How to Get a Fencing Scholarship
3 Easy Steps for Getting a College Fencing Scholarship:
- Make a Realistic Target List of Colleges (see our list of colleges with fencing programs) that:
- have rosters with fencers roughly your same size and ability
- have admissions criteria in line with your current grades and SAT or ACT test scores
- Connect with the Coaches and Refer Them to Your Fencing Recruiting Website Where They Can Find Your Rankings, Grades, Transcripts, Profile, and Video All in One Place
- Continue to Improve Your Strength, Speed, and Skill to Boost Your US Fencing.org Rankings While Still in High School
The Fencing Recruting Process, The Rules, and Your Odds of Getting a Fencing Scholarship
If you would like to fence in college, get a fencing scholarship, or even just use fencing to boost your chances of getting into a good college, it's important to understand your odds, the process, the rules of NCAA recruiting, and the extent to which a college fencing coach can influence your admissions decisions.
Many -- not all -- of the 40 or so colleges and universities in the U.S. that have fencing programs tend to be schools that also have strict admissions standards. Fencing is one of the oldest sports, and many of the elite, long-standing East Coast schools developed fencing programs years ago - in the 1600-1700s - (and Stanford in the 1800s) and have not dropped them. Since fencing is a relatively small program compared to other sports like track and field, soccer, football, etc., newer colleges and colleges without large sports budgets never started fencing programs and probably never will. Although there are fewer fencing programs and therefore fewer fencing scholarships than in many other sports, there are also disproportionately fewer fencers, so a high school fencer's chances of getting a fencing scholarship are actually much better compared with other sports. Now that I've piqued your interest, read on!
Because the academic standards of many of the colleges that have fencing programs - like the Ivies, MIT, and Stanford - are so high, applicants to these colleges have to be within a certain academic range to get past admissions offices' criteria regardless of their fencing expertise. The good news is that many fencing coaches can influence admissions decisions, and that this 'range' is often broadened or softened for recruitable athletes. The bad news is that if your grades and test scores are not even within that range, it is unlikely that the top schools will take you. The best way to find out what that range is (it differs for every school) and whether or not you hit the target, is to ask! Simply pick up the phone and call the fencing coach at your list of colleges or send them an email. It's actually a great way to introduce yourself.
The Ivies Don't Give Athletic Scholarships
Ivy League Schools make up 1/5 of the total fencing programs in the U.S. Although the Ivies do not give athletic scholarships, other colleges do, and there are often merit-based scholarships available for student athletes with decent grades and test scores at the Ivies. During the recruiting process, your college fencing coach can connect you with someone in the financial aid office to discuss options. Even if you are a really good fencer, this should be motivation to work as hard as you can on improving your GPA every step of the way.
Unique Features of the Fencing Scholarship & Recruitment Process
NCAA rules regarding university fencing have special features that make the process slightly different for fencing than other sports. Some of the most notable features of the NCAA fencing scholarship and fencing recruitment process include:
Initial contact: The NCAA allows Division I coaches to contact a fencing player with “nonathletic recruitment publications” such as forms, pamphlets, flyers, and questionnaires during the athlete’s sophomore year in high school; no personal contact is allowed until the athlete’s junior year. View the NCAA’s college-bound athlete guide for more information, including contact rules and timelines.
Recruitment periods: Serious recruitment for Division I college fencing begins on September 1 of an athlete’s junior year; at this point, both men’s and women’s fencing coaches are allowed to initiate contact with athletes. Official visits to Division I schools are allowed during a fencer’s senior year. For Division II programs, these steps in the recruitment process are technically allowed to begin at an earlier date. For full details, view the NCAA’s college-bound athlete guide.
“Equivalency” status: Division I and II fencing are considered “equivalency” sports by the NCAA, meaning that college coaches are allowed a set amount of full scholarships that they can “divide” among multiple players to a certain extent. Division I men’s fencing coaches are granted 4.5 scholarships; Division II men’s and women’s fencing coaches are also granted 4.5 scholarships. Division I women’s fencing coaches are allowed 5 scholarships.
