No one should take up rowing — or any sport for that matter — just because they (or their parents) think it will get them a scholarship or admission to a school that would otherwise be outside their reach. You have to love crew to excel at it.
That said, it is widely accepted that, of all the high school sports, women’s crew gives an athlete the greatest chance — by far — to be recruited and to participate in that sport at the varsity level in college. According to a survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations, 4,242 girls rowed in high school in 2013-14 (this does not includes high school athletes who row for clubs like CBC). That year, 2,080 athletic scholarships were available to girls who wanted to row at NCAA or NAIA schools, a 2:1 ratio of athlete to scholarship. This compares to a 46:1 ratio for women’s lacrosse, a 55:1 for field hockey, 40:1 for women’s soccer and 64:1 for track & field. (ScholarshipsStats.com)
This disparity between sports is due largely to the impact of Title IX, which was signed into law in 1972. Women’s Rowing is an NCAA sport. (Men’s crew is not.) The number of women’s college crew teams nationwide increased from 12 teams in 1991 to 146 teams in 2009. Colleges made women’s rowing a varsity sport — which allowed for more female scholarships — in large part so that they could balance out the numerous scholarships given to football players.
The NCAA caps the number of scholarships that can be offered for a particular sport. Division I colleges may award up to 20 scholarships per school for Women’s rowing. That is the second highest allotment of scholarships (after football) for any collegiate sport — men’s or women’s.
(A defining moment in Title IX’s impact on rowing occurred in 1976. You can read a short article about it here, watch the preview to a documentary about it here, or read a first-hand account in Olympic medalist Ginny Gilder’s book, Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX.)
Here are some links to college recruiting materials and collegiate rowing web sites:
Collegiate Recruiting Links:
NCAA Rowing Web Sites: