Your NCAA Eligibility: What You Need to Know
When a college coach begins talking to a potential recruit, eventually the question comes up, “Have you registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center?” Typically, the recruit’s answer will either be, “Yes”, “No”, or “uhhh… I’m not sure” (as they do a quick Google search to find out what the heck it is).
Attention high school student-athletes and parents of athletes who want to play at the next level: If the goal is to play in college, the NCAA Eligibility Center is something you’ll need to know about. It’s your first official step to becoming an NCAA student-athlete.
No one likes to be on the bench.
Regardless of how far along you are in your recruiting journey, there is no time like the present to learn what steps you need to take to get on the court in college. In this post I’ll go over the basic “need-to-knows” regarding your basic eligibility and specifically, the NCAA Eligibility Center. Follow along to learn what you might be missing so you can take steps now to get yourself ready to officially be recruited.
NCAA Eligibility Quick Facts
What is the NCAA Eligibility Center?
The NCAA itself is the governing body of intercollegiate sports at the Division I,II, and III level. Each college that falls under the NCAA’s jurisdiction has clearly established rules about eligibility. The NCAA Eligibility Center is kind of like the watchdog over those rules.
Once you register, your records are searchable by coaches. They come to the Eligibility Center (formerly known as the NCAA Clearinghouse) to make sure their potential athletes are on track academically, and have met other compliance requirements, such as amateur status. The Eligibility Center also receives your high school transcripts and test scores from the SAT and ACT (you have to arrange this, but the process is fairly simple).
Can the NCAA Eligibility Center help me get recruited?
Not exactly. That is, college coaches won’t be going to the Eligibility Center to seek out their potential student-athletes. They find their athletes first, then check the Eligibility Center to make sure they are registered and academically eligible.
Who is required to register?
Student-athletes applying to NCAA Division I and II schools are required to register in the NCAA Eligibility Center. Division III prospects are not. That said, I highly recommend ALL student-athletes register, regardless of whether they THINK they will be at a Division III school or not. There is no harm in being in the database if you end up not needing it, but if you don’t register and then find out later you have the opportunity to play DI or II, you’ll have a bit of scrambling to do. I say why not alleviate some stress and cover your bases just in case!
What are the academic requirements to play in college?
To play at the Division I or II level, a student must:
- Be on track to complete the required number of high school credits upon graduation
- Meet GPA minimum requirements. As of the 2017-18 school year, for DI it’s 2.3 and for DII it’s 2.2 in approved NCAA core courses). The Eligibility Center calculates your CORE-COURSE GPA by omitting any “non-core-coursework” before they calculate the grade point average (check out this tool to calculate your NCAA Core-Course GPA)
- Earn a certain minimum score on the SAT or ACT. Division I and II schools use a sliding scale to evaluate test scores versus grades (see current sliding scale charts). Note: these minimums are for eligibility to play. Your cutoff for admission may be different.
Division III student-athletes have different requirements which vary by school.
During the registration process, you’ll be asked a series of questions designed to see whether you are an “amateur” in your sport. You may request certification of your amateur status beginning on April 1 of your senior year. This is a requirement for NCAA compliance purposes.
Check with your counselor or the coach who is recruiting you if you are at all unsure about your amateur status. Some of the “red flags” that may trigger a need for further review are listed below:
- Participating in tryouts or practices with a professional team
- Accepting prize money in excess of your expenses
- Accepting benefits from an agent or prospective agent
- Signing a contract to play with a professional team/organization
Most student-athletes right out of high school don’t have to worry much about this, but I remember when my kids filled out these questions it had them a little nervous. Just answer the questions honestly and you should be fine! And if you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask!
So how do I get “official”?
There are just a few steps to follow to get registered in the NCAA Eligibility Center*, and it’s best explained by mapping it out in terms of your high school grade levels.
*As of 2016, the website portal has changed a little. Now you are able to register with either a Certification Account (for the Division I or II level) or a Profile Account (for Division III prospects). If you are unsure, you can always create a Profile and upgrade later. This ensures at least all your information is in there, and you won’t have to worry about rushing to complete anything if you end up needing it.
Your eligibility tasks/timeline
9th Grade: PLAN
Work with your high school counselor and your parents to make sure you map out your 4 years with all your required NCAA core courses. Keep in mind a high school counselor’s expertise is getting kids academically eligible to graduate, not necessarily landing them a spot on a roster. Let them know early that your goal is to play in college, so they can help you navigate the requirements from the start.
10th Grade: REGISTER
Check out the NCAA Eligibility Center’s website. You can register now or wait until next year, depending on the level of recruitment you are seeing. You will be asked to sign a release form allowing your high school to send transcripts to the Eligibility Center. Because you aren’t allowed to send transcripts yourself (it must be sent directly from the them), this is an important step.
Take the PSAT. Also, if you’ve fallen behind in courses or wish to replace a poor grade by retaking a class, this is the summer to do it!
11th Grade: STUDY
Keep up your grades! Remember, the first word in “student-athlete” is the word student. Check in with your counselor to make sure you’re on track to graduate on time.
Take the SAT and/or the ACT. Have the score reports sent directly to the NCAA Eligibility Center using the code 9999.
At the end of the year, request that your school upload your official transcript. Follow up with the counselor to be sure this gets done. Some schools prefer do everyone’s transcripts all at one time at the end of May/beginning of June. You can ask to find out how it’s done at your school.
Periodically, log in to your dashboard to check that you’ve completed any missing steps (you’ll see notifications to tell you what you’re missing). In the meantime, get a realistic assessment of your level of play so you can find the right fit school for your abilities and talents on the court and in the classroom.
12th Grade: GRADUATE
Take the SAT and/or ACT again (yes, you’ll probably see your score improve!). Send your score reports again via code 9999.
After April 1, request your amateurism certificate (they will email you reminders to do this). Have your request ready for your counselor to have your final official transcript uploaded after your grades are posted.
Follow recruiting rules for official campus visits. Apply to as many schools as you can that meet your criteria. Begin narrowing down your selections to eventually make your final choice.
Never assume anything – double check that ALL required coursework and test scores are showing on your profile. If not, follow up, follow up, follow up!
Easing the overwhelm
Navigating everything along your journey to playing college volleyball is challenging enough. From figuring out a school’s level of interest, to deciding what part of the country you’d like to live, to getting real about how much tuition your family can afford, to searching for potential academic majors, not to mention gauging whether you’ll have a spot on their volleyball team – there’s a lot to think about!
It may seem overwhelming, but rest assured, many before you have done it, and you’ll get through it, too! Follow the steps I’ve given you to get yourself NCAA eligible, and you’ll have one less thing to stress over.
NCAA Eligibility Cheat Sheet
Because all of this is a lot to remember (especially if you’re learning some of it for the first time) I’ve created this cheat sheet for you, so you can have a handy reference. Download it, bookmark this page, or Pin it to keep for later – it’s important stuff!
To your success on your road to college volleyball,