NCAA schools require college-bound student-athletes to build a foundation of high school courses (core courses) to prepare them for the academic expectations in college. Previously, we discussed why high school course selection matters. Now we are now digging deeper into why you should care about NCAA Core Courses.
The NCAA requires freshman student-athletes entering NCAA Division I (DI) and Division II (DII) to complete 16 units (32 semesters) of NCAA-approved core courses. These courses must be completed on a specific timeline and in specific subject areas. The NCAA also requires a minimum core GPA to qualify, which is based on each student-athlete’s 16 NCAA-approved courses. Any courses taken that don’t fall into the designated 16 units will not count towards a student’s NCAA core GPA.
Students who meet the full DI or DII qualifier status have the ability to receive an athletic scholarship, practice, travel, and compete in their first year of enrollment in college. DI has an Academic Redshirt designation – where students who fall just short of Full Qualifier status can still receive an athletic scholarship and practice during their freshman year, but they cannot travel and compete. DII designates these students as Partial Qualifiers. Taking at least 4 units (8 semesters) of NCAA-approved core courses every year, starting the first year of high school, is key to staying on track.
When students fall off track, they can still get back by taking summer school and re-taking courses if they plan accordingly. Read more in “How To Do Reclassification Right” to learn what key things student-athletes need to pay attention to in order to stay academically eligible for college sports.
Generally, core courses must meet the below requirements to be approved by the NCAA. However, they must first be formally submitted by the individual high school and approved by the NCAA to gain official approval. Honest Game works with high schools to make sure their courses are accredited through the NCAA.
It’s important to note that not all high school classes are NCAA core courses. Some examples of courses that do not qualify as an NCAA core course include:
How To Plan Your High School Courses to Meet the 16 Core Course Requirement
NCAA DI and DII require 16 core courses to be a full qualifier. Check out the sample schedule below for an example of how to meet core-course requirements!
Do Courses Taken Before High School Count?
If you take a high school class is taken, such as Algebra I or Spanish I, before officially enrolling in high school in eighth grade, the class may count toward the 16 core courses if it appears on your high school’s list of NCAA-approved core courses and is shown on your high school transcript with grade and credit.
Do Online Courses Count?
Nontraditional courses are taught online or through distance learning, hybrid/blended, independent study or individualized instruction. Generally, for a nontraditional course to count as an NCAA-approved core course, it must meet ALL of the following requirements:
Can College Courses Be NCAA Core Course Eligible?
College courses may be used to satisfy NCAA core course requirements if the courses are awarded a grade and credit by the high school for any student and meet all other requirements for core courses. College courses must be placed on the student’s high school transcript with clarification of college completion, and must be completed prior to initial full-time enrollment at a 4 year college or university.
If the college course does not appear on the high school transcript, it may not be used towards NCAA initial eligibility standards, but it could be used for continuing eligibility standards once you enroll at a 4-year institution.
Make sure to have your college transcripts sent to the college you enroll in for freshmen year so those credits can be applied towards your NCAA continuing eligibility standards. Once you graduate from high school, taking a full load of college courses (usually 12 or more credits) could trigger full time enrollment so make sure to monitor how many credits in total you have and when they are taken.
Need to know if your current course schedule meets the NCAA requirements? Honest Game Counselors are here to help navigate course selection and schedule planning for NCAA Eligibility. Schedule a time to meet virtually with our experts.
By Shanay Howard, Honest Game Senior Manager – Lead Counselor
As a licensed school counselor, Shanay has directly advised more than 1,000 high school students on college admissions, academic eligibility and athletic recruiting. Interested in virtual counseling with Shanay? Sign up here.