NCAA Academic Eligibility Standards

NCAA Academic Eligibility Standards

By Tom Kovic

Periodically, the NCAA amends and updates rules and regulations to keep prospects and families on the cutting edge of college recruiting. Below is a snapshot of relevant legislation about NCAA Academic Eligibility Standards.

If you are a high school prospect, the NCAA has passed legislation that stiffens academic standards and requirements for prospective student-athletes. Under past NCAA standards, incoming collegiate freshman needed to graduate high school, successfully complete 16 core courses and demonstrate a minimum 2.3 GPA with a corresponding ACT or SAT score.

The new eligibility legislation now establishes stricter academic standards. The aim is to emphasize “student” in student-athlete, but it also gives prospects plenty of time to schedule their high school academic coursework. Below are some critical components to the new legislation for Division 1:

  • Complete 16 core classes (10 must be completed before the end of the junior year) and 7 of the courses must be in English, Math or Science.
  • The minimum GPA in the core classes required has increased from 2.0 to 2.3.
  • The minimum GPA for a junior college transfer is now 2.5.

To clarify, a prospect who now presents a 1000 (Critical Reading/Math) aggregate SAT score will need a corresponding 2.5 Core GPA to practice and compete at the D-1 college level.

The aim of establishing a stricter academic eligibility model is twofold. First, the NCAA is attempting to continually drive proactive educational planning as a cornerstone in the college search for athletes. Secondly, the NCAA wants to help boost college athlete graduation rates.

Prospects need to maintain satisfactory progress in 16 core courses. 10 of the 16 courses must be completed by the start of the student-athlete’s senior year of high school.

Core Course
Core courses are “recognized academic courses” that qualify for high-school graduation. Also, a prospect will only receive eligibility credit for completed coursework in the following disciplines: English, mathematics, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, computer science, or non-doctrinal religion/philosophy.

These must be college preparatory courses that prepare a student academically to enter a four-year collegiate institution upon graduation from high school.

Whether you are a high school freshman or a senior, your best strategy is to schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor or college advisor. Let your advisor know you desire to play as part of a college athletics program and that you need his assistance in registration with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Make it crystal clear that you will remain on target with all aspects of meeting and exceeding the initial eligibility requirements.

To summarize D-1 academic eligibility:

  1. Academic core course requirements have increased. D1 prospects must have a minimum 2.3 core grade point average (increased from 2.0) along with the corresponding SAT/ACT score.
  2. The new sliding scale for the SAT/ACT is available to review at
  3. Ten of the 16 core requirements must be completed by the end of the junior year of high school.
  4. A student-athlete who graduates with a 2.0-2.29 core GPA and corresponding standardized test result can still receive an athletic scholarship and participate in practice but cannot participate in competition his or her freshman year.

The NCAA continually revises and improves legislation as it applies to recruitment, eligibility and financial aid and “academic excellence” continues to be the mantra that drives college athletics from the top.

Minimum academic eligibility standards have become rigorous, but well within reach of prospects. Student-athletes should take a pre-emptive approach and work collaboratively with the guidance counselor in organizing educational planning.

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and Founder/Principal of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises prospects and families on college recruiting. For further information visit:

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