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Understanding the NCAA Eligibility Requirements

Here at Leaders of Evolution, we are dedicated to building successful leaders and student-athletes through our online courses. We strive to help students navigate their journey from high school sports to the NCAA.

As proud partners of the NCAA, we want to aid students in their understanding of the eligibility requirements for all students, whether they are first-year, transfer, or returning student-athletes.

NCAA Eligibility Requirements for Athletic Students in College | NCAA Eligibility Center

NCAA Eligibility Requirements for Athletic Students In College

In order to become eligible to compete in NCAA sports, student-athletes need to start preparing and begin their journey as early as freshman year at high school. Around grade 9 or grade 10, students should begin to decide what level they want to play at. There are different requirements for students wishing to play Division I, versus the requirements for those who wish to play at Division II or Division III.

By making this decision early, students can guarantee that they stay on track to graduate and be eligible for the NCAA. Many students register with the Eligibility Center when they are in grade 10. Keep reading to learn more information about registering through the Eligibility Center.

The NCAA has labeled some high school classes as core classes. In order to become eligible, student-athletes must fulfil the requirements and take enough core classes during their time in high school. These core classes include English, Math (Algebra I or higher), Natural of Physical Science, Social Science, Foreign language, Comparative Religion and Philosophy.

This list does not include high school classes such as drivers education, music, physical education, finance, typing and video editing. To become a Division I athlete, students must complete at least 16 core courses and earn at least a 2.3 GPA in those core courses. 

Also, around grade 11, student-athletes should begin to take the ACT or SAT for their first time. Students will submit their test scores to the NCAA using the specific code, “9999”. If students are not satisfied with their ACT or SAT scores, they may take them again later that year or during grade 12. 

At the end of grade 11, students should ask their guidance counsellor to upload their official transcripts to the NCAA Eligibility Center. The students’ high school should be able to send your transcript for free through the school’s online portal.

The Eligibility Center then reviews the student-athletes’ transcript to confirm that they have taken enough NCAA core classes, have a high enough GPA, and are on track to graduate next year.

In grade 12, students will be finishing up their high school careers. This year can include students finishing their NCAA core classes, taking the ACT or SAT again if needed, and also starting to complete their questions and forms through the Eligibility Center. Once students have graduated, they will need to send their final official transcript and show proof of graduation to the Eligibility Center.

Remaining Eligible

The NCAA is very determined in not only having students succeed in their respective sport, but also have students succeed in the classroom. Therefore, the NCAA has created policies for staying on track to graduate. If students do not meet these requirements, then they are no longer eligible to compete in their respective sport. Depending on which division student-athletes play for, they have different requirements that they need to fulfill every season.

Division I

In order for student-athletes in Division I to be eligible for their respective sport, they need to complete at least 20% of their required degree coursework per year. Because Division I student-athletes are given five years of athletic and financial eligibility, they are required to finish at least 40% by the end of their second year, 60% by the end of their third year, and so on. For each term, students are also required to complete at least six credit hours and meet the minimum GPA standards for their school graduation. 

Division II

Students participating in a Division II athletic program have similar standards to those of Division I programs. However, student-athletes in Division II must complete at least nine credit hours each term and must earn a minimum of 2.0 GPA each year. In addition, student-athletes must complete at least 24-semester hours or 36-quarter hours of degree credit each academic year. Credit hours are counted either as semester hours or quarter hours based on the Division II school a student attends. All Division II students are only allowed four seasons of competition over the first 10 semesters or 15 quarters. 

Division III

Finally, Division III eligibility standards are not as defined as Division I and II. Instead, there are no minimum national standards for maintaining a student’s athletic eligibility. The student-athletes just need to be in “good academic standing” according to the university they attend. In addition to this, Division III student athletes must be enrolled in at least 12 semester hours per term. 

NCAA Eligibility Requirements for Athletic Students in College | NCAA Eligibility Center

NCAA Eligibility Center

In order to play an NCAA sport, students should coordinate with the Eligibility Center, a resource which certifies that students are eligible to play in the NCAA. The Eligibility Center reviews a student-athletes high school transcript, their SAT or ACT scores, and amateur status. For those students who are only interested in playing a sport at a Division III university, they just need to create a free profile page through the Eligibility Center. However, only students who wish to play for a Division I or Division II school need to register through the Eligibility Center.

Registering for Division I or II

Before you decide which Division I or II school you want to compete for, student-athletes must be certified by the Eligibility Center. Student-athletes should create a Certification Account, in which they will be asked to fill out information regarding their academics and athletics throughout high school. Also, ACT and SAT scores and official transcripts can be sent through the student’s Certification Account. Finally, students can request an amateurism certification, meaning that they are an amateur student- athlete and have not been paid or compensated for their participation in their respective sport. 

In order to create a Certification Account through the Eligibility Center, students must pay $90 if they are from the United States or Canada and $150 if they are international students. However, the registration fee for a Certification Account can be waived for those students who have received a waiver for the SAT and ACT fee.

Division III

As participation in a Division III sport is less time commitment and usually less competitive, students who want to compete at this level do not have to register for a Certification Account and therefore do not need to pay the registration fee. Instead, student-athletes should create a free profile page through the Eligibility Center. Once you create a profile page, students will get an NCAA ID number. This ID number allows universities to recruit athletes by seeing their athletic and academic abilities. 

In the event that a student creates a free profile page, but later decides that they want to attend a Division I or Division II school, that student can always transition to a Certification Account later down the road. 

Leaders of Evolution

Here at Leaders of Evolution, we know that there are many eligibility requirements and regulations for student-athletes wanting to participate in the NCAA. We also want to make the transition from high school to college sports as easy as possible for student-athletes. Therefore, we have summarised the full rules and regulations for NCAA student-athletes on our page. Leaders of Evolution also has e-learning courses on “Emerging Leaders in Sports” and “Student Leadership in Schools”. For more information or to sign up for a free taster course, click here.

student leadership, athlete development, Learning Management System

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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We expertly design and deliver technology enhanced e-learning courses focused on leadership, social and emotional learning, career readiness and sports coaching for students, teachers, athletes, coaches and the wider community.

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Rachel Richards

Interested in sports communication and digital media. Rachel loves to travel with her family, and go to concerts and music festivals with her friends. She is always interested in discovering local coffee shops and drinks tea with every meal.

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