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NCAA

NCAA Eligibility Requirements for Student-Athletes

While eligibility requirements have been loosened for the class of 2021 and 2022, it is unknown what the requirements will be for the class of 2023 and beyond. Read on to see an example of typical requirements from previous years to better understand what we may expect again after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic subsides. 

The NCAA determines a student-athlete’s eligibility based on their academic preparedness and amateurism status. Academic eligibility is typically determined using a combination of their SAT/ACT test scores, high school coursework and their GPA as calculated using what are called the “NCAA Core Courses.”

Keep in mind that the NCAA loosened initial eligibility restrictions for student-athletes who intend to play D1 or D2 sports for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years. Student-athletes graduating high school in 2021 or 2022 who intend to compete at a D1 or D2 college are no longer required to take the ACT or SAT. They are also allowed to use pass/fail grades for core courses. Your amateurism status is determined based on the answers to your amateurism certificate. In extreme cases, the NCAA will investigate your amateurism status.


For 75 percent of college student-athletes, they will have no issue meeting the academic minimums laid out by the NCAA. That said, just because you are a good student doesn’t mean you can assume you will meet the academic eligibility rules. Every year, student-athletes with 3.5+ GPAs and honors courses are declared academically ineligible due to not meeting one of the following NCAA eligibility requirements.

  • Core Course Requirement – Each high school has a list of approved NCAA Core Courses. You are required to pass 16 core courses throughout high school. While there is a slight variation in the requirements for D1 and D2 schools, if you meet the D1 core course requirements, you will also be eligible at the D2 level. 

 

  • Core Course GPA – The NCAA does not use your entire high school transcript for determining your GPA. They are only concerned with your GPA in your core courses. The NCAA provides a core course worksheet, but it also likely requires a meeting with your high school counselor. Keep in mind that while student-athletes who are graduating high school in 2022 are now allowed to use pass/fail grades for core courses to meet eligibility requirements, college coaches and college admissions departments may still choose to only recruit or accept athletes that meet a certain GPA. 
  • NCAA Sliding Scale – The NCAA typically uses a combination of your GPA, SAT or ACT test scores in determining your eligibility. It is impossible to say what GPA or SAT/ACT scores you will need without knowing the other. Remember, even though high-school student-athletes graduating in 2022 are allowed to use pass/fail grades for core courses and are not required to take the ACT or SAT to meet eligibility, this may not apply for future grad years. Learn more about the sliding scale to get a sense for what GPA and test scores you will need.

NCAA amateurism requirements

The cornerstone of the amateurism rules is that student-athletes are not allowed to have received prize money (beyond the reimbursement for participation); they can’t have signed a contract with or receive benefits from an agent; they can’t receive money for promotion of products or services; and they are not allowed to make money by use of their athletic ability or fame. Additionally, student-athletes are prohibited from delaying their full-time collegiate enrollment to compete in organized sports.

Insider Tip: The NCAA does not answer questions about what you can and can’t do regarding amateurism. If you have questions about maintaining your amateurism status, you can get more information on our amateurism rules page.

Division I eligibility requirements

  • For high-school athletes graduating in 2021 or 2022 and enrolling in college full-time in 2021-22 or 2022-23: 
  • Graduate high school
  • Complete 16 core courses using pass/fail grades (see below for a full breakdown of core course requirements)
  • Receive final certification on your amateurism status via the NCAA Eligibility Center
  • No longer required to take the ACT or SAT
  • No longer required to earn a core course GPA of 2.3 or higher 
  • For high school athletes graduating in 2023 and beyond:
  • Graduate high school
  • Earn a core course GPA of 2.3 or higher
  •  Complete 16 core courses
    • 4 years of English
    • 3 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
    • 2 years of natural/physical science
      • 1 year must be lab science if your school offers it
    • 1 additional year of English, math or natural/physical science
    • 2 years of social science
    • 4 additional years of English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy
  • You must complete 10 of the core courses by the end of your junior year (before the start of your seventh semester). Seven of the 10 core courses need to be in English, math or natural/physical science. The grades in these seven courses will be “locked in,” meaning you will not be allowed to retake them to improve your grades.
  • Earn an SAT combined score or ACT sum score matching your core-course GPA on the Division I sliding scale.
  • Receive final certification on your amateurism status via the NCAA Eligibility Center

Division II eligibility requirements

  • For high-school athletes graduating in 2021 or 2022 and enrolling in college full-time in 2021-22 or 2022-23: 
  • Graduate high school
  • Complete 16 core courses using pass/fail grades (see below for a full breakdown of core course requirements)
  • Receive final certification on your amateurism status via the NCAA Eligibility Center
  • No longer required to take the ACT or SAT
  • No longer required to earn a core course GPA of 2.2 or higher 
  • For high school athletes graduating in 2023 and beyond:
  • Graduate high school
  • Earn a core course GPA of 2.2 or higher
  • Complete 16 core courses
    • 3 years of English
    • 2 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
    • 2 years of natural/physical science
      • 1 year must be lab science if your school offers it
    • 3 additional years of English, math or natural/physical science
    • 2 years of social science
    • 4 additional years of English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy
  • Earn an SAT combined score or ACT sum score matching your core-course GPA on the Division II sliding scale.
  • Receive final certification on your amateurism status via the NCAA Eligibility Center

Division III eligibility requirements

Division 3 schools are responsible for setting their own academic eligibility rules. If you are going to be competing for a D3 institution, or if you are unsure what division level you’ll be competing at, you can start with a free NCAA Profile page. If you do decide to pursue a D1 or D2 program, you can always transition to a Certification Account later.

