NCSA Power Rankings: The Best Schools for Student-Athletes


NCSA Power Rankings: The Best Schools for Student-Athletes

NCSA Recruiting

NCSA Power Rankings: The Best Schools for Student-Athletes


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. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes 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.


College rankings have never been more popular or more prevalent. Thanks to increasing amounts of data, everything from the happiest, funniest, or greenest campus to the best college town can be scored and ranked. College is a big investment in a child’s future and parents, of course, want to make sure they are on the right track in finding the best options for their son or daughter and rankings like these can be a useful tool.

The funny thing is, even with the current proliferation of college rankings, there’s been one big and somewhat surprising blind spot. And that’s for the parents of the 8+ million student-athletes engaged in high school and club sports. There has been no definitive academic and athletic ranking for colleges and universities–designed for student-athletes–until now.

Introducing the 2018 NCSA Power Rankings

As the world’s largest and most successful recruiting network, NCSA Next College Student Athlete is uniquely qualified to release the 2018 NCSA Power Rankings-an annual list of the best schools in the U.S. for student-athletes. What the rankings offer student-athletes is a comprehensive analysis of the best NCAA and NAIA programs across the country. Colleges and universities are ranked overall and broken out by division and sport into the Top 50 or Top 100 schools for 2018.

“At NCSA, we believe the most important part of the recruiting process is finding the right college fit for each student-athlete,” said NCSA President Lisa Strasman. “Being a collegiate student-athlete is about more than sports, it is also about getting a degree that will set you up for success later in life. The NCSA Power Rankings are a valuable tool that can help student-athletes find exactly what they’re looking for in a school.”

The math and the methodology behind the rankings

The NCSA Power Rankings initially began over a decade ago as a way to help student-athletes and their families narrow their college search to focus on schools where they would most likely achieve academic and athletic success. This year, the rankings were enhanced with the help of NCSA’s proprietary Favorites data, representing the schools chosen by the over two million student-athletes in the NCSA network. Also factored into the equation were the general academic rankings based off U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges as well as the IPEDS graduation rate rankings. All three metrics were combined and averaged to create the NCSA Power Rankings lists.

Kicking off this week with fall sports

The initial 2018 NCSA Power Rankings released this week highlight the best overall schools and top football, field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s water polo programs in the U.S. In the next few months, additional NCSA Power Rankings will be available for winter and spring sports.

SPOILER ALERT: The schools making the top five overall are:

  1. Duke University
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of Notre Dame
  4. Harvard University
  5. Princeton University

Kudos to the colleges, teams, and coaches on the lists

Even though graduation rates for college athletes have been rising steadily over the last few years, it’s no small achievement for a school to be ranked in the Top 50 or Top 100. These institutions excel at finding the right balance of academics and athletics, so their students can enjoy competing in their sport while effectively pursuing a college degree. For any parent of a high school or club athlete, when they see a school on the NCSA Power Rankings list, it is a good indicator that a college or university is as serious about education as they are athletics.

One great new tool, but there’s still work to be done

Like all college lists, NCSA Power Rankings are not the end all be all of when it comes to finding your dream school. In an era where the style of uniforms can influence a college decision,  athletes will need to use the information here and combine it with their own college research, information and impressions gathered on unofficial visits, and even a candid conversation with their current coach to see if they have the talent and the grades to compete at the D1, D2 or D3 level. Finding the right school when you’re an athlete takes some work and a little soul searching, but it just got a bit easier with NCSA Power Rankings.


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