Many student-athletes dream of continuing to play their sport in college, but some may find themselves off track for NCAA academic eligibility upon high school graduation. Often by the time student-athletes and parents realize they’re missing academic eligibility requirements, it’s usually too late to fix.
Don’t assume that academic eligibility is something that can wait until later— the clock begins the first year of high school. When you enter ninth grade, you have four years (eight semesters) to complete your core-course requirement.
By taking charge of your academic plans now, you can ensure access to future college opportunities. It’s surprising how quickly students can turn their academic record around with extra course work!
Key Steps to Staying on Track with Academic Eligibility
Understand the Academic Requirements for College Athletics
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.
Honest Insight – Standardized test scores (SAT/ACT) are excluded from NCAA initial-eligibility criteria for students who initially enroll full-time in an NCAA school during the 2022-23 and 2023-2024 academic year (anticipated to be approved April 2022). However, colleges and/or scholarship programs may still require test scores. Upcoming ruling in 2023 from the NCAA could completely waive test scores for academic eligibility moving forward may result in more emphasis on NCAA GPA and coursework. Get ahead of the game and make sure you’re on track with your NCAA required credits.
The academic eligibility requirements are unique to each association and student-athletes must meet different requirements depending on which level the prospective school competes at. Learn the specifics for eligibility requirements for each association and competition level in “Academic Eligibility 101”.
Know Where Your Grades Stand
Not knowing your academic status is scary and many students and guardians are afraid to even admit there might be an issue. To simplify the eligibility process, Honest Game CARE® (College Athletic Report on Eligibility) provides an individualized report with a student-athlete’s academic eligibility status and a clear outline of short-term goals in order to be eligible at each level for college sports. CARE® is downloadable and easy to share with parents/guardians and high school administrators (AD, coach and school counselors) to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Aaron Warren, a senior at Morgan Park High School and quarterback of the school’s football team, is just one example of academic ineligibility wreaking havoc on a student’s potential post-secondary career. Warren has always dreamed of playing at the next level – but he and school staff assumed his Grade Point Average (GPA) was not quite good enough to qualify for an athletic scholarship. After using Honest Game to review his transcripts, it became clear Warren did in fact have a chance to attend college on an athletic scholarship. The news motivated Warren to pursue his academic goals.
“It was a huge deal for him. Seeing his potential path to play in college not only motivated him and gave him confidence, but he ended up spreading that sense of pride and motivation to the rest of his teammates while encouraging them to prioritize their academic careers,” said Chris James, Morgan Park head football coach. “Thanks to Honest Game, Aaron Warren and other students like him can see clearly what’s required of them in the classroom to compete at the next level, and ultimately open the door to bigger opportunities post-high school.”
Strategize How to Get or Stay on Track
Just because you have earned good grades in their high school courses, does not mean that you will be academically eligible to play sports in college.
Depending on the grades received and the classes taken, you may need to replace any low grades earned to improve your NCAA GPA or take additional courses to catch up on specific area credits.
When students fall off track, they can still get back by taking summer school or attending a virtual school if they plan accordingly.
When to Take High School Summer School Courses
Summer school is often your easiest path to becoming academically eligible. High schools usually offer summer school programming, however, be careful about what course(s) you choose.
Honest Insight: Consider the subject area(s) you need in order to meet NCAA credit requirements and ensure that your summer school courses are NCAA-approved.
Many high schools offer credit recovery or credit retrieval programs for students to receive credit for a course they previously failed. Some high schools will make an exception and allow you to take a specific NCAA-approved course at school. Ask your counselor if that’s possible.
Enrolling in a Virtual (Nontraditional) Summer School
Are you too busy with summer athletic commitments? Does your school not offer in-person course options?
If you are unable to take the specific course(s) you need in-person at school there are other options.
If your school does not offer NCAA-approved courses in the summer, students may take NCAA-approved courses with a virtual school. The virtual courses need not count toward your school’s graduation credits, however, the virtual school transcript must be submitted separately to the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Several schools, including Fusion Academy offer NCAA-approved courses. These online schools don’t have to be affiliated with your high school to get you NCAA credit. However, if you need the credit for both high school graduation and NCAA credit, you should confirm with your counselor what online schools are approved for use at your specific high school.
For a nontraditional program to be approved, the courses must meet the following requirements:
Virtual courses require self-direction and motivation. For many students, in-person courses have a better rate of success, however, others thrive in the virtual learning environment. If virtual learning is your best option, dedicate yourself to your virtual courses so you don’t waste valuable time and money.
Some students will need to take summer school every year to catch up on NCAA requirements. It sounds daunting but consider the alternative – not getting any NCAA scholarship offers or learning you can’t take the offers you got because you didn’t meet the academic requirements.
Don’t wait another minute to get on track with academic eligibility for college sports. Need help choosing your summer school courses and virtual school? Contact us.
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, Joyce has advised more than 2,000 high school student-athletes on academic eligibility and recruiting.