High school athletic directors and counselors play a vital role in preparing students for college academically. Below is an overview of the academic eligibility process to help guide student-athletes and ensure they are ready for college sports.
What Does Academic Eligibility Mean?
Academic eligibility is the status that determines whether a student will be able to practice and compete in varsity sports at the collegiate level – and is typically determined using some combination of a student-athlete’s SAT/ACT test scores, high school coursework, GPA, and in some cases class rank.
What is the NCAA Eligibility Center?
The NCAA Eligibility Center (EC) is responsible for determining the academic eligibility and amateurism status for all Division I and Division II student-athletes. The EC is responsible for holding students and universities accountable to the by laws created by the NCAA DI/DII higher ed member institutions, which is why initial eligibility rules for these divisions are different.
Initial Eligibility is based on high school academic progress and completion; and dictates whether or not a student can participate in NCAA DI/DII athletics or if they can take an athletic scholarship. Previously, this part of the NCAA was called the NCAA Clearinghouse.
NCAA Eligibility Center (EC) includes:
College-bound student-athletes who want to play NCAA sports at a DI or DII school need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center at eligibilitycenter.org. Students planning to compete at the NCAA DI or DII level should complete a certification account by the end of their sophomore year. For undecided students, they can sign up for an “undecided” account at no charge to receive their NCAA Identification number.
What is Needed to be Academically Eligible for NCAA?
For the NCAA, academic eligibility is typically determined using a combination of a student-athletes SAT/ACT test scores, high school coursework and their GPA as calculated using what are called the “NCAA Core Courses.”
The minimum GPA needed to be eligible for Division I sports is a 2.3 NCAA core GPA and a 980 SAT or 75 ACT sum score. At the Division II level, a 2.2 GPA is needed, with a 920 SAT or 70 ACT sum score in order to be eligible.
There are no NCAA course requirements for NCAA Division III eligibility as you must simply meet the admissions standards for the institution you wish to attend to compete with full eligibility in accordance with the NCAA academic requirements.
What are NCAA core courses and how do they count towards academic eligibility?
Most high schools in the U.S. have a list of approved core courses by the NCAA. These approved courses allow the NCAA to evaluate an athlete’s eligibility based on their academic classwork and grades. The NCAA requires core courses to:
To compete at an NCAA DI or DII school, students must complete 16 NCAA-approved core courses. Only courses that appear on a high school’s list of NCAA-approved core courses will count toward the 16 core course requirement.
Additionally, for students looking to compete at the NCAA DI level, 10 of those 16 core courses must be completed prior to their 7th semester of high school – and 7 of those 10 core courses must be in the subject areas of English, Math, or Natural/Physical Science. Once a student begins their 7th semester, any course that is needed to meet the NCAA 10/7 requirement cannot be replaced or repeated. Students with solely international academic credentials (including Canada) are not required to meet the 10/7 requirement.
It’s important to know that not all high school classes that count towards high school graduation will count as NCAA core courses. Schools submit course names through the NCAA High School Portal and receive one of three responses:
What are the Academic Eligibility Requirements for NAIA?
Prospective student-athletes looking to continue their athletic and academic pursuits at a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school have different eligibility standards they must meet from those we’ve outlined in the NCAA academic requirements.
Not only must they graduate from an accredited high school and be accepted as a regular student in good standing at a NAIA institution, but the student-athletes must also meet two of the three requirements outlined below to earn NAIA academic eligibility:
What are the Academic Requirements for Junior Colleges?
Governed by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), junior colleges or JUCOs are what many people refer to as “community colleges” – and their academic eligibility for JUCOs differs from NCAA and NAIA in several key respects.
For one, whereas the NCAA’s division-based eligibility requirements are consistent across member schools, JUCOs are allowed to set their own standards. Typically, these standards are easier to meet than those of the NCAA/NAIA, and students who fall short are sometimes offered special classes to meet the necessary qualifications post-enrollment.
What Makes a Student-athlete Ineligible?
If a student-athlete does not meet the minimum academic requirements set out by the NCAA, NAIA or NJCAA – they will not be able to take an athletic scholarship, compete or practice.
Best Practices for Schools
High school athletic directors and counselors are heavily involved in assisting college-bound student-athletes with the academic eligibility process. Maintaining your school’s NCAA and NAIA accounts to ensure they are accurate and up to date is extremely important. Both conferences allow for only two contacts at each school to be listed as the primary and secondary contacts on the NCAA Eligibility Center High School Portals.
Role of the Student-athlete
It is the responsibility of the student-athlete to understand the academic requirements and make sure they are on track to meet those requirements with the help of their high school guidance counselor and athletic director in addition to school administrators.
Steps include planning strategically and proactively ahead, taking the proper high school classes and taking them seriously and protecting their amateur status.
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