Making it into college and playing college sports is one thing. But figuring out how to pay for it is an entirely different game. As many college-athletes are aware of, it is quite expensive to go to college. While scholarships and financial aid are available, the paperwork process and the rules behind them can be quite challenging to decipher.

For international players who are moving to a new country and not familiar with the costs associated with the American college system, the process can be even more challenging to understand. Coming from different parts of the world where tuition is either free (For example: college in Germany is free both for students from the European Union and non-EU students) or significantly less than the United States, understanding what one owes and what scholarships and financial aid opportunities are available.

Here is a snapshot of the scholarship and financial aid process for international players.

International Players are Eligible to Receive Academic and Athletic Scholarships

International student-athletes, according to NCAA guidelines, are eligible to receive academic and athletic scholarships for Division I,II, NAIA, and NJCAA colleges. Players that are looking to receive academic or athletic scholarships are held to the same academic and eligibility standards as players from the United States but as long as they meet the academic requirements for their school, they should be eligible to receive scholarship money.

In terms of academic scholarships, schools will look heavily as to how challenging the coursework is for the student at their high school. Students that that take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses abroad will receive credit for their courses.

It is also important that international students look into non-academic scholarships that place an emphasis on personal traits such as leadership, volunteerism, or charitable giving. Faith-based organizations also provide large number of non-academic scholarships each year to international students.

Financial Aid

While student-athletes may be eligible for scholarships, they are not eligible to receive student aid in the form of grants or loans from the United States government. They are also unable to receive financial assistance from the U.S. Federal Work-Study program. It should be noted that many colleges and universities offer do have their own in-house financial aid system to help provide further assistance.

As with the Financial Aid program, international student-athletes are not eligible to receive students from the United States federal government. However, they may be eligible for private loans.

There are strings attached to private loans though. Many private lenders will require a co-signor for the loan agreement that will have be a United States citizen or a Permanent Resident to the United States. In addition, private loans will need to be repaid and can often have high interest rates. Those two factors make it very difficult for people coming directly out of college to pay back their loans and can lead to further financial debt. Currently, the United States has a total student loan debt of $1.75 trillion dollars.

Make Sure To Review The Fine Print

No matter which option student-athletes choose to take, it is important that they read the fine print and discuss their options. Most international high schools will have counselors on staff with experience in navigating the American college scholarship process and can provide beneficial information to the player based on their current situation. Parents also play a role as well. While they may not have played college sports in the United States or even studied abroad, they will have a better understanding of the financial implications both in the short term and the long term.