Women’s fencing: The NCAA considers fencing “mixed team sport,” meaning that although championships also are held in men’s and women’s individual events, only one team champion is crowned for men and women. The NCAA has supported women’s fencing since 1990. For more information about women’s participation in NCAA college athletics, view the NCAA Women’s Sports Inventory and NCAA's Title IX resource center.
Commitments: Signing dates for college fencing programs begin in November of senior year and go through the August following an athlete’s senior year.
The Role of Recruiting Agencies in Finding a Fencing ScholarshipBecause fencing recruitment can be intimidating for athletes and their parents, many athletic recruiting agencies exist to assist all parties involved in the recruitment process.
Be forewarned that the value of mass-market recruiting agencies is highly debated and that coaches and players have mixed opinions on whether these agencies are “worth it” when it comes to the recruitment process. Although recruitment agencies can be helpful, they can also put the athlete at risk by not representing the athlete to the fullest or losing the “personal touch” of one-to-one recruitment. Whereas some coaches say that they “trust [agencies’] judgements and will take a look at the athletes sent our way,” others say that they immediately delete emails from agencies and consider them “equivalent to spam.”
With this in mind, it’s crucial that high school fencers do everything they can to help themselves stand out if they want a fencing scholarship. By establishing an online profile with detailed academic and athletic information, it's easier for college coaches to find and recruit them. A fencer’s online profile should include all basic athletic and academic information and records, as well as video clips. For help setting up your own online athlete profile, contact us.
What About a Recruiting Coach? There are some recruiting services or recruiting "coaches" that do not spam college coaches, and who can be very helpful in finding fencing scholarships. An example is Jack Renkens at Recruiting Realities. Although we do not endorse any one particular fencing scholarship advisor, we have found Jack to be the most knowledgeable - and the most realistic - of all recruiting advisors in the U.S.Greg Pereira, Athletics Recruiting
Why Do I Need an Online Profile?
Compared to other NCAA sports, fencing is a low/non-revenue producing sport -- meaning that college fencing coaches are operating with limited budgets and tight fencing scholarship budgets. With this in mind, it’s important that high school fencers do everything they can to make it easy for fencing coaches to find and offer them a fencing scholarship.
As a mixed team/individual sport, fencing is different than pure team sports when it comes to the recruitment process. College fencing coaches expect to have a set of fairly objective statistics about fencers (such as USA National fencing points you may have, wins, losses, and rankings) as well as basic information such as your weapon(s), height/weight, and information about your club and high school fencing coach. It’s critically important that athletes who are competing for fencing scholarships and college admissions based on sports participation establish a strong online presence for university coaches and recruiters. An fencer’s online profile should include grades, test scores, transcripts, film, and profiles in a single location. The objective of the profile should be to put the fencer’s best foot forward and make it easy for college coaches to say “yes.”
Why Should I Include Grades and Test Scores Within My Profile?
Because college coaches are required to maintain a minimum GPA among their team, they seek out high school athletes who show academic potential. For example, a college coach will choose a high school athlete with a higher GPA over an identical athlete with a lower GPA. Note that high school students must maintain a 2.3 GPA to compete during their freshman year of college for Division I sports; visit the NCAA’s 2point3.org website to learn more.
Given this scenario, it’s important that high school athletes include academic information in their online profile. In choosing an online profile tool, seek out a platform that allows you to attach and post (not just state) your official GPA and SAT/ACT scores. Like we do at Athletics Recruiting, make sure that confidential information is secure and password-protected.
Although the fencing recruitment process is competitive, with few scholarships available, it’s also exciting. As a high school fencer, your skills are your most important asset -- but your ability to package and present these skills, along with your grades, test scores, and statistics, is also extremely valuable. With the right online fencing profile, you have a better shot at standing out to coaches during the fencing recruitment process and get a fencing scholarship.