8 Steps for College Bound Student Athletes

Does the college student athlete recruiting process seem like a myth to you? Worry no more. Here is the process simplified in 8 steps.

Step 1: Understanding the basic of NCAA Divisions

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a non-profit organization which regulates athletes of 1,281 North American institutions and conferences organized into 3 Divisions.  

Division I consists of 351 schools where 1 in 25 students are athletes. Approximately 59% of student athletes receive full or partial multiyear, cost-of-attendance athletics scholarships or aid.

Division II consists of 308 schools where 1 in 11 students are athletes. Approximately 62% of student athletes receive partial athletics scholarship or aid.

Division III consists of 443 schools where 1 in 6 students are athletes. According to NCAA rules, Division III schools can no offer athletic scholarships. However, 80% of athletes at these schools receive some form of non-athletics aid.

Step 2: Know the eligibility requirements

College-bound students who want to compete at a Division I or II school must meet standards set by NCAA members. For Division III, athletes must meet the admissions standards set by the school. Eligibility standards can be found at eligibilitycenter.org. As a college-bound student athlete, you are responsible for your eligibility, so plan ahead, take high school classes seriously, and protect your amateur status.

The following activities may impact your amateur status:

  • Signing a contract with a professional team
  • Playing with professionals
  • Participating in tryouts or practices with a professional team
  • Accepting payments or preferential benefits for playing sports
  • Accepting prize money above your expenses
  • Accepting benefits from an agent or prospective agent
  • Agreeing to be represented by an agent
  • Delaying your full-time college enrollment to play in organized sports competitions

Step 3: Plan ahead (Grade 9 and 10)

You need to be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center to compete at an NCAA Division I or II school. So go to eligibilitycenter.org to create a Certification Account. You need to register for a Certification Account to make official visits to Divisions I and II schools or to sign a National Letter of Intent. It costs $90 to register (non-refundable) as US or Canadian student. $150 for international students.

If you are planning to attend a Division III school, you do not need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Division III schools set their own admissions standards. However, you can still create an NCAA a free Profile Page account instead of a Certification Account. If you change your mind later about which Division’s school you plan on attending, you can always convert a Profile account to a Certification Account.

High School Course Credit Requirements

You must meet ALL of these NCAA requirements to compete Division I or Division II. Division III schools set their own admissions standards.

Division I

  • Complete 16 NCAA core courses:
    • 4 years of English
    • 3 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
    • 2 years of natural/physical science (including one year of lab science if offered)
    • 2 years of social science
    • 1 additional year of English, math or natural/physical science
    • 4 additional years of English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy
  • For a simpler formula:  Just do 4 of each of English, Math, Science, Social Science
  • Complete 10 NCAA core courses, including seven in English, math or natural/physical science, before your seventh semester.
  • Earn at least a 2.3 GPA in your NCAA core courses.
  • Earn an ACT sum score or SAT combined score that matches your core-course GPA on the Division I sliding scale.

Division II

  • Complete 16 NCAA core courses.
    • 3 years of English
    • 2 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
    • 2 years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if your high school offers it)
    • 2 years of social science
    • 3 additional years of English, math or natural or physical science
    • 4 additional years of English, math, natural or physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy.
  • Earn at least a 2.2 GPA in your NCAA core courses.
  • Earn an ACT sum score or SAT combined score that matches your core-course GPA on the Division II sliding scale.

Step 4: Research and express your interest to the schools (Late Grade 10, Early Grade 11)

Research the schools you might be interested, get to know their team’s strength and weakness. Look up the team’s current swimmers, their strengths and their times, know where you might fit in. For example, if you are a sprint freestylist, and 3 of 4 sprint freestylists at a school are graduating before your year of entry, then you might become a more valuable candidate than otherwise.

There are thousands of swimmers graduating year, and there are hundreds of colleges looking to recruit swimmers to their schools. How do the coaches know that you may be interested in their school or to watch you at a meet? Express your interest to the schools by completing their Prospective Student Athlete Interest Form. Almost every school has one of these forms on their website. This is a great way to get your name on a school’s watch list. Understand that coaches are not allowed to contact you until September 1st of your 11th Grade or Junior Year.

Step 5: Take the ACT or SAT (Grade 11)

Plan on taking your ACT or SAT in Grade 11. Submit your scores to NCAA Eligibility Center using code 9999, and upload your official transcripts to NCAA Eligibility Center.  

Step 6: Communicate with Schools and Coaches (Grade 11 and 12)

You may start to receive letters from various schools who have identified you as a potential recruit. If you are interested in exploring the school further, make sure you respond and complete the school’s Prospective Student Athlete Interest Form.

Coaches may start phone or email communications with you after you have started Grade 11. Select potential recruits are then invited to Junior Days at the schools. These are weekends designed for potential recruits to visit the campus and spend time with the coaches and existing team members to assess fit (both ways). It is not uncommon for recruits to be scored by existing team members. Whether it is an invited Junior Day, or a weekend on your own initiation, it is a good idea for college-bound students to visit as many schools as you can, as each school’s culture, location, environment, student body, course offerings, coaching style, team dynamics differ greatly. You want to find the place that’s right for you. Four years is a long time to be at a place you don’t like.

Once you have shortlisted your potential schools choices, and hopefully you have also made it to those schools’ shortlist of potential recruits, keep up the communication with the coaches. Many schools’ coaches will call you to discuss your performance and thoughts after meets.

Step 7: Verbal Commitment & Letter of Intent (Grade 12)

Along the way, if you have received one or more Verbal Offers or Letters of Intent, congratulations, you are almost there. Before you make a verbal commitment or sign the paper, make sure you compare all your offers, including scholarship and financial aid components, understand all the terms and conditions. You can always ask the coach to clarify any details.  

Finally, make a decision and sign your letter. Always keep in mind, a Letter of Intent is not a Guarantee of Admissions. In most cases, you must officially apply and go through the school’s admissions process. Until you have the official admissions letter in hand, anything can still change.

Step 8: Get NCAA Certified for Division I or II (Grade 12)

If you are going to attend a Division I or II school, make sure you complete all NCAA required core courses. Take the ACT or SAT again, if necessary.

Request your final amateurism certification beginning Oct 1 (for winter/spring enrollees) or Apr 1 (for fall enrollees). Upload final official transcript with proof of graduation to NCAA Eligibility Center after you graduate.

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