DIII / Walk ons


Most Division III schools are private colleges that place a high priority on academic strengths. Even athletes are usually recruited only after they have established themselves as serious students in the classroom. If you have maintained at least a 3.0 GPA during your high school career, opportunities at the Division III level probably exist for you.

At the Division I level, many student-athletes are required to focus on their sports career year-around. There is nothing wrong with this commitment, and many enjoy the challenge of testing themselves at the highest level of athletics while pursuing their academic goals. However, if you want to focus primarily on your academic career, but still play sports at the college level, Division III athletics may provide you with the best option.

Most Division III schools, as mentioned earlier, are smaller, private schools. Does this sound like the environment that you would enjoy for four to five years? Or, are you hoping for a large university setting? This is also an important consideration as you look at what type of school you feel would best suit you.

Because these schools are smaller than Division I, and don’t have the kind of financial or staffing resources to use in recruiting, many Division III colleges rely on student-athletes contacting them. Don Wiedmann used a national scouting service, Recruit Inc., to find the opportunity at Occidental College. Consider using outside resources to help in contacting colleges throughout the country. Or, commit to contacting these coaches yourself by phone or mail. Bottom line: They need to hear from you!

Remember, Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. However, as Don Wiedmann proved, high school student-athletes can still find significant academic scholarships and grants at most of these institutions. Once you begin to establish a dialog with Division III coaches, make sure you find out what you might be eligible for in the way of academic scholarships and grants. You might be surprised at the answers!

walk ons

I know….you’re a star in high school. You’re all-league, all-this, all-that, most-likely-to-be-the-next-Michael-Jordan. You don’t really have time to think about what many high school athletes consider to be right up there with going to the prom with your cousin. That’s right, the dreaded invitation to be a “walk-on college athlete.” No scholarship money, no free books, no interviews with ESPN. They want you to come to practice and prove that you belong on the team.

Should you consider that kind of opportunity? Well, lets go back and use Rudy as our model for walk-on athletes, and I think you’ll find that walk-on opportunities may be a viable option for continuing your athletic career at the college level.

Rudy had no other options.
He wasn’t recruited, he wasn’t a star. He was a good high school athlete who loved sports, and wanted to continue his athletic career. When the options you thought would be there for you dry-up all of a sudden, pursuing a walk-on opportunity with a college program can breathe life back into a dying athletic career.

Rudy wanted to play.
He loved the game. He had determination, drive and the desire to improve his game. Being a walk-on athlete is the harder road to take, no question about it. Do you want it bad enough? Are willing to work hard and prove your worth to a college coach? Don’t be scared, get out there and play the sport you love!

Rudy believed he belonged.
Like I said, being a walk-on athlete isn’t easy. But, Rudy truly believed he belonged on the Notre Dame football team. And, it turns out, he did. If you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities, then don’t waste your time pursuing college athletics. Someone needs to believe in your abilities, and that someone is you!

Rudy put his education first.
Since he wasn’t in line for the Heismann Trophy, Rudy got serious and hit the books. The result? A college education. Remember, no matter how good of an athlete you are, your education should be your top priority in college. Your chances of playing professional athletics after college are miniscule. Don’t waste the chance to be a part of a rewarding experience in college.

Rudy played by the rules.
He accepted what was offered at Notre Dame. Realize that many college programs – tennis, softball, golf, and others – don’t offer incoming freshmen scholarship money. Many coaches want to have incoming freshmen prove their worth, make the team and will then offer a scholarship during their sophomore year and beyond. If you are interested in a particular program at a certain school, find out what their scholarship policy will be.

Rudy wanted the challenge.
Like Rudy, some athletes that our national organization work with turn down a scholarship offer at one school to accept a walk-on opportunity at another school. Why? The challenge! One athlete I can think of turned down a $15,000 per year scholarship at a Division II school to walk-on at a Division I school. He wanted the challenge of a high profile program. Today, he has just finished his junior football season, has a full scholarship and is vying for the starting quarterback position on next year’s team. Don’t back away from the challenge if it’s what you really want to pursue!

A couple of other thoughts, class. First, remember that there are lots of talented athletes out there that are competing for the same scholarships you are hoping to receive. You may need to walk-on at a college to get the opportunity you desire. Secondly, don’t look past some of the same benefits that walk-on athletes enjoy, the same as full scholarship athletes: First choice of classes, preferred housing, and more. Finally, being a walk-on athlete doesn’t mean you can’t be the star! If you commit yourself to your athletic and academic career at the college level, and get the chance to show a coach your talent, anything can happen!

Need some homework? I recommend that you start contacting coaches at the colleges you might be interested in pursuing and find out what opportunities exist at those schools. Find out what their walk-on policy is, and find out how they award scholarships to athletes. Doing this will answer a lot of questions you might have as to what your future holds, and will allow you to approach the final months of your high school career with an eye towards college athletic opportunities.

Class dismissed!