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College Athletic Eligibility

Student-athletes interested in playing athletics at the college level should be aware of the basic high school eligibility guidelines of the athletic associations.


About the NCAA

The NCAA (The National Collegiate Athletic Association) is the governing body approximately 1,200 schools. It consists of three divisions (Division I, II, and III) and oversees 23 sports. Divisions I and II both offer athletic scholarships, with over 126,000 student-athletes receiving partial or full athletic scholarships. Division III student-athletes can only receive academic or non-athletic scholarships – no athletic scholarships are allowed. Each year, the NCAA hands out about $1 billion in athletic scholarships, with the rest coming from the inpidual school. NCAA academic requirements must be met to play a sport or receive an athletic scholarship at Division I and II colleges. There are high school core classes required by the NCAA in order to be eligible for college athletic scholarships.

About the NAIA

The NAIA (the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) consists of approximately 300 schools and 13 sports. The NAIA is a smaller association than the NCAA, with just over 60,000 students. It includes two divisions (Division I and II). Division I in the NAIA is comparable to Division II in the NCAA. The schools in the NAIA award scholarships to prospective student-athletes. Eligibility requirements are less strenuous than the NCAA eligibility requirements.

About the NJCAA

The NJCAA (the National Junior College Athletic Association) is an association of intercollegiate athletics who participate for two years. They have great programs and provide a springboard to higher athletics for the final two years of college. There are three divisions Division I, II and III. Division I schools offer full and partial sports scholarships; the scholarship can include a variety of things. Division II schools offer scholarships for books, tuition and fees. Division III schools are not able to supply scholarships.

Junior college (or community college) may prove to be the best option for many students; students are able to start their first year as a freshman and then complete two years at the junior college. Course grades will be transferable to a NCAA or NAIA after your two years.. After two years students will have earned an associate’s degree that will validate their time at junior college and may help when applying for some jobs. If students then transfer to an NCAA or NAIA school, they can complete their degree in a bachelor’s program over the last two years of school.

There are 15 men sports and 13 women sports. Every college doesn’t have to offer all sports, so it is common to find some colleges without each sport. It is also easier to obtain a place at a Junior college, however, some junior college programs are very good and places will be limited. Junior college does not differ from higher levels of athletics and still compete in national championships at the end of each season. If NCAA is not a viable option for you straight away, NJCAA will provide you with the foundation to progress in to an NCAA school after two years.

NCAA Resources

NAIA Resources

NJCAA Resources