College-Bound Student Athletes

Does it matter what classes kids take during high school? Most definitely!  The National Collegiate Athletic Association has strict standards that examine the specific courses taken in high school.  The NCAA focuses on core courses, and recommends that students’ high school schedule includes:

  • 4 English credits (1 per year)
  • 4 math credits (1 per year)
  • 4 science credits (1 per year)
  • 4 social science credits (1 per year) can include some foreign language

That is just a recommendation, though, and exact requirements vary slightly for Division I, Division II, and Division III schools.  These classes are called core courses:
NCAA Course Requirements

If you’re saying to yourself, “That looks like anyone who graduates from high school will automatically have all the classes they need,” you’d be surprised.  First, not every class offered in a subject area counts as a core course. Students at public and private schools can find their school on the NCAA Eligibility Center’s website and scroll down to view the list of approved classes from which to choose.  If you homeschool, you will have to complete a Core Course Worksheet for every class and have the course evaluated to confirm that it qualifies. None of us want to graduate our athletes and then discover that the NCAA finds our curriculum lacking, so it is important to check early and make sure your curriculum will be accepted.

Second, it matters when the classes are taken. Of those 16 core courses, ten of them must be completed before the student’s final semester; seven of those ten must be in English, math, and science.  I honestly can’t figure out how a student could complete 3-1/2 years of high school without earning the 10/7 credits needed for NCAA eligibility, but apparently there are good athletes recruited by colleges who end up ineligible due to their poor choice of high school classes.

GPA – For purposes of NCAA eligibility, students must earn a minimum 2.3 GPA in their core courses. Note that for purposes of college admission, a 2.3 GPA is not nearly good enough to get into many universities.  Schools are looking for good students with high GPAs.

SAT/ACT Scores – Athletes who want to participate in sports at the college level need to have their SAT/ACT scores sent to the NCAA Eligibility Center.  There are minimum acceptable college admissions test scores, but the standard is pretty low so a good student shouldn’t have anything to worry about.  Bad students do need to score well to counteract a bad gpa.

Registration with NCAA – Yes, that’s right. Students must register with the NCAA.  The NCAA evaluates courses and transcripts, checks gpa and SAT scores, and takes care of all the minutia.  Colleges just have to look up students on the NCAA website to see whether or not the student is eligible.  Students not declared eligible by the NCAA are not allowed to practice or play or receive athletic scholarships, so this is a crucial step.  However, registration is only required for DI & DII schools. NCAA registration is not required for students to play at DIII colleges.  Now that I’ve looked at all the paperwork involved, I’m highly tempted to tell my boys that they’re limited to DIII schools 🙂

When to register? According to NCAA materials, students can register during their sophomore year of high school.  It’s okay to wait until the junior year, but avoid the rush of waiting until your senior year to register.  You want your name out there so that college coaches have more opportunities to want to recruit you.

Running Start & Dual Credit – Students may take dual credit courses and college classes while in high school, but once a student is registered full-time in college courses, a 5-year clock begins on athletic eligibility. Therefore, students wanting to participate in college athletics will probably not want to be full-time Running Start students.  Taking ten credits at a local college plus two high school courses (or one college course plus four high school courses) should be acceptable.

What About High School Classes in Junior High? – Yes, according to the NCAA’s FAQ page, those can count as long as the credits are listed on the high school transcript and are approved core courses from the high school.

Jumping Through the Hoops – there are certain things that all student athletes must do to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, and a few extra things that homeschoolers must do.  All student athletes must:

Homeschoolers must also provide:

For more information, the NCAA provides a handy checklist for homeschoolers, as well as a homeschool FAQ sheet. Another helpful resource is the NCAA’s Home School Students page.

I am about to begin filling out our Core Course Worksheets.  The evaluation criteria I’ve been able to find says that courses:

  • must be college-prep
  • must have comparable content to approved courses

It would be nice if the NCAA’s website included a list of approved/disapproved curriculum popular with homeschoolers, or if publishers included information for parents to copy & paste onto the NCAA’s worksheet!


4 thoughts on “College-Bound Student Athletes

  1. Chelsea C.

    I’m about to start doing this process (my DS will be a freshman next school year and wants to play Div. 1) How did this go for you? Any updates to this post you would like to share? thanks!!!

    1. WarmSocks Post author

      I’d focus on core courses so that there’s no question about eligibility. My current senior ended up choosing a college that’s D3, so I didn’t have to submit any paperwork for him (yay!). My freshman really wants to play D1, though, so I’m still in the middle of this. I’m trying to do all the paperwork as we go, instead of waiting until time to submit things and being overwhelmed. Keep a file with all your information.

      You didn’t mention if you homeschool or send your child to school. If your child attends school, then follow the link to the NCAA’s website, find your school, and arrange the school schedule based on pre-approved core courses. Do this yourself (with your child). Do NOT rely on the school guidance counselors to have any idea how to do this. At our local school (where my kids play even though they’re homeschooled), one of the parents took in the NCAA worksheet to aid in schedule planning, and the counselors had never seen it before. They also messed up one kid’s schedule so that he wasn’t going to be eligible to play high school ball, let alone college ball, because the only thing they looked at was graduation requirements :O

      I spoke with someone at NCAA to see if I could send them my course descriptions in advance, so that I could modify the courses if needed. They said no. NCAA’s policy is that they will not look at homeschoolers’ paperwork until colleges are recruiting them. While I understand this keeps them from a lot of busywork, we need some guidance. I told them that I feel that we should at least be able to look at a list of curricula that they’ve approved in the past, but they won’t even do that. They said that their criteria is that the curriculum is college-preparatory and they really can’t provide any more guidance than that. Not so helpful, right?

      I decided that since I have already sent 3 kids to college, and so far they’ve all had 4.0 gpa’s, what we’ve done has prepared my kids for college and my curriculum counts as college-prep. We’ll keep on the way we have been and hope for the best. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but I didn’t have any luck changing NCAA’s mind. I have been working on the paperwork as we go, so that I don’t have to try to do it all at the end, and am keeping both a paper file (as backup in case my computer crashes) and an electronic file in the cloud (in case my house succumbs to a natural disaster).

      Our plan (at this point, subject to change), is for my son to get as many dual-credit classes as possible his junior and senior year. He can take 10 credits per quarter (2 classes) at the community college and 2 regular high-school level classes, for a total of 30 quarter credits each year (which would equal 20 semester credits). This will probably be at least one year of foreign language, probably 2, a fine-arts class his very final quarter, speech, perhaps composition, and maybe some math depending on what major he decides on. For athletes, that’s really important, because it can allow them to take a lighter course load – 12 credits instead of 15-18 – while playing college sports. HOWEVER, some colleges are finicky about dual-credit, and won’t grant college credit if the class was also a high school graduation requirement. Be sure to check if you decide to go that route. Now I’m starting to ramble, so better stop. Hope this was at least a little bit helpful. Good luck!

  2. Lisa

    Thanks for providing the information you’ve found! It is overwhelming to find stories from other parents who have BTDT with getting their homeschooled kids qualified for D1 or 2 schools! I know NCAA is trying to keep students and teachers from exploiting the system, but I am annoyed I am scrutinized when I know what my kids are learning is far superior to what their ps friends are.

    1. WarmSocks Post author

      Very very frustrating to not have any idea if what we’re using will be accepted. My son who’s a college freshman now chose a D3 school so it’s way easier. He loved fall baseball but it took tons of time. Now it’s spring season and the coach wants 32 hours a week :O My son decided not to play – he just doesn’t have much time for baseball if he wants to get his schoolwork done. Good luck to you and your athlete!


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