I love athletics. What are my options for studying in the US?

Ask Brian Mooney: It is a good idea to reach out to Irish student athletes based in America

Securing a sports scholarship can be a complicated process. File photograph: Getty Images

Securing a sports scholarship can be a complicated process. File photograph: Getty Images


Question: I love athletics and have won many competitions. I hope one day to become a world-class athlete, but it seems almost impossible in Ireland. I’m due to sit my Leaving in 2019. What options are available in the US? Answer: You are right to begin researching college options in the US in fifth year, as it can take up to 24 months to prepare your application.

Firstly, I recommend that you consider things like school location, campus life, and cost of living, as well as athletic and academic opportunities, when deciding on where to apply. You can use the “five steps to US study” tool on the EducationUSA website to help with your search (www.educationusa.state.gov).

Petersons (www.petersons.com) gives detailed information on over 4,000 US colleges and universities and graduate programs; it also provides financial aid information and test preparation resources.

In terms of sports scholarships, it is a good idea to reach out to Irish student athletes who are already based in the US, or who have completed athletic scholarships. They can can give you the Irish perspective on the system.

Securing a sports scholarship can be a complicated process. There are a number of athletic associations that govern college sports and athletic recruitment, including:

  • National Collegiate Athletic Association: there are more than 900 member universities and 250 provisional members. Athletic standards are high and the level of competition is intense. Only students with the very highest standard of ability tend to be recruited (www.ncaa.com)
  • National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics: there are about 350, mostly smaller colleges in the association. The level of athletic ability is still high, although the standard is not generally as high as for NCAA teams. (www.naia.org)
  • National Junior College Athletic Association: Member colleges are accredited two-year institutions. The association also comprises three divisions, with scholarships offered only at the division I and II levels. Division I colleges may offer full scholarships and division II may offer partial scholarships (tuition or fees and books) (www.njcaa.org).

When considering your options, remember to think carefully about how much time you would like to dedicate to your sport during the college year.

The amount of training/competing time required will vary significantly according to which division you choose.

There are typically recruitment forms on each school’s webpage for each sport.

All prospective athletes must meet normal college admission requirements and continue to obtain satisfactory grades at university in order to receive and retain their scholarships.

Contact the international offices at your selected institutions and engage with students and faculty; they will expect you to be proactive.

Further support is available from an EducationUSA adviser in Ireland (www.fulbright.ie).

  • Note: the annual EducationUSA seminar in Ireland will take place on March 3rd, 2018, in IBAT College, Temple Bar, Dublin. For further information email educationusa@fulbright.ie.