This fall, it is estimated that 10,000 women will enter college on athletic scholarships. The scholarships will range from partials of a few hundred dollars to full scholarships covering tuition, room, board and books.

That's quite a leap from the early '70s, when women were trying to break down barriers and the rallying cry was, "We're doing it for our daughters."

Daughters entering college next fall will, for the most part, have been born after Title IX of the Education Assistance Act was passed in 1972. This prohibited institutions receiving federal aid from practicing sex discrimination and opened up opportunities for women to participate in college sports and receive athletic scholarships. Although Title IX was weakened by the Supreme Court in 1984, the across-the-board application was restored with the Civil Rights Act of 1988.

Women have taken advantage of the opportunities created. Notes Merrily Dean Baker, assistant executive director for administration, National Collegiate Athletic Association: "Two-hundred women athletes represented the United States at the 1984 Olympics and they did very well. Of those 200, 180 trained at colleges that did not have programs for women before 1972." Jackie Joyner-Kersee, for instance, was one of the stars of those Olympics, as well as in the 1988 games. Before that, she was a star at UCLA, where she was on an athletic scholarship.

Dan Meier is a successful football coach at West Potomac High School in Alexandria. He's also a guidance counselor who helps male and female student athletes get scholarships. "Some people who want scholarships aren't going to get them," says Meier. Parents "need to get a fair and honest appraisal of skills from the high school coach, who will also be the contact person with colleges." Meier advises high schoolers and parents to make plans for college, particularly financial plans, without counting on getting an athletic scholarship. "If you get the scholarship, so much the better. If not, you'll still be able to go to college."

"Sometimes schools that students want to go to don't have a lot of scholarship money. But being an athlete can make a difference in getting accepted at colleges that are hard to get into. There's always the possibility of playing as a walk-on {non-scholarship athlete} and earning a scholarship."A scholarship, athletic or academic, is both a reward for past work and a commitment to continue that work.

Sanya Tyler is associate athletic director at Howard University and has been coaching the women's basketball team for 10 years. "There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the athletes," she says. "They'll be doing class work at a clinic across town then have to rush back and go right to practice." Her players are on full athletic scholarships at a cost of $9,600 each.

A glance through any women's team press guide will show majors ranging from business administration to zoology. Women's coaches cite 90 to 95 percent graduation rates for their athletes, compared with about a 50 percent rate for the typical freshman class.

Tracey Earley, for example, who is finishing up her master's degree at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, has been "playing basketball since I was 5." Earley graduated from Magruder High School in Rockville and went to George Washington University on a full basketball scholarship. She left as GW's all-time leading scorer with 1,602 career points, and with a degree in psychology. But it took work. "Even on road trips the books came along and we studied. When I see the free time I have now that I'm not playing and look at all I did then, well ... "

How do you go about finding a college that would be interested in your athletic ability?

One may already have found you.

Cinnamon Burnim had not planned on playing sports in college, but the night her Durham, N.C., high school volleyball team won the conference championship her senior year she received "an overwhelming number of offers" from colleges and universities. She decided on George Washington. "Ingrid Wicker from Durham was my idol when I was growing up. She was in high school when I was in junior high. I'd read about her in the paper and I wanted to be just like her. She called to ask if I would consider GW, where she was on the team."

Another reason she chose GW: She didn't want to play for a highly competitive program. "At the big schools, sports becomes your life. I think athletes are more exploited at those schools. I love to play, but it's not my life."

Burnim is majoring in journalism and wants to go into broadcasting.

"Recruiting is fairly heavy for the good athletes," says Ed Bouie, who has been coaching girls' track at Central High School in Prince George's County for 15 years. Thirty of his girls have gone on to college, most on some type of athletic scholarship. "Most of the good runners do go on to college. A lot of smaller colleges actively recruit and offer some type of aid. A partial scholarship may help a girl go to a college that costs more or to be able to go out of state."

Howard's Tyler recruits nationwide. Through scouting services, "I can get reports on the top 100 girls in any state, with their stats, height, grades, SATs." She also attends regional summer basketball camps, where she can see 300 kids playing in one day. She reports that some services start tracking girls as early as junior high. "There are no hidden girls out there."

Angellitta Elliott is on Tyler's Howard team. She transferred from Seneca College in Canada where she was in a two-year program. Elliott was interested in Howard because "they have a great social-work program," and she wanted to continue playing basketball.

But the girls Tyler wants for Howard may not want to go to Howard. With more information available nationwide, more coaches are going after the same top players.

