Paperwork - USA Athletics Scholarships

Anyone who has been through the university admissions and NCAA eligibility processes will know of the paperwork involved.  It is something that no-one enjoys but in order to be admitted into the US you have no choice but to fill these forms in correctly. Whilst some variation between schools does exist, this article will talk about some of the common processes that you will have to go through before heading out.

University Application Form

Once you have decided on a particular school then you must go through the admissions process. The admissions criteria will be outlined to you, and hopefully you will be in a position to meet this before making an application. Criteria aside, the application will involve filling out a university application form. These are usually available online within the department of the school you will be attending. The application may also require a processing fee.

If you are successful in your application then the school’s international office will send you an I-20 document. This is your key to America. You will need it to obtain a visa, and without it you will not get beyond airport customs..

National Letter of Intent

The National Letter of Intent is a student athlete’s written commitment to a particular institution. Much like footballers sign a contract when they join a club, a National Letter of Intent is a similar thing. Whilst these documents are not legally enforceable or compulsory, once you sign a sign a NLI then you may only receive scholarship at the school you have signed for.

NCAA Clearinghouse

In order to be deemed eligible to compete in intercollegiate sport, you will have to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse. It’s something that every student athlete will have to go through and is essentially a check of your eligibility status. It will mainly involve looking at academics and amateurism rules. It is here you will be required to declare any financial contracts or gains from running that you may have.

This process requires you to register with the NCAA and then complete a series of questions that will determine your eligibility. You also have to pay a registration fee of $75, something that a scholarship will not cover (Yes, there is no such thing is a full ride). For more information and to apply, click here.


Any student wishing to study at an academic institution in the US will require an F1 visa. The visa application is the final part of the process that you will undertake once everything else is in order regarding admittance into the university. Do not contact the US embassy or apply for a visa before being accepted into the university, as you will not get very far. Without the necessary paperwork and evidence of your admittance into a course of study, they will simply reject your application.

Once you have an I-20 form and are given the green light by the coaches and admissions staff then you are in a position to apply for a visa. Firstly you will need to schedule an interview at the US embassy (either in London or Belfast). You can only do this over the phone. The number charges £1.23 per minute and can last up to 15 minutes so you will want to make sure you get it right first time. The operator will give you full instructions on how to apply and will then schedule you an appointment.

The best advice we can give is to allow plenty of time for the visa process and to take it very seriously. Although it should be a mere formality, the strict rules make it very easy to slip up and the last thing you would want is to have to repeat the process.  You would not be the first person to have to defer or shelve their NCAA career completely as a result of a forgotten or lost document.

For more information on student visas, click here

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