Do college cheerleaders get scholarships? (Explained!)

You’ve been researching colleges and want to know if you can receive a scholarship as a cheerleader. Do college cheerleaders get scholarships?

do college cheerleaders get scholarships

Most colleges offer limited cheerleading scholarships to candidates, but receiving a cheerleading full-ride scholarship is rare. Cheer scholarships tend to favor men over women, meaning participants must supplement their tuition costs with money from additional sources or social media exposure.

Since its humble beginnings in the 19th century, cheerleading has evolved from a few sideline shouts of positive encouragement to full-fledged dance and tumble numbers filled with dangerous air-defying tricks. Cheerleading coaches choreograph dance steps with the precision of high-powered offensive coordinators.

Yet, while many cheer programs have become more complicated, the application and scholarship process is also more difficult. These student-athletes have to be more informed about the dynamics of the cheerleading scholarship process than ever before. So, how do cheerleaders receive scholarships? What rules must colleges follow when recruiting local high school seniors? Well, we have the answers to all your cheerleading scholarship questions right here. 

Do Colleges Offer Cheerleaders Scholarships?

Many Division 1 colleges offer cheerleading scholarships. Many universities provide limited financial aid programs for incoming college students who meet the qualifications. While the cheerleading scholarship programs vary depending on the size of the school, the amount of the scholarship is usually small and reserved for specific student-athletes.

The truth is that coaches prioritize scholarships based on all kinds of criteria, from cheerleading abilities, dance skills, participation at college clinics, and academic excellence to even performance in competitive cheerleading programs.  

GameDay Culture - Appalachain State Cheerleaders pregame

Do More Men or Women Receive Cheerleading Scholarships?

While college cheerleading scholarships are offered, as a general rule, male student-athletes tend to be more likely to receive scholarship money than female cheerleaders. Part of the reason is there are fewer spots for men on the cheer team, so the competition is not as great. Men are harder to recruit to be a part of the cheerleading team (except for very high-profile Div. 1 teams), so men would be expected to receive the bulk of any funds available. 

In addition, since cheerleading is not a sanctioned NCAA sport that is required to receive funding from the university, many cheer programs are not the priority of college athletic departments. Scholarship-funding coaches tend to put their resources to work in other sports that support the university’s competitive teams.

Do Colleges Give Out Full Ride Scholarships for Cheerleading?

Rarely will a student receive a full-ride scholarship for cheerleading at a four-year institution. Most cheer students are forced to supplement the cost of their tuition with academic scholarships, work-study programs, or online marketing through social media and product endorsements. 

Prospective cheer students should meet with the college’s admissions counselor to explore ways to supplement a university-administered cheerleading scholarship. Colleges often have competitive financial aid packages that can provide money toward expenses. In short, you may have to fund your college tuition from multiple sources rather than relying on a cheerleading scholarship. 

Why Doesn’t the NCAA Recognize Cheerleading As A Sport?

The NCAA does not recognize cheerleading as a bonafide sport, partly because some colleges elevated their cheer squads to varsity status at the expense of adequately funding other officially sanctioned women’s sports. (The NCAA has strict rules about what activities can qualify as a sport).

Even though the members of the NCAA have made advancements with their recent “Emerging Sports for Women” initiative, it will be some time before cheerleading even comes close to being recognized as a sport in the eyes of the NCAA.

This fact is not to say that college cheerleading scholarship opportunities don’t exist because they do. Many colleges have some form of limited cheerleading-related scholarships that interested high school seniors can apply for. While the distribution of monies may not be as great as a full-fledged athletic scholarship, they are just as valuable as any other form of tuition assistance.  

What Does The Lack of NCAA Rules Mean For College Cheerleading?

The lack of NCAA regulations also means that cheerleaders are free to pursue the promotion of themselves in any manner they wish. Even before the recent ruling allowing college athletes to sign NIL contracts to be paid for using their name, image, or likeness on product endorsements, some cheerleaders were making large amounts of money marketing themselves. 


Places like TikTok, Instagram, and other social media applications were replete with cheerleaders offering up the latest influencer videos. Some high-profile college cheerleaders developed almost rockstar followings, signing autographs, attending corporate events, and promoting products as a part of their self-promotions. 

The caveat to all the social marketing is to reassure the coaches that their college cheer programs are the priority. You will have to ensure that as a student-athlete, you will never miss practice or put your promotion above the cheer team. While the college coaches may be happy for the increased exposure you can bring to the cheerleading program, they are more interested in running practices with every one of the team members present.

The lack of regulations means there are no stipulations about when, where, or how a cheer coach can communicate with student-athletes interested in joining their cheer squad. This condition opens the door to additional opportunities for recruits to explore what cheerleading and academic scholarships colleges offer and how best to immerse themselves into the cheerleading program. 

How Do You Get A Cheerleading Scholarship?

There are a variety of ways that you can increase your chances of landing a college cheerleading scholarship for cheerleading. 

Become Familiar With The Program

One of the most important things is to raise your profile with college cheerleading coaches. It is a good idea to develop quality relationships with the individuals involved in the cheer program, particularly the current student-athletes on the team. The information you can glean from those close to the program is invaluable. 

cheerleaders 1

Be willing to learn the college’s criteria to evaluate talent and award cheer scholarships. Learn how likely it is to receive scholarship money and observe a practice or two (if you have permission to do so), so you can get a feel for how grueling the routines are. Some programs participate in national competitions that provide opportunities to meet and speak with the coaching staff and team. 

Learn the Requirements for Admission

Many universities will show interest in recruiting student-athletes because they are familiar with the talent displayed by prospects in clinics, cheer competitions, and even through videos submitted directly to the school. Since the more competitive the program, the more particular college coaches can afford to be, it helps to learn what the program requires. Coaches highly admire recruits who show initiative by sending demonstration videos of themselves, attending cheer clinics that might be offered or even performing in nationally recognized events like NCA college nationals competitions.   

Be Prepared to Apply for More Than A Cheerleading Scholarship

Due to the small cheerleading scholarship budgets that most colleges have, any prospective student-athlete may want to apply for any other academic scholarships that are available as well. Colleges prioritize high school seniors with academic merit and are willing to allow applicants to stack money from multiple sources. If your transcript shows you to be in good academic standing, then additional financial aid may be just a matter of filling out another form. 

Key Takeaways

  • Most colleges provide tuition scholarships for cheerleading, although funds are often limited.
  • Schools tend not to offer full-ride scholarships for college cheerleading programs.
  • Social media presence and promotional marketing are innovative ways for cheerleaders to make money toward tuition costs.
  • Prospective college cheerleaders should be prepared to perform in competitions and clinics and submit videos to increase their visibility in front of college cheer coaches.
  • Academic achievement is also essential in receiving scholarship money. 

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