Penny Moore was on every basketball coach's "most wanted" list when she was a senior at Jeb Stuart High School in Falls Church in 1987. She was a First Team All-American for USA Today, Parade and Street & Smith. She was a Washington Post All-Met pick for three years and led her school to a 29-1 record and the Virginia Class AAA title. She says coaches and recruiters were always at the house her senior year. "Three to four people were coming by every day. I wish I had signed a letter of intent a lot earlier. It would have taken a lot of pressure off."

With her mother's help, she narrowed her choices down to two: Long Beach State in California and the University of Virginia. She decided on Long Beach State. "I wanted to go to California, everybody in the East wants to go to California. I also like the run-and-gun style of play that they seem to do more of out West. I felt that would be better for me. Eastern schools use a lot more set play." Moore is in her last year at Long Beach, where she is majoring in criminal justice.

Even if you're not shooing coaches away, an athletic scholarship is still possible if you look in the right places.

Columbia Union College in Takoma Park is a 1,200-student, liberal-arts college started by the Seventh-Day Adventists. It is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), a group of about 500 small colleges, including many religious and traditionally black schools. Rick Murray is athletic director and recruits for all the sports. "I spend four months on the road traveling around the country," he says. "We have $500,000 for athletic scholarships but I have to recruit outside of the region. I can't get coaches in the area to return my phone calls. Everyone wants to play for the big NCAA programs." The NAIA holds regional and national championships for nine women's sports; more than 32,000 women participate in its varsity sports programs.

Murray says the women athletes at Columbia Union take their sports seriously even though the school competes at a less intense level than the big-name programs.

A college education doesn't have to start with a four-year program. A two-year community college can ease the transition from high school to college. Ronald Mann is athletic coordinator at Prince George's Community College and coaches the women's softball team. He says PGCC recruits heavily in the county to "try and keep the good athletes at home." Sometimes an athlete can improve her skills enough to get a scholarship at a four-year college for two or three years.

After selecting a few schools, have the high school coach write a letter to the college coaches pointing out your strengths.

College coaches also are asking for videotapes of recommended athletes and, notes Dan Meier, it can make a difference in getting a scholarship. "Sometimes you have to market a kid," he says.

But keep in touch with reality when filming. Rick Murray says sending a coach an all-star game film or a highlight tape is the worst thing you can do. "With a highlight film you don't know if it's one game or 12 games. I'd rather see tapes of two complete games, even if it includes mistakes. I want to see the general trend of the athlete's game. With a highlight film, you think you've got something that isn't really there. Then, when you go to see the girl play, it's a major disappointment. She can't live up to the expectations you have for her."

You also need to learn about the teams at the schools you've chosen. Call the athletic departments and ask for a copy of the media guide for the sport you're interested in. This usually contains a roster, short profiles of each of the players, a schedule of games and meets, and perhaps some past statistics on top players.

To get an idea of the skill required to be successful at the college level, and of the different levels of competition in college, take a family outing to a women's game or meet. There are a lot of very competitive teams in the area offering a variety of women's sports. Athletic departments can provide schedules.

With college costs soaring, there is a lot of competition for every type of financial assistance. Fortunately, how to compete and win is one of the first things an athlete learns. The female athlete has a head start.

Guides & Guidelines

Women's Athletic Scholarship Guide, published by the Women's Sports Foundation; send $2 for postage and handling to WSF, 342 Madison Ave., Suite 728, New York, N.Y. 10173, or call 1-800-227-3988. The guide lists colleges and universities that provide athletic scholarships for women and provides guidelines for a scholarship search and a set of questions to consider when looking at schools.

The Winning Edge: A Complete Guide to Intercollegiate Athletic Programs is available for $14.95 plus $1.50 postage and handling from Octameron Associates, P.O. Box 2748, Alexandria, Va. 22301. The 290-page manual provides a detailed list of colleges by sport, indicating level of competition, how many scholarships are offered, type of facilities available and more.

Sports Night. The Northern Virginia High School Football Coaches Association sponsors a sports night each December, inviting coaches from colleges within driving distance to meet with Washington-area athletes. Recruiters for women's sports are well-represented. For information, contact your high school coach.

Scholarship searchers. College Athletic Placement Service (CAPS), New Jersey, finds athletic scholarships for about 300 women a year. The fee is $500, and comes with a guarantee that it will find at least a partial scholarship. CAPS does screen applicants. For a CAPS forms package and more information, call 201-974-8500 or write P.O. Box 228, Spring Lake, N.J. 07762. While the NCAA does not prohibit or sanction scouting services, it does prohibit such services from receiving compensation based on the amount of the scholarship.

The NCAA's Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete summarizes the major rules and regulations covering college recruiting. A rules violation can bench an athlete and take away her scholarship, as well as cause problems for the school. High school coaches desiring the guide may contact the National Collegiate Athletic Association, P.O. Box 1906, Mission, Kan. 66201.