There are many opportunities to continue playing the sport you love after high school. Each level of competition brings different benefits for student-athletes. Playing at the NCAA Division I (DI) level can be exciting for students and their families, with nationally televised games, stadiums packed with fans and ample support ranging from athletic performance training, sports medicine, academic advising, extensive travel, nutrition and career development.
However, DI is not the only destination for sports after high school. NCAA DII, NCAA DIII, NAIA and community college/junior college (NJCAA, CCCAA, etc.) can offer a rich experience for student-athletes to compete and earn a college degree. Today, we’re going to highlight NCAA Division III college athletic programs, which can provide a more flexible experience, allowing student-athletes the opportunity to have a campus job, get an internship, study abroad and even join numerous clubs on campus.
There are more than 440 schools that compete at the DIII level. Visit the NCAA website for a complete list of DIII colleges. With close to 195,000 DIII student-athletes, about 1 in 4 students on a DIII campuses are student-athletes… the most in any NCAA division.
Maybe NCAA DIII is right for you!
Why NCAA DIII?
Many students choose to play at the DIII level because it provides a highly competitive athletic experience, while also allowing students to participate in college life to its fullest. DIII sports tend to travel more regionally, and their practice and competition seasons are shorter than at other levels. Being at the DIII level allows students more time to do research in a lab or volunteer at an organization close to campus. Research shows nearly ¼ of NCAA DIII student-athletes will study abroad during their college career, almost ½ will have a job and work 8 hrs/wk, and ¾ will do an internship.
Best Academic and Athletic Fit
Student-athletes often choose NCAA DIII colleges for the academic and athletic level that best fit their needs and aspirations. Student-athletes who have played their sport competitively for much of their life don’t have to give it up, just because they graduate from high school. Continuing an athletic lifestyle in conjunction with a college education allows students to stay disciplined, represent their college, continue developing as an athlete, engage with additional academic support and networks, have a family on campus, and enjoy four more years of high level competition.
With shorter practice sessions and playing seasons, DIII student-athletes can focus on their academics and college life. DIII schools tend to be smaller institutions with a high faculty to student ratio. With the average DIII institution enrollment being 1,751, the benefits include learning in a smaller classroom environment and developing meaningful relationships with faculty members. Establishing relationships with professors can also be integral in advising plans about graduate school, and 67% of DIII athletes say they will likely attend graduate school after their undergraduate degree is completed.
Will I get to compete at the NCAA DIII level?
The opportunity to play at DIII could be greater for you than at other divisions. Since there are no NCAA eligibility requirements to play at the DIII level, the rosters for DIII tend to be larger than DI or DII teams. DIII programs usually take more walk-ons or non-recruited students who try out for the team when they get to campus as freshmen. Oftentimes at a DIII school, you’ll find student-athletes playing multiple sports in college.
DIII coaches still recruit just like DI coaches and many could be on the sidelines watching your games. College coaches are looking for competitive athletes and will want to confirm you will be an active member on campus outside of your sport. Research shows that DIII student-athletes spend 40 hours on academics each week compared to 28 hours on athletics.
What if I’m not sure I want to continue to play a sport in college?
DIII could be the perfect spot for you! Student-athletes in college tend to graduate at a higher rate then the general student body and at the DIII level, those athletes graduate at a 5% higher rate than their non-athlete peers. Being part of a team (and the structure that goes along with it) can provide many benefits to your college experience. You will gain time management skills that will transition nicely to your professional life post college, and you will have an automatic group of peers to ease your transition from high school to college. These teammates could be your friends for life, and being part of a sport in college provides a support group that you can lean on. Being a member of a DIII program will also provide your first sense of community on the college campus and can help to give you the confidence to venture out to the greater campus community. Employers value the intangible skills developed by former collegiate student-athletes and research shows that 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs were former college athletes, many at the DIII level!
Can I afford to go to a DIII school since they don’t offer athletic scholarships?
While DIII schools do not offer athletic scholarships, 80% of DIII student-athletes receive some form of merit and/or “need” based assistance in the form of grants and loans. Additionally, since the practice and travel schedules for DIII student-athletes are not as demanding, they often have time to get a part time job to save money for tuition. There is also more time in summer to take classes, which might reduce the length of the college experience (and the bills associated with it).
Do I need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center to play DIII?
You do not need to create and pay for an NCAA Certification Account if you are planning to play at the DIII level. However, you can complete a free NCAA Undecided account here, which you can transfer to a paid certification account if you end up going to a NCAA DI or DII institution.
Schedule a time to meet virtually one-on-one with an Honest Game Counselor to discuss all of the options for playing sports in college. Set up a time to talk NOW!