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As a college-bound volleyball recruit, you are responsible for knowing what’s ahead of you during the recruiting process. If you’re considering a Division I or II school, in order to practice, compete, or receive athletic scholarships (or even take an official visit), you must get certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center.
In NCAA Division I and Division II athletics, all student-athletes must register with a Certification Account at the NCAA Eligibility Center through eligibilitycenter.org. Division III prospects, or anyone who is unsure, can sign up for a free Profile Page for now, then change it later.
Either way, here are some important NCAA Eligibility questions and answers, plus a bunch of links with resources. I hope this information is useful as you navigate this first official step toward becoming a college student-athlete!
The NCAA Eligibility Center: What is it and how do I register?
The NCAA Eligibility Center serves as a compliance gateway for potential NCAA student-athletes. With standardized criteria for certifying both academic qualification and amateurism for Division I and Division II programs, the NCAA Eligibility Center helps ensure the integrity of college sports across the United States (Div III athletic programs have slightly different criteria, set by each institution).
High school student-athletes who wish to compete in college should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly called the NCAA Clearinghouse), with one of the two account types available:
- Certification Account: Required for NCAA Division I or II schools, before any official visit or signing of a National Letter of Intent (cost: $90 in 2018).
- Profile Page: For student-athletes planning to compete at a Division III school, or are not sure which division (cost: free). May be converted to a paid Certification Account at any time.
What information will I need to provide to the NCAA?
- A valid email address that will be accessible during and after high school. The Eligibility Center will use this email address to update your ongoing status throughout the process.
- Basic personal information, such as date of birth, gender, and contact information.
- Education history: names of all high schools previously attended.
- Sport you are planning to participate in during college (they will also ask about any awards you have received, to ensure you will meet amateur status criteria).
- A valid form of payment ($90 for US payments by debit, credit, or e-check). If you were eligible for an ACT or SAT test fee waiver, you will likely be able to apply to waive this fee.
The NCAA Eligibility Center and Your Academics
Grade-point average (GPA)
Some students are surprised to find that their “NCAA GPA” isn’t quite as high as the GPA on their high school report card. This is because the NCAA Eligibility Center only calculates your grade-point-average based on the grades you earn in NCAA-approved core courses. In other words, they calculate only what “counts”, without some of the extra courses students might have taken to boost their overall academic profile. Also, there is no “plus” or “minus” calculation, just straight letter grades based on numerical averaging of percentages for an “A”, “B”, “C”, etc.
You don’t need to worry about calculating your own GPA in the Eligibility Center. It is calculated for you after your transcript submittal. They do provide a worksheet if you’d like to compute it yourself or want to keep track as you complete your high school courses each semester.
SAT and ACT scores
Every time you register for an SAT or ACT test session, just as you have an option to designate schools that you want to receive your test scores, you will use the NCAA Eligibility Center code (9999) to send your scores directly from the testing agency to the NCAA.
If you took the SAT more than once, they will use your highest score in your academic certification, to give you the best possible results. For the ACT, they will add your highest scores from your English, math, reading, and science subsections, to reach your best total.
The NCAA Eligibility Center needs final transcripts from ALL of the high schools you attended after you graduate, but you may begin submitting transcripts after you’ve completed six semesters (right after your junior year grades are in). This is why most counselors and coaches recommend registering during the summer of the athlete’s junior year. Work with your high school guidance counselor to have them send/upload your transcripts directly.
It is the student-athlete’s responsibility to be sure the NCAA Clearinghouse receives your transcripts. Make sure to follow up after the final grades for the year have been posted. You will receive email follow ups until your status is “complete”, so just log on and continue to follow up on any missing requirements they ask for throughout the process.
For a year-by-year breakdown of activities you should be doing in relation to your eligibility, see this post with a checklist you can print out and save.
The NCAA Eligibility Center and Your Amateur Status
When you register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, you will be asked a series of questions about your sports participation to determine your amateur status.
The following items may impact your amateur status:
- Signing a contract to play with a professional team in your identified sport
- Accepting payment, prize money, or preferential benefits for playing sports
- Involvement with a recruiting service
If a student-athlete is found to have a potential amateur status violation, he or she may be required to serve a set “grace period” before being allowed to participate in college sports.
Specific rules for what is permissible in Division I and II are outlined in the NCAA’s annual College Guide for Student Athletes (click here for the 2019 edition or seek out your prospective college’s compliance office for details).
What are My Next Steps?
The process to become NCAA eligible starts from your first year of high school, because you want to make sure that you are on track to achieve and maintain the required number of credits upon graduation.
