Both the NCAA and the NAIA have a set of requirements that make an athlete academically eligible to play at the next level. For that reason, athletes need to pay close attention to their academic eligibility because it could affect their recruiting.
Many athletes aren’t academically eligible to play in college because they don’t know about the NCAA’s core-course GPA requirement. Typically, athletes tend to take classes to boost their overall GPA, but that doesn’t help them.
Why is that?
Because the NCAA only looks at their core-course GPA. So, it’s crucial athletes, and their families pay attention to their class schedules and the NCAA’s list of core courses.
We encourage athlete’s to start tracking and paying attention to their grades and class schedules as early as their freshman year in high school, especially if they’re interested in being an NCAA DI or DI athlete.
Mostly so they won’t run out of time to complete all of the NCAA’s core course requirements. Also, it gives them time to make sure they’re academically eligible.
Insider Tip: Calculating the NCAA’s core course GPA can be difficult, because of that we’ve broken it down for you here!
Are you Academically Eligible?
Becoming academically eligible is different for all three NCAA divisions and the NAIA, but we have the basics laid out for you below!
DI Eligibility Requirements
DI academic eligibility is probably the most complex and confusing. Below are the basic requirements:
- Graduate high school or have the equivalent of a high school diploma.
- Complete 16 core courses in the following:
- Four years of English
- Three years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
- Two years of natural/physical science (one year of lab science if offered at your school)
- One additional year of English, math or natural/physical science
- Two years of social science
- Four years of English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion, or philosophy.
- Earn at least a 2.3 GPA in core courses.
- Meet the DI ACT/SAT sliding scale that relates to your GPA.
- Complete 10 of the 16 required core course by the seventh semester in high school (senior year)
- Complete seven of the ten classes in English, math, and science.
Insider tip: If an athlete doesn’t meet the 2.3 GPA requirement but earns a 2.0 GPA with the equivalent ACT/SAT score they can practice and earn athletic financial aid the entire year. However, athletes can lose their athletic funds and practice ability if they aren’t academically successful in their first term in college.
DII Eligibility Requirements
- Graduate high school or have the equivalent of a high school diploma
- Earn at least a 2.2 GPA in core courses.
- Must complete 16 core courses:
- Three years of English.
- Two years of math. (Algebra 1 or higher)
- Two years of natural/physical science. (one year of lab science if offered at your school)
- Three additional years of English, math or natural/physical science.
- Two years of social science.
- Four additional years of English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion, or philosophy.
- Meet the DII ACT/SAT sliding scale that relates to your core-course GPA.
DIII Eligibility Requirements
Division III schools make up their academic eligibility requirements. The NCAA doesn’t have academic requirements since each institution is in charge of setting their own. So, if an athlete is interested in playing for an NCAA DIII institution, all they have to do is visit that school’s website and look at their academic requirements.
NAIA Eligibility Requirements
The NAIA is a much easier process to becoming academically eligible than the NCAA. There are only a few requirements every freshman must have to play at an NAIA institution.
- Graduate from an accredited high school.
- Be accepted as a regular student in good standing.
Additionally, athletes must meet two of the following three criteria:
- Achieve the minimum ACT/ SAT score.
- ACT: 18 composite score.
- SAT 970 between the evidence-based reading, writing, and math.
- A high school GPA of a 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
- Rank in the top 50% of your graduating class.
Insider Tip: Student-athletes who earned a 16 composite score on the ACT or an 860 from the critical reading and math sections on the SAT between March 1, 2016, and April 30, 2019, will be accepted.
What if You’re Not Academically Eligible?
Athletes who don’t meet the NCAA or NAIA academic eligibility requirements can go to a junior college for two years. That way athletes can compete while working towards academic eligibility. Additionally, not all junior college athletes are academically ineligible for an NCAA or NAIA institution sometimes it’s because they are unsure of their major or need more time to develop.
The basic academic eligibility requirements for a junior college are:
- Must meet entrance eligibility requirements, enrollment requirements, and accumulation requirements.
- Must be making satisfactory progress within an approved college program or course list at the junior college.
Additionally, athletes have the ability to attend a prep school, which allows them to boost their grades without wasting a year of athletic eligibility. The prep school option is great because athletes can postpone using their 5-year eligibility clock.
What is the 5-year eligibility clock?
Athletes have 5 years to use their 4 years of eligibility. Their eligibility clock starts either the moment they are a full-time student (taking 12 hours) following high school graduation or one year from the time they graduate high school. This is where a prep school could be a good option for those who need an extra year to develop academically or athletically without using their eligibility.
First of all, athletes must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center or the NAIA’s Eligibility Center. Learn more about the NCAA Eligibility Center to find out if you should create a profile page or a certification account.
Need help navigating the NCAA or NAIA Eligibility Center? Or have questions about the college recruiting process? Talk to an NSR scout today!