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
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:
- Register online – preferably your sophomore year of high school
- Pay the fee
- Submit official SAT/ACT scores
- At the end of your junior year, have official transcripts sent for all credits attempted;
submit a final official transcript again after graduation
- Provide proof of graduation
Homeschoolers must also provide:
- Evidence that the home school was legal (copies of every year’s letter of intent)
- A signed statement from the person who managed the home school program
- A list of all textbooks used
- A separate NCAA Core Course Worksheet for all core courses so that the NCAA can evaluate them and verify that these are genuine college prep courses (note that public and private schools have a similar process for getting a course listed as an approved core course) (see also the NCAA Core Course Worksheet Instructions)
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!