The num­ber of Aus­tralian stu­dents pur­su­ing sport­ing scholarships to at­tend univer­sity in the US is grow­ing. How early should stu­dents start plan­ning their ter­tiary study, and how can schools stream­line this process?

The Australian Education Reporter - - SPORTS IN SCHOOLS - EMMA DAVIES

THE Na­tional Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion (NCAA) USA is a mem­ber-led or­gan­i­sa­tion which awards more than $3.2 bil­lion in ath­letic scholarships to more than 175,000 stu­dent ath­letes each year.

NCAA El­i­gi­bil­ity Cen­tre As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Ash­ley Thorn­burg recently vis­ited Wes­ley Col­lege in Perth, WA, where she spoke about the ex­po­nen­tial growth in the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dent ath­letes study­ing and play­ing for US uni­ver­si­ties.

“We have around half a mil­lion stu­dent ath­letes play­ing at the NCAA level. Five years ago the in­ter­na­tional pop­u­la­tion was around 1 per cent; now it’s up­wards of 11 per cent and grow­ing in leaps and bounds,” Ms Thorn­burg said.

“It’s just a mat­ter of pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion and out­reach in­ter­na­tion­ally so that stu­dent ath­letes in Aus­tralia are well pre­pared if a sports or aca­demic schol­ar­ship pre­sents it­self.”

The US Em­bassy pro­vided fund­ing for Ms Thorn­burgh to travel around Aus­tralia to speak to high school stu­dents as part of a push to build part­ner­ships be­tween Aus­tralian ath­letes and the col­lege/univer­sity path­way in the US.

Ms Thorn­burg is pas­sion­ate about the op­por­tu­ni­ties study­ing in the US pro­vides for both uni­ver­si­ties and stu­dents.

“The ben­e­fits to our col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties is that on the field of play Aus­tralians are ex­tremely tal­ented, dis­ci­plined and per­form well which is some­thing the coaches want in or­der to bet­ter their teams,” she said.

Lan­guage is not a bar­rier, Ms Thorn­burg said, and the shared love of sports be­tween two coun­tries makes the tran­si­tion eas­ier.

“We have over 1110 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in the NCAA so there’s a tremen­dous amount of op­por­tu­nity,” she said.

“Divi­sion I and Divi­sion II offer sports scholarships. Divi­sion III can offer aca­demic awards, fi­nan­cial aid, and of­ten­times they give scholarships be­cause some­one is an in­ter­na­tional stu­dent and they want the di­ver­sity on their cam­pus.”

“For Aus­tralian stu­dent ath­letes we see a lot of bas­ket­ballers, soc­cer, golf, ten­nis and women’s row­ing. We spon­sor 24 sports and there’s prob­a­bly an Aus­tralian play­ing in all of them,” Ms Thorn­burg said.

The pre­sen­ta­tions were aimed at Year 11 and 12 stu­dents plan­ning their study be­yond school, but Ms Thorn­burg said the NCAA en­cour­aged stu­dents in early high school to start think­ing about their sub­ject choice and po­ten­tial sport­ing path­ways.

“I al­ways say it’s never too late. It’s cer­tainly never too early to start think­ing about it and start the process, so we’re re­ally ex­cited when we see years 9 and 10 stu­dents here,” she said.

“NCAA has base­line ini­tial el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments that we’ve put in place be­cause re­search shows that if stu­dent ath­letes are able to meet these re­quire­ments in high school, they’re more likely to re­ceive their four year col­lege de­gree and grad­u­ate. We don’t care what they ma­jor in, we do care that they get a de­gree, so we hope it’s the right fit.”

The def­i­ni­tion of schol­ar­ship can cause a few mis­un­der­stand­ings among par­ents and stu­dents, be­cause in the US a schol­ar­ship can cover a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ex­penses.

The US Con­sul Gen­eral’s Ed­u­ca­tionusa of­fices work with the NCAA to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on US ter­tiary study for stu­dents and teach­ers, which in­cludes in­for­ma­tion on re­quire­ments for the NCAA.

US Em­bassy Cul­tural Af­fairs of­fi­cer Mike Bower­bank said the of­fices see many stu­dents in year 12 who want to pur­sue the col­lege sport path­way who haven’t met the core course el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments, and the ear­lier they know the process the smoother it is.

Mr Bower­bank rec­om­mends that stu­dents, par­ents and teach­ers use the range of free on­line re­sources on the Ed­u­ca­tionusa Aus­tralia Face­book page and NCAA web­site, or visit the Ed­u­ca­tionusa ad­vi­sors of­fices within the US Con­sulate Gen­eral in their city.

“If teach­ers and career ad­vi­sors get ap­proached by any stu­dents in­ter­ested in study­ing in the US, con­tact Ed­u­ca­tionusa – our ad­vi­sors are will­ing and happy to come out for a ses­sion. Al­ter­na­tively, send the stu­dents into the Ed­u­ca­tionusa of­fice; there are walk in ap­point­ments on Fri­days in Perth,” Mr Bower­bank said.

Each year, sev­eral stu­dents from Wes­ley Col­lege’s Long Term Ath­letic De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram for tal­ented and elite ath­letes are se­lected for a sports schol­ar­ship in the US.

“Af­ter the NCAA event at Wes­ley this year, there has cer­tainly been a lot more in­ter­est from the boys,” Wes­ley Col­lege Head of Career De­vel­op­ment Jayne Dun­can said.

“Study­ing in the US is seen to be a real ‘value adding’ propo­si­tion for the boys and a point of dif­fer­ence for stu­dents en­ter­ing the highly com­pet­i­tive job mar­ket,” she said.

U.S. Con­sul Gen­eral in Perth Rachel Cooke, Ed­u­ca­tion USA co­or­di­na­tor Sarah O’reilly, and NCAA El­i­gi­bil­ity Cen­tre As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Ash­ley Thorn­burg.

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