USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jamie is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Picture this: Your child has found a great college. And the good news is the coach is actively recruiting them and ready to talk scholarship dollars. A nice dent in college funding? Sure, you’re down with that.
But, as you’re daydreaming about adding again to your retirement fund, you’re asked about their eligibility status. Does your athlete have an NCAA ID number? Has your child met all the core course requirements? Do they meet the SAT/ACT and GPA requirements laid out on the NCAA sliding scale?
If you’re not sure what any of that means, relax. You’re not alone. Many parents have that deer-in-the-headlights feeling during this part of the recruiting process. The following checklist will help you tackle the Eligibility Center with ease.
NCAA ELIGIBILTY CENTER—AND WHY IT MATTERS
So what exactly is the NCAA Eligibility Center?
Simply put, the Eligibility Center determines the academic eligibility and amateur status for all NCAA Division I and Division II athletes by evaluating their high school records. Coaches can’t overlook academics or amateur status, and the Eligibility Center helps ensure student-athletes are college qualified and classroom ready.
Pre-Checklist: Does your athlete need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center?
Traditionally, an athlete needed to go through the Eligibility Center only if they were getting recruited by a Division I or Division II program. However, the NCAA recently revamped their website to include a free profile for families who aren’t sure yet. So, you now have a choice: you can create a profile page (where you don’t get cleared) or a certification account (where you’re cleared). Regardless, you should register for one of the accounts the NCAA offers. Here’s how to decide which is right for you:
- Profile page: If you’re not quite sure which division your child will compete in, or if they’re considering attending a Division III or junior college program, which don’t have academic requirements, then you should select a profile page. It’s free and you can always transition to a certification account.
- Certification account: If your child is actively being recruited by a Division I or Division II program, then you need to register for a certification account and you need to pay the registration fee. It will cost $80 ($135 for international students).
NCAA Fee Waivers: If you qualified for ACT or SAT fee waivers, you also qualify for an Eligibility Center fee waiver. Just have an authorized high school official submit your fee waiver documentation online after you complete your registration.
Step No. 1: Create an account with the NCAA Eligibility Center
Visit the Eligibility Center’s website to start your account and tackle the initial questions about your child’s personal information, and education and sports history. Mark it on your calendar–the best time to do this is at the beginning or middle of your child’s junior year. Once you’ve completed the registration, you’ll be provided with your NCAA ID number. This is the number any college recruiting your athlete is going to want.
Step No. 2: Schedule a meeting with your athlete’s high school guidance counselor
Check with their high school guidance counselor to ensure your athlete is on track to meet the NCAA Core Course requirements. Don’t assume because they get good grades they’ll be eligible. Your child must complete 16 core course requirements before graduation. And, if they’re headed to a Division I program, they need to take 10 of the 16 core courses before their senior year, with seven of those 10 being an English, math or science class. Did you catch all that? Here’s the bottom line: get familiar with what’s required—and by when—early to avoid any unwelcome surprises. Remember that the requirements differ slightly between Division I and Division II.
Step No. 3: Urgent task for the end of junior year
At the end of your student’s junior year, ask your high school administration office to send official transcripts to the Eligibility Center by uploading them on the High School Portal (this needs to be done through the office—you’re not allowed to send copies). Your file is ready for preliminary certification once the NCAA receives your child’s transcripts through the 11th grade and you have submitted an SAT or ACT score.
Step No. 4: Have all SAT or ACT test scores sent to the NCAA
When your child registers for the SAT or ACT, use the code (write this down so you remember) 9999 to send results directly to the Eligibility Center. You should send all their test scores as the NCAA will only use the best scores when calculating their eligibility. There is no penalty for submitting multiple tests.
Step No. 5: Final tasks your senior year
At the conclusion of your athlete’s senior year, you need to make sure their guidance counselor sends an official version of their final transcripts. Once that is done, log into your account and request final amateurism certification. For student-athletes this is the final step that tells the NCAA “please determine my eligibility status.”
TIP: If your child is enrolling in the fall, they can request final certification starting April 1 of that year. Spring enrollees can start on Oct. 1 of the year before they attend college.
Like any other part of the recruiting game, the more you know and the earlier you begin to plan, the less stressful it becomes.