To aim for a scholarship or not to aim for a scholarship? That is the question.

And it may seem like a simple answer: why not encourage your child to pursue a college scholarship? If they get one, great, and if not, well . . . that’s okay too, right?

Scholarships at their best, are fantastic; they can show your athlete how hard they’ve worked, that they are valued at that school and as a member of the team, and can take some (or all!) of the financial burden of getting a higher education.

Scholarships at their worst, however, can make your athlete lose motivation or leave the sport before college even begins, not to mention a loss of self-worth depending on where they’re offered scholarships (and for how much).

So should you encourage your child to try to get an athletic scholarship for college?

Like much of life, there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Scholarships are neither good nor bad. Instead, it’s important to be informed and stay aware of the potential pitfalls that scholarships can bring, both in the pursuit of one and when an athlete has received one. With a healthy mindset for you and your athlete, scholarships can play an important and well-balanced role leading up to, and during, college.

Here are 4 points to keep in mind about pursuing athletic scholarships.


Scholarships are A goal, not THE goal

Remind your athlete to focus on goals they are in control of, including enjoying themselves as a golfer, improving their score, doing well in school, and keeping sport, school, and life in balance. When it comes to goals they are not as in control of, like the school they get into and the amount of money they may receive, you may need to provide more guidance in managing expectations.

Establish prioritizing controllable goals around areas of performance, attitude, and practice. It will not only set them up for a greater likelihood of accomplishing goals out of their control (like getting a scholarship), but in the event they don’t accomplish that goal, they still have a lot to be proud of.


Scholarships aren’t indicative of their (or your) worth

Money can show value, but remember that there are also lots of non-scholarship athletes who are just as skilled as those on scholarships. Are they less worthy as people? Of course not!

Though we probably know that a scholarship doesn’t equate to value, sometimes parents, without meaning to, take on their children’s success (and failure) as their own. It’s important to everyone in the family that a scholarship is viewed as an indicator of success, but not the only one. Not getting a scholarship doesn’t mean that you have less value or worth than you did before you received your decision letter. Having ongoing conversations as a family about where personal value comes from and how a scholarship can’t change that is important on the way to, and while on, a scholarship.


Scholarships can add pressure and cause a decrease in motivation

Parents who frequently talk about getting into college and getting a scholarship can add a lot of pressure to their young athlete’s already full headspace. And if your athlete has already received a scholarship, then they may now feel pressure to continue playing well.

Mentally, a scholarship can easily shift from “Wow! This school thinks I’m awesome!” to “Oh man, now I have to play great or they’re wasting money on me.” This pressure can negatively impact motivation and can turn an excited player into one who’s dreading going to practice or letting that pressure get the best of them at competitions.

If your athlete has obtained a scholarship, celebrate it and remind them that while they have earned the scholarship, they are also allowed to be a human and have off-days. Help them remember that they do need to still take their sport seriously, but that playing well is something they have already done and can continue to do in the future. As a parent, help remove any additional stress by being supportive, and if you notice your athlete is feeling pressure about a scholarship, open up the lines of communication to help them handle these thoughts and feelings.


If your athlete doesn’t enjoy golf now, a scholarship probably won’t help

This can be a hard point for parents. You see how skilled your athlete is, and you want them to pursue what they’re good at. But if your athlete doesn’t enjoy the sport, a scholarship may make golf feel like a job they wish they could leave. And that can negatively affect their overall college experience. So, even if your child likely can get a college scholarship, consider if it would be beneficial to let them know they don’t have to continue to play competitively if they don’t want to. Sometimes taking that pressure off can lead to them finding enjoyment again, or allows them to put their energy into something else.

Scholarships can be very positive, and by maintaining awareness of the potential pitfalls, parents and athletes can work together to keep what that financial support means and how it impacts the athlete mentally and physically in perspective. As a family you can certainly keep scholarships in mind, but consider how to fit that into a healthy overall approach to golf and where your athlete wants to go with the sport.