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. Garland Cooper, was a three-time NFCA All-American (two-time first team) and Big Ten Player of the Year at Northwestern University. In 2012, Garland was inducted into the NU Hall of Fame having helped the Wildcats to a pair of Women’s College World Series appearances. She was also a first-round pick of the New England Riptide in the 2007 National Pro Fast Pitch College Draft. Garland 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.
If your student-athlete has their eye on a Division I athletic scholarship, they’ll need to be a star athlete—and a good student. The NCAA has created a set of eligibility criteria that athletes must meet or exceed in order to compete at the DI level. Standardized test scores, GPA, core courses, and amateurism status are all key parts of your NCAA eligibility. And the earlier you familiarize yourself with these requirements, the easier it is to make sure you’re on track.
The piece of the eligibility puzzle that your athlete really needs to start thinking about freshman year is the NCAA DI GPA requirements. A few failing grades, or barely getting by can set them back and make it very difficult to catch up later on.
The minimum GPA for a DI scholarship
To be academically eligible for a DI scholarship your student-athlete needs to have at least a 2.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale. However, it’s not quite as simple as looking at their transcript and checking the overall GPA. Here’s what else your son or daughter needs to factor in:
The NCAA uses “core course GPA” to determine academic eligibility. This is different than the GPA on your child’s high school transcript. Core courses are NCAA-approved classes covering the subjects English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy.
Also, be award you athlete must complete 10 of 16 core courses by the end of their junior year, seven of which must be in English, math or natural/physical science. After junior year, the grades in those seven classes are locked in and they cannot retake those classes.
Factoring in your standardized test scores
The lower your athlete’s GPA, the higher their ACT or SAT scores need to be. The NCAA uses a sliding scale to determine academic eligibility. If you hit the minimum 2.3 GPA, you need to get either a 900 SAT score or a 75 cumulative ACT score to still be eligible. If you have a 3.3 GPA, you only need a 500 SAT or a 44 cumulative ACT score. The NCAA sliding scale is designed to help athletes with a lower GPA make up the difference with a high standardized test score and vice versa.
Insider tip: Athletes who have a GPA lower than a 2.3 can be academic redshirts for a year, but they have to meet the ACT or SAT standards outlined on the sliding scale in order to be able to redshirt.
Aim higher: The minimum GPA might not be enough to get a DI scholarship. While the NCAA has it’s set of academic eligibility requirements, each individual school has its own GPA requirements. In other words, just because your athlete met the NCAA minimums, doesn’t mean that they will qualify to compete at every Division I school. In fact, many DI colleges and universities have fairly strict entrance requirements that all incoming students must meet.
To give you an example, PrepScholar has analyzed student profiles at colleges and universities across the United States, looking at the average GPA of incoming freshman. If your student-athlete has a 2.5 GPA, here’s where they would fall:
- You would have a good shot at getting into about 33 different colleges and universities (this includes Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA).
- Around 1,519 schools would be out of reach if you have a 2.5 GPA or lower.
- Only 2.13% of all colleges and universities have an average GPA below a 2.5
When it comes to recruiting, the goal is to have as many options as possible. Some schools may not be recruiting your son or daughter’s position for their grad year, while other schools may be looking for an athlete with a different skill set. The more schools your child can qualify for, the better their chances of landing a DI scholarship. Which means, they should strive for their best GPA possible to maximize the number of schools where they will have a chance to compete.