College Fencing Scholarships & Recruiting Information

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we'll explore the world of collegiate fencing and the opportunities that exist for young athletes to use their fencing prowess to help pay for their college education.

College Fencing Scholarships

Today more than ever, a college education can be incredibly expensive. It's the rare student that can afford to pay for it all up front. Most have to resort to student loans or apply for a variety of scholarships or grants that can help defray the high cost of a quality education.

For the dedicated and physically talented, there are scholarships that will help pay for some--if not all--of a student's education, if the student participates in intercollegiate sports. While you may be familiar with scholarships for sports like football or basketball, there are scholarships available to athletes in more obscure sports. Let's discuss college fencing scholarships and the steps student-athletes can take to secure one.

NCAA Fencing

To the untrained eye, fencing might look like sword fighting with fancy car antennas. In reality, it is an extremely quick and challenging sport, requiring lightning quick reflexes, strategy, and lots and lots of training. Though it is included in the Olympic Games, fencing is not a major spectator sport.

Despite its relative obscurity, there are plenty of programs that offer scholarships for the best high school fencers in the country. Collegiate fencing is sanctioned and governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). According to the NCAA, there are 34 men's teams and 43 women's teams that compete at the highest levels of college fencing, Divisions I & II. The NCAA's Division III of fencing consists of 15 women's teams and 12 men's teams. Big name schools like Stanford or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offer fencing programs, but smaller schools like Hunter College or Lafayette College are also in the big-time fencing game.

The school you choose to apply to can affect whether or not you can get a scholarship. Division I women's teams can offer 5 scholarships to fencers at any one time, while Division I men's teams and Division II men's and women's teams can offer 4.5 scholarships. Division III schools--and not just in fencing, but across all NCAA sports--cannot offer scholarships to student-athletes.

Considering the scarcity of scholarships on offer for fencing and the handful of schools that participate, these scholarships tend to go to only the best high school fencers. Competition for these scholarships can be tough, and college coaches and scouts spend large portions of their time recruiting the best high school athletes. Performing particularly well at high profile tournaments or matches is a great way to get yourself noticed. Talk to your coach--he may even be able to set up some interviews or visits with college coaches he knows, or give you some inside information on how to get noticed.

So, the best strategy for obtaining a free education is to hone your craft and become the best fencer you can be! Through hard work, determination, and a little luck, you can attain a college fencing scholarship. But what if, even with all that, you still struggle to land somewhere? Here are some other strategies that may help you attain a college fencing scholarship.

Independent Scholarships

If you are an experienced fencer, you likely know that the NCAA is not the only game in town. There are various fencing organizations, some connected to the national organization, USA Fencing, as well as others run by private citizens, that have an interest in growing the game. Some of these organizations put up money to support promising young fencers. For example, the Fencing Institute of Texas gives out two $500 scholarships each year to fencers enrolled in a college or university.

There are also fencing tournaments where one can win important scholarship funding. For example, at Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, the top finishers of the annual Williams Scholarship Fencing Tournament take home a share of $10,000 in scholarship money.

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