Have Your Kids Play These Sports If You Want Their College Paid For

Is it time to make your kid start fencing?

Photo by Wesley Farnsworth/U.S. Air Force

With college tuition costs going through the roof, any help parents can get to defray the massive expense and keep their child out of student loan debt is greatly appreciated. At in-state colleges, tuition and room and board will set you back $20,092 per year, while private schools cost $45,385, according to the college board. Numbers like those leave parents praying their kid will be athletic enough to land themselves an NCAA scholarship.

But what sport gives the kid the best chance of landing that elusive scholarship? Patrick O’​Rourke, an accountant from Washington, D.C., who is also a father to a baseball player, wanted to figure that out after hearing other parents discuss which sports had the most opportunities at the collegiate level. So he created to compile stats and sort fact from fiction.

“There’s a lot of bleacher talk that goes on, and a lot of it is just wrong—especially where it comes to scholarships,” O’Rourke told MarketWatch. “Everyone thinks their kid is the best player on Earth and is going to get a Division I scholarship, and first they’ll find out that there’s a lot more competition out there than they think.”

O’Rourke found certain sports where there are better odds of a high school athlete making it on the college level. On the men’s side, gymnastics (20-to-1) and fencing (22-to-1) top O’Rourke’s list. And for women, rowing (2-to-1) and equestrian (3-to-1) are at the top.

But before you buy your kid an épée, O’​Rourke will admit that some of his numbers are a little skewed, especially for niche sports. His calculations don’t factor in the number of kids who play a sport on a club team and on a high school team, as is the case with many gymnasts and equestrians because their high school doesn’​t offer the sport. So those 24-to-1 odds for women’​s gymnasts to land a scholarship may actually be much longer. And what you’ll pay for all that private coaching may offset the gains of partial college scholarship.

As for the more popular youth participation sports such as baseball, lacrosse, soccer, and volleyball, O’Rourke’​s data can show which sports offer kids better odds of landing some scholarship money. Though parents had told O’​Rourke that there were more opportunities for boys in lacrosse than in baseball, he was able to show that’​s not true. Baseball for boys has 60-to-1 odds, while the odds for lacrosse are 85-to-1. And on the women’​s side, soccer (40-to-1) offers more opportunity than softball (50-to-1).

Overall, you probably shouldn’​t hold your breath that your little one will get a full ride from their athletic feats. Of the 8 million kids playing high school sports, only 480,000 will appear on the collegiate level, and most of those won’​t play football or basketball, where full rides are given. ​While you should definitely encourage your kids to play sports for personal and athletic development, it may be a better idea to have them hit the books and try for some academic scholarships.

Graphic via Marketwatch

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