It’s also important to keep your GPA and test scores within the guidelines for the division you wish to play under. You may request your amateurism certificate beginning on April 1 of your senior year.
A good outline of the important steps that you should be taking at each grade level in high school can be found here.
Eligibility Determination and Status
Once you graduate, submit your test scores, and the Eligibility center receives your final transcripts, if your status has been requested by a Division I or II coach, you will see your academic and amateur status.
Possible terms you may see are listed below:
Automatic waiver approved, Early academic qualifier, or Final Qualifier: This enables you to have immediate access to an athletic scholarship, should one be offered to you. You are also eligible to practice and compete with your team during your first year of full-time college enrollment.
Final nonqualifier: You have not been approved to practice or compete with your team or receive an athletic scholarship during your first year of full-time college enrollment.
Final partial qualifier (Division II): You are not eligible to compete during your first year of full-time college enrollment, but you may practice with your team at its home facility and receive an athletic scholarship.
HS decision pending: The NCAA Eligibility Center is reviewing an issue related to your high school, perhaps due to course approvals.
In process: The NCAA Eligibility Center is reviewing your case. Cases in process usually remain at this status for no more than two business days.
Academic redshirt (For student-athletes enrolling in Division I): You may practice with your team during your first semester of full-time college enrollment and receive an athletic scholarship during your first year of full-time college enrollment but you may not compete during your first year.
Secondary review: The NCAA Eligibility Center is reviewing specific situations related to your case. Cases usually remain in secondary review for no more than five business days.
Waiver approved: The NCAA Eligibility Center has approved an initial-eligibility waiver submitted (by a college) on your behalf. Contact your college’s compliance department for details.
Waiver denied: The NCAA Eligibility Center has denied an initial-eligibility waiver submitted on your behalf. This likely means you are unable to compete or receive an athletic scholarship, but you should contact your college’s compliance department for details.
Waiver partially approved (athletics aid only): If a waiver has been submitted on your behalf, a partially approved waiver may mean you may receive an athletic scholarship during your first year of full-time college enrollment, but cannot compete. Contact your college’s compliance department for details.
Waiver partially approved (aid and practice): The NCAA Eligibility Center has partially approved an initial-eligibility waiver submitted on your behalf. You may receive an athletic scholarship and practice with your team, but may not compete during your first year of full-time college enrollment.
Preliminary/Final certified: You meet amateurism standards. Your case may need to be reviewed for academic issues before you are eligible to practice, compete or receive an athletics scholarship.
Preliminary/Final certified with conditions: You must fulfill certain conditions to be eligible to compete.
Preliminary/Final not certified: You may not practice, compete or receive an athletic scholarship.
Suspended review: You are not currently being recruited by a Division I or II school, so your case is no longer being reviewed.
Other FAQs About the NCAA Eligibility Center Process
How long does NCAA Eligibility certification take?
The method of transcript submittal determines the time required to certify your status. For transcripts sent electronically, allow three to four business days. If mailed via the U.S. Postal Service, it can take up to three weeks.
Where do I check my eligibility status?
You can check your status by logging into your account at eligibilitycenter.org. You will find you current status listed on the dashboard, under the sport you selected.
How can I get a fee waiver?
An authorized high school official must request a fee waiver. You are eligible for a waiver of the registration fee if you have received a waiver of the SAT or ACT fee.
When should I register?
The NCAA recommends registering in the Eligibility Center as early as your freshman year of high school and no later than your sophomore year, to be sure of eligibility to play Division I or II. At the beginning of the process, however, some athletes do not if they’ll be recruited at the higher levels.
You may hear the common recommendation to just “register anyway”. Keep in mind there is a fee, so IF you are not sure you will be recruited for at least a Div II school, you can stick with the free profile at the beginning.
Once you get into the process and start communicating with some coaches, you can gauge whether you should register for the certification.
If a coach asks you for your Eligibility ID number, this is a good sign! If you decide to register before being contacted by any schools, that’s totally fine. Your information will be stored securely in their database until a coach requests you be placed on an “Institutional Request List”, or IRL. This will trigger the system to begin the process of “clearing” your academic and amateurism status.
While you’re waiting, this will give you ample time to complete your timeline of activities necessary to gain eligibility status.
NCAA Eligibility Center High School Portal
How to Calculate your Core NCAA GPA
2018-19 Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete
2018 D1 Academic Requirements and SAT Sliding Scale Fact Sheet
2018 D2 Academic Requirements and SAT Sliding Scale Fact Sheet
Got more questions? Leave a comment and I’ll find the answer for you!
You may also check out eligibilitycenter.org or call 877-262-1492 (toll free) for information.
Here’s to your success in your volleyball recruiting journey!
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