Common Misconceptions of Student-Athletes

When looking from the outside, being a student-athlete may look slightly different than what it’s like to be one. The perception of student-athletes tends to differ from person to person in the public. Some people love them, some people hate them, but everyone has misconceptions of them. Everyone has an idea of what it’s like to be a student-athlete, but more often than not they do not have the facts right.

The most common misconceptions of student athletes have to do with scholarships, grades, priorities and privileges.

Misconception #1- Everyone has a full ride scholarship.

Most people think student-athletes are on full scholarships. At the Division III level there are no athletic scholarships. At the Division II level we are under a partial scholarship model. That means schools can break up a scholarship however they want to, and don’t have to give a student a full scholarship. “In most cases, in all of Division II very few student-athletes get a full scholarship,” Natasha Oakes, Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance, said.

There are 280 athletes at Missouri Western. Out of those 280, only 16 are on full scholarships, which is less than 6 percent

Missouri Western volleyball’s starting libero, Kayla Ruff, said she encounters a lot of people who do not know the facts about athletic scholarships. “I think people think just because I start or play a lot, that means I’m on full scholarship, when I’m actually on a lot less than a full ride,” Ruff said.

The Division I level there are head count and equivalency scholarships, depending on the sport. The NCAA allows head count sports to offer a specific amount of full scholarships. This means if you are not receiving a full scholarship for athletics, you receive no scholarship at all.

At the Division II level the equivalent amount of scholarships football can give out is 36, while there are usually over 100 athletes on the football team. Volleyball is allowed eight full scholarships and there is often close to 16 athletes on the team.

Any other institutional aid awarded to the athlete must be treated as “countable aid,” and could affect the amount of money they receive. Student-athletes may not receive more aid from the university than the cost of attendance. If a student is receiving more than the cost of attendance it becomes an over awarding issue, which violates NCAA regulations.

“It’s a little bit different because general students don’t have to go through that process of tracking [scholarships] as much, they still have to report it to the institution, but I think there is an increase in pressure for student-athletes because there could be a potential NCAA violation,” Oakes said.

When a student-athlete violates a regulation, they could lose their eligibility and have to apply to be reinstated by the NCAA

The complete list of NCAA regulations can be found here:

Division I

Division II

Division III

Misconception #2- Athletes only go to college to play their sport.

-Going Professional (what it’s like for student-athletes going professional before finishing their academic career)

Another misconception of athletes is there intentions for coming to school. People tend to think athletes only come to college to play their sports and excel in that aspect of their life. Apart from Baseball (9.1 percent) and Men’s Ice Hockey (5.6 percent), less 1.5 percent of student athletes go professional in their sport.

Dr. Regan Dodd said even she sometimes forgets and assumes student-athletes make the decision to come to a school primarily based on athletics and the success of their team. “Sometimes we don’t realize how much they truly are passionate about their future careers,” Dodd said.

NCAA Probability Chart

-Academic Priorities

The NCAA has tried to dispel the myth of “dumb jock.” They have shown studies across the division, association and campus level, that individuals who participate in sports graduate at a higher level than the general student body. They also have a higher GPA than the general student body.

Missouri Western student-athletes maintain above a 3.0 and tend to have 12 to 15 percent high graduation rates than Missouri Western’s general student body. “That to me is a testament to the fact that we don’t have dumb jocks, we have very talented and smart kids that are talented on the court and field, as well as in the class room. We hear from a lot of faculty that student-athletes are the best students they have,” Oakes said.

To maintain their status as a student-athlete, participants must maintain a bare minimum GPA of a 2.0. Some universities and programs may require a higher GPA but the NCAA minimum remains at a 2.0.

Students also must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours every semester and pass a minimum of nine. The only exception is football who has different rules because they don’t play outside competition in the spring, which means they have a longer period to meet the requirements to be eligible for those competitions.

Over the course of an academic year, summer included, student-athletes must pass 18 credit hours, but 6 hours is the maximum amount a student can enroll in the summer.

Misconception #3- Athletes are privileged and get whatever they want.

Student-athletes often get a bad rep for being “privileged” or getting everything handed to them. Student-athletes use their scholarship to pay for their education, but unlike most scholarships they don’t only have to just keep their grades up. They also must abide by all the NCAA rules and excel in their sport to make sure they continue to receive their scholarships.

Director of Academic Services-Athletics Signe Coombs said the athletic department expects their student-athletes to excel in all aspects of their status as a student-athlete, which includes academics, athletics and volunteering in the community and on campus.

“I think all in all a misconception is that we are privileged and there is a stigma that comes with that. People may think they get all of these things handed to them when in reality student athletes work hard for them,” Coombs said.

The NCAA regulation manual for Division II student-athletes is 391 pages. The rules athletes must abide by can sometimes be overwhelming to keep track of, which is why every school has Athletic Compliance to help student-athletes follow rules and maintain their eligibility.

Some examples of rules include maintaining an amateurism and not accepting any benefits for their status as a student-athlete. (For example, accepting free or discounted shoes from a store because of the fact that you are student athlete).


Student-athletes often get judged or glorified for their statuses as collegiate athletes, but there are a lot of details that go on to make sure they can maintain that status and they often still have student debt after graduation, just like other students. Student-athletes still have to work hard in school and work hard on the court to maintain their scholarships and get their degrees.

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