Published on August 31, 2021
Reclassification among student-athletes has become very popular in the last couple of years. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of student-athletes choosing to reclassify has skyrocketed.
Students choose to reclassify for many different reasons, but it’s important to pay attention to a few key things to ensure you are maintaining your NCAA eligibility.
Simply put, reclassification means your official high school graduation date is different from a typical four-year high school start. This could mean graduating earlier than your classmates or graduating later because you took the same classes over again and/or repeated a year in high school.
Before deciding to reclassify, students and parents should have a clear plan and be aware of what is necessary to ensure full-qualifier status upon graduation.
Why? Because NCAA Division 1 (DI) follows a strict timeline for courses and credits. The academic eligibility clock for DI schools starts your first year of high school and counts 4 years from there. This means the NCAA DI is only going to evaluate your high school courses taken during your first four years of high school. Here are a couple of scenarios to keep in mind:
No matter the scenario, all student-athletes looking to play in college must meet the NCAA’s 16 core course requirements. An NCAA DI college may choose to apply for a waiver with the NCAA if they can argue extenuating circumstances, however, you should never assume you will get a college to file a waiver for you. Waivers are used very rarely.
If you repeat a grade, and you have earned grades of D or higher, don’t repeat those same courses (unless you are ahead in your credit count). Take different courses so you can continue earning NCAA credits toward your requirements. NCAA will not grant credit for the same course taken twice. By junior or more likely senior year, when the NCAA reviews your profile, it is often too late to make up the credits. Don’t be one of the many reclassified students, who find out too late that they are short the required credits and can’t play NCAA DI sports.
The NCAA expects students to enroll in college within one year following their high school graduation. Some sports have an even shorter timeframe than that.
Any longer than one year, and students must sit out their first year at college. The NCAA also counts one season of competition for every year they compete. So for those who graduate high school early, this doesn’t mean they get an additional year to delay their collegiate enrollment.
Knowing these rules is important and unfortunately many families aren’t aware until it’s too late. Each year a student plays after their one year off, they will be charged a year of eligibility. NCAA full qualifier status also includes playing eligibility. You could be academically eligible but only approved for 3 years of playing if you did not enroll in college during the appropriate time frame.
For some students, choosing to take an NCAA course after graduation can help boost their NCAA GPA. It’s also possible to re-take the SAT/ACT.
The important thing to know is that you must have officially graduated from high school on time if you’re going to need additional course work to gain NCAA eligibility. If you meet your NCAA eligibility requirements after your first four years of high school, but don’t graduate on time, it is imperative that you make sure you meet your NCAA core course requirements during the first 4 years while also taking into account delayed enrollment rules at your high school, and/or state athletic association.
For those student-athletes who did not graduate high school in 4 years after entering 9th grade and are not on track for NCAA DI eligibility, not all hope is lost! You can still explore options at NCAA DII, NCAA DIII, Junior College, or NAIA schools and then transfer to an NCAA DI school after meeting the transfer requirements.
Whether student-athletes choose to reclassify or attend a postgraduate or prep school, having a plan is key. Know the NCAA rules and the timeline for DI, maintain constant communication with the institution you plan on attending, and make sure you are on the right path. Honest Game can help!
By Joyce Anderson, Honest Game Co-founder and COO
Having served on the NCAA Eligibility Center High School Advisory Board and as the College Bound Student-Athlete Advisor at Evanston Township High School (Evanston, IL), Joyce has advised more than 2,000 high school student-athletes and families on academic eligibility and recruiting.