Game Plan for Student Athletes: Regulations You Need to Know
Planning to take your high school athletic career to the collegiate level? There’s more to the process than just making the team at your college of choice. Even if you are good enough to make a collegiate sports team you may have difficulty earning money for college with sports. According to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, only one in 60 high school athletes get a college scholarship. A small percentage of these scholarships is for full tuition.
But before you can get any scholarship, you will need to be aware of regulations from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, that specifically apply to prospective student-athletes. These policies affect everything from your eligibility to practice and play to how much financial aid you can receive. Familiarizing yourself with the rules is a good way to make sure your transition from high school to collegiate athletics is successful.
Division I and II Eligibility
If you plan to compete for a Division I or II college, you must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, www.ncaaclearinghouse.org, at the start of your junior year of high school. The Eligibility Center verifies the academic and amateur eligibility of every student-athlete before they can practice and compete with a college team.
Academic requirements vary a bit between Division I and Division II colleges, so check out the NCAA’s Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete at www.ncaastudent.org. But in general, you must:
- Graduate from high school
- Complete a specified number of high school classes designated as “core” courses by the NCAA: 16 for Division I, 14 for Division II
- Earn a minimum GPA in those core courses (varies between Division I and II)
- Earn a minimum ACT or SAT score (varies between Division I and II)
Remember: even if the NCAA certifies you as academically eligible, you still have to apply to — and be accepted by — your college of choice. So make sure you meet the NCAA’s requirements, and make sure you earn the grades and test scores you need to be considered for admission.
The Eligibility Center will also check if you meet amateurism-eligibility requirements. Basically, you’ll need to answer questions about any pre-college activities that may impact your status as an amateur athlete, such as:
- Interaction with a professional team or athletes
- Salary or prize money you’ve earned participating in your sport
- Representation or benefits you’ve received from an agent
Division III Eligibility
Prospective Division III athletes don’t have to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, since Division III colleges maintain their own policies for academic eligibility and amateur status. Talk to the athletic department and admissions office at your college to get the specifics.
College coaches are required to follow the NCAA’s recruiting regulations, but it’s your responsibility to know and follow them as well. Check with the NCAA Web site for an overview of what’s regulated, including:
- Appropriate recruiting methods and visits
- How and when a college coach or representative can contact you
- Expenses colleges can pay when you make campus visits
- Letters of intent and verbal commitments
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Once you’re certified as eligible to compete and are accepted at your college, you can find out if you’re eligible for athletics-based financial aid from your school. Division III colleges do not award athletic-based financial aid. Because of NCAA regulations, there might be a limit to the total amount of financial aid, including non-athletic scholarships, you can receive. Check with the financial aid office at your college, and be sure to tell them about scholarships you’ve received from other sources.
There are lots of benefits to being a student-athlete, from scholarship opportunities and extra academic support to the camaraderie you’ll have with your teammates. Make sure you’re following NCAA regulations so you can take full advantage of these benefits and have a successful college athletic career.