Should Parents encourage their children towards US University sports scholarships?

A parent’s perspective on University education overseas

Harvard Rowing Crew at Henley 2004

Peter O’Connor has two sons over at Harvard University so he sees this overseas education as a great opportunity. There are many advantages of studying abroad. For one, the status of US Universities is much higher than any in New Zealand and Harvard itself is often ranked as the best University in the world.

The facility to easily combine top level studies in a broad range of subjects with top sport is well done at places like Harvard but not available in New Zealand and the level of sports training, equipment, and competition available far exceeds anything available here. The sport scholarship or financial aid packages that are available in the States helps students to save so much money compared to paying for a New Zealand University tuition where the majority of students get student loans. Peter says that an emphasis on striving for excellence in everything students do is something New Zealand Universities lack – they, focus on one thing at a time.

Peter really believes in the combination of overseas education “to learn something about everything and a lot about something.” ethos. In Harvard, once your entry has been earned, a financial assessment is made and fees are set according to individual circumstances.  Thus it is not really a “sports scholarship” as commonly understood. The sporting prowess of students gains a lobby of support from that sport when making the application to enrol.  This is a big help, but other requirements also have to be fulfilled. For example, sitting their SATs and having well rounded qualities.

Problems for those abroad occur in their home country if the rowers want to come back and row for the Under 23s.  Rigid policies of training locations, attendance at several sets of trials, make it very difficult for those attending University overseas, to row for their country.

Peter’s sons gain lots of contacts and friends from studying abroad that will be influential in their future lives but Peter also believes that his sons will gain advantages by having a top class degree from one of the best Universities in the world.  The fact that they will not have to pay off a student loan means they are able to have more choices after they graduate without having to worry about their financial situations.  Peter also mentions that the life experience offered from their overseas educational time, such as self-reliance, the ability to live in foreign countries, the ability to make new friends from other cultures, gives an advantage to enhance employment prospects as well.

Being overseas will give them better rowing coaching and racing that will enhance the chance of competing at the top world levels, if they get the opportunity and have the willingness to trial.

Studying abroad also gives his sons the chance to participate in top “world” regattas such as “the Head of the Charles”, Henley Royal Regatta, Canadian Henley, East Coast sprints, Harvard vs Yale and the IRA championships.

For other parents with children that can take the opportunity to use sport to get an overseas education Peter would strongly advise them to take advantage of it. There would have to be very good reasons not to take advantage of this system with Universities offering generous financial assistance. Even if they go to a University with no financial help it is still a really good option. The financial aid is more “needs based’ than a typical “Sports Scholarship” and that makes a difference. Otherwise, there was no way Peter was going to put any impediment in the way of his boys taking advantage of the chance of attending a top overseas University.

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