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Despite the romantic notion of a college “walk on” athlete like Rudy at the University of Notre Dame, the great majority of student-athletes spend most of their high school years complying with requirements established by the National Association of College Athletes (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or to a lesser degree, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).  

So how to get started?  

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the non-profit association that regulates more than 400,00 student athletes and teams at more than 1200 colleges and universities. It is divided into three Divisions and generates billions of dollars a year, much of which is returned to student-athletes and their institutions. To be eligible for consideration to play NCAA sports a student must register and then comply with academic requirements and standards both in high school. Learn more by visiting the NCAA Eligibility Center (http://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/future)


Intercollegiate sports are the cornerstone of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) which consists of 300 member colleges and universities and 60,000 student-athletes. NAIA student athletes are awarded more than $500 million is financial aid each year and compete for 23 national championships in 13 sports. Start your intercollegiate sports journey here: (http://www.playnaia.org/?DB_OEM_ID=27900)

NAIA Logo350

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA’s ) mission is to promote, govern and foster a competitive environment for two-year college athletics.  It provides opportunities for participation, including National Championships, for student-athletes in 24 sports over their two-years in attendance at a NJCAA-member college. Begin this process at:  (http://www.njcaa.org/eligibility/index)




  1. You must register with the NCAA and the NAIA no later than your sophomore year if you wish to play Division I or II sports in college.
  2. You must take a sequence of required core courses in high school and earn at least a 2.3 GPA for NCAA Division I and 2.2 GPA for Division II. NAIA requires a minimum 2.0 GPA based on a 4.0 scale, a minimum 940 SAT score, and that the student’s class rank be in the top half of the graduating class
  3. Take the SAT and/or ACT and earn a minimum score of equivalent to your GPA for the NCAA. These scores must be submitted to the NCAA using code 9999.
  4. A handy guide to these NCAA requirements is found here: http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/EB17.pdf
  5. International students may participate and are eligible for NAIA scholarships. Additional guidelines for all students can be found at http://www.naia.org/fls/27900/1NAIA/membership/NAIA_GuidefortheCollegeBoundStudent.pdf


  1. NCAA student athletes graduate at higher rates than other students and with their bachelor degrees earn 65 percent higher median salaries over their career than high school students.
  2. More than 150,000 college athletes receive $2.7 billion in support each year from the NCAA, representing 90 percent of its annual budget.
  3. College athletes receive academic support (tutoring) for their universities to help them succeed. They also travel the country and the world to compete.
  4. Skills developing on the playing field or court are highly valued in the “real world” after graduation, namely time-management, teamwork, leadership, and strong communication skills.

Did You Know?

  1. Ninety-three percent of student athletes pay 50 percent of their own tuition.
  2. Division II and III schools can often offer more funding to students than Division I ones.
  3. Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships but 75 percent of their student-athletes receive merit awards and/or need-based financial aid.
  4. Only one in 6,000 college football players go on to the NFL, and just one in 10,000 basketball players join the NBA. (source: Andrew Windham, College Planning Institute).

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