Playing college basketball on a half athletic scholarship

Getting a full ride or in Australian terms, a full athletic scholarship can be pretty hard if you are a foreigner. Unless you are playing in leagues with high exposure it is actually near impossible. Also, if you are not quite up to a division 1 standard or not getting court time for the team you are currently playing for, getting recruited is hard. BUT don’t let that discourage you, there are alternatives such as getting a half athletic scholarship or fee wavers.

Please note, for this article I am only talking about colleges in USA. I am drawing on my personal experiences as well as my friends that played college basketball. Please do not take anything I am about to discuss in this article as gospel. There’s probably more on this topic worth discussing which I might be missing. After all, it was 16 years ago that I played college basketball.

What is a half athletic scholarship?

A half scholarship can come in various forms but the most common is the school covering tuition fees. Tuition fees are the cost of schooling; in other words the cost of the course/ subject/ classes. The remainder, accomodation, meals and books are to be picked up by the student athlete. 

Depending on the school and course the tuition fees can be substantial. So for the school to pick tuition fees is a huge thing. To give you some kind of indication when I visited University of Pacific in San Francisco in 2000, their school fees per year was USD$40,000. Mind you that was for a mid level division 1 school. Some of the bigger schools will see school fees a lot higher than that.

Some schools on a half scholarship will pick up your accomodation and provide you with a generous meal allowance. This is usually the case with smaller schools in the division 2 competition, even some smaller junior colleges. However, it is expected that the student athlete pickup all other costs.

What is a fee waver?

Fee wavers to my knowledge is only used in community colleges in California. I haven’t heard of another schools providing this type of support. In California, junior colleges or community colleges as they are called, do not offer athletic scholarships. This was the case with me when I attended Solano community college in San Francisco. 

When I was at Solana community college after trying out and making the team I was lucky to be given a fee waver. For an international student the fees per unit was USD$121, and there was a minimum amount of units per semester that the student had to take to be eligible to play college basketball. The exact amount  of units, I can’t remember. For an international student athlete, this minimum amount of units needed to be filed to ensure that the I20 student visa requirements were met. 

As I made the basketball team, Solano was able to wave the international fee of USD$110 per unit and bring the school fees down to USD$11 per unit. You see, Californian residents pay USD$11 per unit and people from outside of California pay a slightly higher fee per unit. However, for an international student the fee of USD$121 can be very costly, considering you have a minimum amount of units that need to be filled as a requirement of the I20 visa. So it’s clear having a fee waver is a huge help financially. 

How much will I be out of pocket?

The question of how much out of pocket you’ll be is something I cannot answer. It all depends on the school you are wanting to attend. School fees vary from school to school and state to state. So I can’t give you a definitive answer. My advice, if you are looking to go to school on a half scholarship or fee waver is to make sure you get a complete break down of the costs you have to pick up from the school. This is before committing to any school! 

What are some ways that I can make up the difference if I am offered a half athletic scholarship?


Get a part time job and save! I did this when I went to USA my first year. I saved up a few thousand dollars, well nearly 10K to be exact. You will need to be very disciplined and make a lot of sacrifices. If it’s your dream to play college basketball making these sacrifices won’t be an issue.

Crowd sourcing

I have seen one particular person raise funds for him to go play basketball in Chile so I guess anyone can do the same to make up the difference for a half athletic scholarship. Using a website like you can create a campaign, share it with friends and family and accept donations. Once you have the required funds you can get on your way to playing basketball. 

Selling your stuff

If you have accumulated a lot of stuff. Stuff that you can live without. You can sell it on Ebay or Gumtree to raise some funds. This all depends on how much stuff you have.

Get a loan

I don’t recommend getting a loan from a bank but if you have a family member that can loan you the money you are very lucky. Always pay this loan back when you can. Nothing comes for free!

My final thoughts

Getting a fee waver or half athletic scholarship is really half the battle won. A substantial sum of money will still need to be raised for the remaining expenses. Accomodation, meals, books all add up so you’ll have to raise some money to cover the remaining expenses. Now this article may present a half scholarship or fee waver in a negative light but the fact is this is still a good opportunity for someone to pursue. I spent a year at Solano on a fee waver and as a result was able to be seen by a bigger division 1 school which offered me a scholarship. Remember, any exposure to high leagues is a benefit to you.

If all you are offered is a half athletic scholarship, raise the money required for at least a year. I have known many walk ons (walk ons are players that get on a team with no scholarship) that end up getting full athletic scholarships the next year. Sacrifice, raise the funds needed, work hard and give the coach a reason to offer you a full scholarship the next year.

For more information on half athletic scholarships in NCAA division 2 visit the NCAA website.

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