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My daughter is a very good student and goes to a high-end private high school with the goal of attending an Ivy League or UC to get her education. While we know she is not a Division 1 soccer player, by listening to you over the past two years, we do understand that soccer and a college coach who likes her can help her get into a great school. We want to pursue that avenue for her, but we will really don’t know where to start.
Division 3 schools seem to be some of the best educational schools in the country, but is it true that they don’t have scholarships? For someone like my daughter whose grades and future are more important than playing soccer, but loves the game and would like to play in college, what do you recommend is the best course of action?
Thanks for your questions about D3 soccer opportunities. I think understanding the landscape of D3 soccer in the state I am located in, California, might be a good place to start. Looking at northern California, you have two D3 programs, Mills and UC Santa Cruz. In southern California you have the schools that make up the SCIAC conference, with several very highly regarded academic schools in that consortium. So there actually are options in California for D3 schools.
There is one public option at UCSC (the only UC that is D3) and all the others in California are private. Public D3s in the west region are rare, those being UCSC and UT Dallas. The Ivy League schools actually all compete at the D1 level.
I think the best plan of action for your daughter and yourselves is to seriously take a look at the various D3 programs and the educational opportunities of staying in-state. If your daughter prefers to look out of state, and that is financially feasible, the East Coast has a concentrated number of highly regarded academic D3s.
Taking a look at specific D3 schools and the athletic programs, their locations, and the educational majors offered there may give your daughter a better idea of where she may like to attend–whether that’s staying in state or going east.
When you visit D3s, I highly recommend giving the coaches much forewarning. Going in person, meeting staff and team, and attending an ID clinic if you can will give you a great sense of the programs. Contact coaches and narrow down your search once you’ve done research into the colleges. Many D3 schools have smaller player number environments for their ID camps, rather than a mega camp of 100-150 players like big D1s, and you can get a real sense of the coaches, the campus and the players. If its a good fit, you and the coaching staff can continue to track each other at club tournament and showcase events.
In terms of scholarships, no D3s are allowed per NCAA policy to allow athletic-based scholarships. However, many D3s are able to offer financial assistance that is academically merit-based. As you noted, if your daughter is successful at her high school institution, this may give her a leg-up academically at one of the private D3s. Public institutions will also consider applicants for academic merit-based aid in addition to those in financial need, but the pool of candidates is often much larger and very competitive.
There are also many other options to fund D3 education including private aid that comes from outside the specific institution itself. Thus a student athlete could attend a highly regarded academic D3 on academic, merit-based aid, federal financial aid, and/or privately granted aid, just not an athletic scholarship.
I hope this helps clears up some of the confusion and helps navigate the process smoothly!
Head Coach Women’s Soccer
UC Santa Cruz