sport? Are you pretty good at it?

Then you might be able to get a sports scholarship to study at university or college.

Here’s a rundown of how sports scholarships work in the UK, eligibility criteria, all the great benefits you could get and the best places to find sports scholarships.

 

What is a sports scholarship?

Sports scholarships help talented athletes to access higher education. They provide extra funding and support that won’t have to be paid back

This means you can live more comfortably at uni or college without having to worry so much about your finances, setting you up for the best chance of success academically and on your sporting journey.

Unis and colleges don’t give out sports scholarships lightly, of course - they hope to attract the best athletes and raise the uni or college’s sporting image and prestige.

 

Benefits of sports scholarships

You can get thousands of pounds in additional funding each year to help fund your studies and the daily costs of life at university or college.

On top of these cash payments (which sometimes can only be used for specific costs), other common benefits of sports scholarships include:

  • Free use of training facilities
  • Strength and conditioning coaching
  • Access to sports psychology & sports therapy
  • Sessions with physios or massage therapists
  • Free sports kit/leisurewear
  • Access to athlete-friendly accommodation close to sports facilities
  • Costs of travel to competitions and competition entry fees covered
  • Nutrition help
  • Assistance liaising with academic staff to ensure the time requirements of your sport don’t negatively impact your studies

 

You might also get additional benefits if you perform well in your sport for the uni or college. 🙌

One thing to know is that sports scholarships in the UK don’t usually fully cover tuition fees or accommodation costs - you’ll get a cash award, which can be used towards these, but you’ll still have to pay the majority of the costs yourself.

Some universities and colleges will offer different tiers of sports scholarships, depending on the level you’re competing at. For example, those who compete internationally might get more benefits than someone who competes nationally, who might get more benefits than an athlete who competes regionally.

 

Sports scholarship eligibility requirements

Academic requirements

The first requirement for sports scholarships will be meeting the academic requirements for your course. You’ll need the required grades to get onto your course and to successfully pass each year to remain eligible.

To apply for a sports scholarship, you’ll usually have to already hold an offer at the uni or college and often will have to accept the offer before you can apply.

An important thing to know is that you can generally study any course - you don’t have to study a sports-related course to be eligible. Also, sports scholarships are usually available to undergraduate, postgraduate and international students.

 

Sporting requirements

You’ll need to demonstrate sporting excellence and achievement to get a sports scholarship.

The level of achievement needed will vary, from competing at an international level, achieving a particular age ranking for your sport or competing at a regional level. Whatever the requirements, you’ll need to provide evidence of your achievements. 

 

What sports can I get a scholarship for?

Many unis or colleges don’t put restrictions on the sports that are eligible, as long as you can show excellence in that sport. 

Other places will specify the sports that are eligible for their scholarship. Often they’ll have priority sports they want to attract the best talent for, so will only give scholarships to students who are achieving in those sports. They might only provide scholarships for sports included in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) programme.

Needless to say, the more popular your sport is in the UK, the more likely you are to find scholarships.

It’s not only athletes that can get sports scholarships, though - there are also sports scholarships available for coaching.

 

Also, you can usually get a sports scholarship alongside other additional funding, so you should check out all other options too.

 

How do sports scholarships work?

Of course, all sports scholarships will require you to compete for your uni or college in your sport.

This means you’ll usually need to represent the university or college in any national student competitions, as well as any other competitions they’re part of (including internationally).

Sometimes there will be specific requirements about the training or practice you have to attend. You might have to go to all practice sessions, for example, and play in all matches.

Often, you’ll have to take part in publicity. This could include featuring in articles, doing interviews, advocating for the scholarships or appearing at events, meaning you might be treated a bit like a celebrity. 💅

You’ll usually have to reapply for a sports scholarship each year. So if you’re not successful in getting one for your first year of uni, you can still get one in later years.

 

Applying for a sports scholarship

You’ll have to fill out an application form (usually online) and send this to the uni or college to apply for their sports scholarship.

The information you’ll need could include:

  • Personal details
  • The sport you play
  • Your biggest achievements in the sport
  • A personal statement, saying why you think you should get the scholarship
  • Current sporting details (e.g. the club you play for, the coach you have, any funding you currently receive for your sport)
  • References 

 

Want the best chance of success? Get 10 top tips for your scholarship application.

 

Where can I find sports scholarships?

Your chosen university or college’s website

The best place to look for your uni or college’s sports scholarship is on their website. A simple search of ‘uni/college name + sports scholarship’ should bring up what you need.

 

Blackbullion Funding Hub

You can also check out the Blackbullion Funding Hub to see if a university or college’s sports scholarship is listed there. Since it’s the UK’s largest hub of additional funding for students, you’ll also find other scholarships, bursaries and grants you might be eligible for.

 

Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS)

TASS is a Sport England-funded scheme to help athletes balance sport with the rest of their lives.

It currently supports over 500 athletes in 40 different sports, providing support services covering areas including:

  • Physio
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition 
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Mental health
  • Lifestyle

 

You can also get:

  • Subsidised sport-related costs
  • Access to training facilities
  • A mentor

 

To get onto the scheme, you have to have received national recognition for your sport and also be nominated by the National Governing Body for your sport - you can’t apply directly to the scheme.

Learn more about TASS here.

 

Winning Students Scotland

Every year, this scheme supports 100 talented student athletes who have chosen to study in Scotland.

You can get a cash award to be used for accommodation costs, competition fees, sports equipment or other support services.

To be eligible, you must be:

  • British
  • A full- or part-time student
  • An able-bodied or disabled athlete

 

Get more information about the scheme.

 

Scholarships in the USA

If you’re interested in studying in the USA, a sports scholarship can be a great way to fund your degree.  Sports scholarships are a lot more common in the USA and you'll often get larger benefits.

Organisations like Keystone Sports can help with this process.

 

This isn’t a comprehensive list but should give you a good start on your hunt for a sports scholarship. Some organisations out there are likely to offer scholarships for athletes of specific sports, so do your research - you never know what’s out there!

  

A sports scholarship can be a great way to fund a successful time at university or college while making the most of your sporting life.

While they’re likely to be extremely competitive and there won’t be loads of them on offer, don’t let this put you off applying.

For a general overview of funding while you’re at university or college, check out our ultimate guide to student funding.

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