It Begins in Ninth Grade

  • High school students, who desire to become college-bound student-athletes, will need to meet admissions and athletic participation requirements, whether they hope to win college admission and scholarships with their athletic ability or just want to play on a college team. Athletic participation obligations may include:

    • The involvement and influence of coaches (high school and college) in the student's college search and application process
    • Application timeline differences
    • Academic preparation requirements include national athletic association requirements, in addition to high school graduation requirements

    Starting in 9th grade, student-athletes need to research the athletic associations' academic eligibility requirements. Student-athletes should work with their coach, alpha counselor, and parents to develop a strategy for transitioning and researching a college athletic program. During the college search and application process, remember sports are not the only part of an athlete's decision. Student-athletes are not only choosing a team but a college as well and all the attributes that are a part of the college campus experience, like the location, enrollment, major, and student life. See Student-Athletes: Choosing a College.

    College Athletic Associations

    College intercollegiate teams are organized into associations. The three largest — NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA — are also called conferences. These organizations set the rules regarding recruiting, eligibility requirements, and athletic scholarships for member colleges.

    The NCAA members include the largest colleges.

    NCAA Division I colleges are very competitive athletically, can offer full and partial athletic scholarships (partially funded by the NCAA), and have academic eligibility requirements.

    NCAA Division II colleges are less competitive than Division I and have different eligibility guidelines and financial aid offerings.

    NCAA Division III colleges have no academic eligibility requirements and no NCAA-funded financial aid. (However, the colleges can offer scholarships of their own.)

    Core courses

    Prospective Division I and II athletes need to take NCAA-specified core courses beginning in ninth grade. See NCAA Course Work Requirements for more information. Other colligate associations may require core courses for participation.