When it comes to playing college sports, one term that gets tossed around a lot is eligibility. What does it mean? Who is in charge of determining it? What do you need to do today to make sure you are heading in the right direction in terms of college eligibility?
Before trying to understand all the nuances of college eligibility, the best route to take is to get the best grades possible and do your very best work academically while in high school.
Every grade will either help or hurt your eligibility, but, just as important, every grade has the opportunity to help you receive more financial aid for college and potentially help you with jobs later.
Beyond the right grades, you also need to take the correct courses because not every grade is evaluated the same in determining eligibility.
With that said, this is an attempt to simplify the terms and the process of becoming an eligible student athlete at the different collegiate levels. It may seem like a lot of words, but you can skim through and still get the essence of what you need in order to be an eligible college student athlete.
College sports are controlled by governing bodies. To most, the familiar ones are the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA and the NCCAA. All governing bodies come up with the rules and governing structures for the colleges they oversee. Here are the governing defined:
These governing bodies come up with the rules of eligibility. A simple definition of eligibility is the following:
Eligibility – qualified to participate in college sports.
This is where it begins to get tricky. Every governing body has different rules for student-athlete eligibility. Even different levels within the same governing body may differ in eligibility requirements, so it will always be best to ask a lot of questions when it comes to eligibility.
Let’s break it down by division. All of your questions may not get answered here, but this will hopefully shed some light on the topic of eligibility.
What is needed to become eligible to play collegiately at the NCAA level?
Take the correct core courses:
Take the correct core courses:
Whether you are a rising senior in high school or in your freshman year, take a look at your transcripts and make sure your course work is aligned with the core course selections listed above. If you have too many classes that are not going to help with eligibility, you may want to make some changes.
For Division I and II colleges, student athletes will also be required to request final amateurism before full-time enrollment into a college. What is amateurism?
Basically, before enrolling in a college, you fill out a form that states the following:
Division III colleges determine their own eligibility. In other words, each college separately determines what student athletes need in order to be admitted, what financial aid package is acceptable and what practice and competition rules are for each sport.
The NCAA Eligibility Center does not certify Division III student athletes like they do for Division I and II student athletes.
For all potential NCAA student athletes, you can set up and access a personal portal where you can keep track of your eligibility progress. Division III does not require an Eligibility Center registration, but Division I and II do require it. There is a free version you can register for until you know for sure you want to play in college and that you are going to play Division I or II.
One significant change for the 2021-2022 school year is that the NCAA is not going to use the ACT or SAT as criteria for eligibility. However, I suggest you take the ACT or SAT anyway because some colleges may still use it for admissions and it could improve your chances of getting some scholarship money. Not only that, but it gives you more practice in test-taking.
Of importance, the eligibility center will not require a separate review for classes you had to take online due to the COVID interruption. These classes will count toward your eligibility certification. Even if you take these classes as a freshman or sophomore, these classes will count toward your future eligibility.
NAIA is also broken down into Division I and II colleges. The eligibility requirements are the same for both divisions.
What is needed to become eligible to play college sports for an NAIA college?
The PlayNAIA website is where student athletes can track their eligibility progress.
In order to be eligible to play at a junior college, a student athlete must have graduated from high school with an academic diploma, a general education diploma (GED) or a state department of education approved high school equivalency test.
What are the eligibility requirements to attend an NCCAA college?
The most important thing to remember with this information is that playing college sports requires you to balance academics with athletics. Those that practice this balance in high school have a much better chance of balancing them in college, when things are more intense in both the classroom and in your sport.