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. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional athletes, 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.
With the first ACT and SAT dates underway, there’s no doubt high school juniors are feeling the pressure to achieve their best score. And for student-athletes, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind as you get ready to take your standardized tests this year. From NCAA eligibility to coach communication, here’s what you need to know:
Registration and test dates
SAT and ACT test dates are offered throughout the year, but the deadline to register is about a month in advance. Register on time and you can save yourself some stress and late fees. So take a look at the schedule for the rest of the 2018-19 school year below, and make sure you sign up in time for the test you want to take.
ACT REGISTRATION AND TEST DATES:
- Test date: October 27, 2018; Registration date: September 28, 2018
- Test date: December 8, 2018; Registration date: November 2, 2018
- Test date: February 9, 2019; Registration date: January 11, 2019
- Test date: April 13, 2019; Registration date: March 8, 2019
- Test date: June 8, 2019; Registration date: May 3, 2019
- Test date: July 13, 2019; Registration date: June 14, 2019
SAT REGISTRATION AND TEST DATES:
- Test date: November 3, 2018; Registration date: October 5, 2018
- Test date: December 1, 2018; Registration date: November 2, 2018
- Test date: March 9, 2019; Registration date: February 8, 2019
- Test date: May 4, 2019; Registration date: April 5, 2019
- Test date: June 1, 2019; Registration date: May 3, 2019
Your test score impacts your NCAA eligibility
When it comes to taking the ACT or SAT, one of the first questions you may ask is, “What is the minimum test score I need to compete in college sports?” The answer really depends. For example, if you’re interested in competing at D1 or D2 program, or are being actively recruited by a D1 or D2 college coach, you’ll need to register for the NCAA Eligibility Center and meet the academic requirements for those divisions.
The NCAA uses a sliding scale, which is designed so that if you have a higher GPA, you can have lower SAT/ACT scores. And if you have really strong test scores, you can have a lower GPA. So before you take your test, look at the sliding scale to understand what test score you should aim to achieve based on your current GPA. The NAIA also has an eligibility center, but it’s a little more straightforward: you need a minimum of 16 on the ACT and 860 on the SAT.
Insider tip: Don’t forget to send your scores directly to the NCAA by using the code 9999. The NCAA will not penalize you for taking the test multiple times—they’ll accept your highest one so you can send them every score.
Read more: How to determine your eligibility
Top-tier academic schools want your scores early
It’s a no-brainer that the competition is pretty fierce at top academic programs. As an applicant, when everyone has a good GPA and test score, it can be tough to stand out. That’s why student-athletes interested in these programs send their academic information to college coaches earlier in the year than they would other schools. It’s a great way to get ahead in the process and get noticed by the college coach.
On the flip side, college coaches want to focus their efforts on recruiting student-athletes who can be accepted into their university. And for Ivy League coaches, it’s that much more important. They usually track prospects’ grades early (as early as sophomore year) to make sure they’ll not only become NCAA eligible but that they’ll also have a good shot at being accepted into the school.
Don’t assume you’ll automatically be accepted
On that note, let’s talk about being accepted into a university. Consider this scenario: you met all the NCAA academic requirements and you’re a top prospect on the college coach’s list. You’ve got nothing to worry about come application time, right? Wrong! Being recruited doesn’t guarantee your acceptance into a university. The college coach works for the athletic department—not the admissions department.
That means your application, including your test score, needs to stand on its own. Here’s an easy first step: Research schools before your test and specifically look at the incoming freshmen average ACT and SAT score to get an idea of where you need to land. You can easily view this information on websites like Niche.
Insider tip: Talk to your high school guidance counselor about your goals of competing in college sports. Not only can they help you fulfill the NCAA eligibility requirements, but they’ll also make sure you’re on track academically to being accepted into your target schools.
Adding a test score to your profile may help you stand out
College coaches are just as interested in your academic performance as they are your athletic performance. In fact, our data shows that coaches are 17 times more likely to view an NCSA online recruiting profile with a transcript uploaded compared to one without. So when you have your test score, make sure you are including that in your email to college coaches, especially if it’s strong.
Beyond eligibility and acceptance, college coaches are looking for recruits with leadership qualities. One of the easiest ways for them to identify responsible athletes is by evaluating their academic history. They can assume that if you work hard in the classroom, you’ll work hard on the field. Even more, your grades and test scores show them you’ll be able to handle a college workload and will be independent. That characteristic can be the difference between you and another recruit. So, just know that all of the hard work and studying you put into the ACT or SAT is worth it—and good luck!