Academic status: What your academic status with the NCAA means

The NCAA will only review an athlete’s eligibility status if their status has been requested by a D1 or D2 college. This process will begin once you graduate high school, complete a minimum of 16 core courses—with a minimum 2.3 GPA average in these courses—and earn a qualifying ACT or SAT test score. If you’re graduating high-school in 2021 or 2022, the NCAA is no longer requiring ACT or SAT test scores or a minimum GPA. However, you must still pass your core courses.

You also need to request your final amateurism certification from the NCAA Eligibility Center. Once the NCAA reviews your account, they will assign you an “Academic Status.” Here are the various statuses you could receive and what they mean:

  •  Final Qualifier: You meet all of the academic requirements and can receive an athletic scholarship your first year.
  •  Early Academic Qualifier: This status is based on your academic record after six semesters of high school. It means you are eligible to receive an athletic scholarship and practice/compete with your team during your first year of full-time college enrollment. Make sure to meet with your college’s compliance office to confirm this status.
  •  Final Nonqualifier: You do not meet the academic requirements and are not eligible to compete or practice at the college requesting your final status. You will not be eligible to receive an athletic scholarship.
  •  Final Partial Qualifier: This is a status for only D2 schools. Athletes with this status can receive an athletic scholarship and practice with the team, but you are not eligible to compete your first year in college.
  •  Under Review: The NCAA Eligibility Center is reviewing a unique academic situation related to your case.
  •  Academic Redshirt: This means you will be eligible to receive an athletic scholarship and practice but will not be allowed to compete during your first year in school. Only athletes enrolling in a Division 1 school after August 1, 2016, are eligible for this status.
  •  Automatic Waiver Approved: This indicates that you are immediately eligible to receive an athletic scholarship, and practice/compete with your team during your first year as a full-time enrollee. Contact your college’s compliance department for more details.
  •  HS Decision Pending: If your high school courses are not NCAA Approved, the NCAA will likely need to make a more in-depth review of your high school classes.
  •  In Process: The NCAA Eligibility Center is reviewing your case. Usually, cases remain in process for no more than two business days.
  •  Secondary Review: On rare occasions, the NCAA will make a secondary review of your status. This will only happen with the help of your college compliance office.
  •  Waiver Approved: From time to time, your colleges compliance office will file for a waiver if they think you will meet one of the cases for academic waivers. This status means that the waiver has been approved.
  •  Waiver Denied: If your compliance office has filed for a waiver and it is denied, you will receive this status. This likely means you will not be eligible for a scholarship or to compete.
  •  Waiver Partially Approved (athletics aid only): If your compliance office has filed for a waiver on your behalf, it might be partially approved. This would mean you are eligible to receive an athletic scholarship but are not eligible to practice or play your first year in college.
  •  Waiver Partially Approved (aid and practice): If your compliance office has filed for a waiver on your behalf, this status would mean you are eligible to receive an athletic scholarship and practice, but you will not be eligible to compete your first year in college.

What does ‘preliminary certified’ mean?

This status means you are cleared as an amateur athlete (at this time) and no further review is scheduled. In other words, you are cleared and pending your academic status, you are an NCAA-eligible athlete.

What is on the amateurism questionnaire?

The following are a list of questions that are currently part of the NCAA amateurism questionnaire:

  •  Education Background – You will need to list the date of attendance, name, country, cost of attendance (U.S. high schools are free), graduation date and where you lived while you attended.
  •  Athletic Participation – This section requires athletes fill in the following for each team you’ve been part of: team name, contact info for the team/organization, league affiliation, dates of participation, number of contests played and a list of the expenses you received.
  •  Did you receive any money beyond actual and necessary expenses as part of your participation with the listed organizations? – The majority of athletes answer “no” here. If you did receive any compensation beyond the cost associated with participating in or traveling to an event, list it here.
  •  Did any of your team members receive money beyond expenses? – The majority of athletes answer “no” here, but if you did play on a professional organization, list it here.
  •  Did you sign any type of agreement to participate on any of your teams? – Many travel teams have team agreements; you should list those here. This is also meant to catch any athletes who may have signed professional contracts. Be prepared to show a copy of the agreement.
  •  Did any of the teams call themselves professional? – If you played for an organization that had professional teams in the upper ranks, but your team was considered amateur, you should list them here. Most athletes answer “no” to this question.
  •  Did/do you have a written or verbal agreement with an agent or agency? – Not all contracts with agents are illegal, but you should be extremely wary of signing an agreement and seek the advice of an NCAA expert before signing.
  •  Have you or your family ever accepted any money from an agent or agency? – This is almost always a clear violation. You may be allowed to give the benefits back and be eligible but, to be safe, always avoid taking anything from an agent.
  •  Have you ever been involved in an advertisement or promotion? – This rule can be difficult to interpret and you should consult an NCAA expert before agreeing to any promotions or advertisements.
  •  Have you ever accepted prize money based on your place or finish? If so, how much? – If you are a tennis player you can accept up to $10k/year. For any other sport, you are not allowed to accept any money beyond the cost of participating (including travel).

The following questions are specifically related to your recruiting process:

  •  How did you learn about the school(s) recruiting you? – Popular answers to this question include, email, text, call, and my coach or I contacted them first.
  •  Who contacted you and encouraged you to attend this university? – It is illegal for boosters to try to persuade recruits to attend a school. Here is more on boosters rules. Most athletes list things like the college coach, my family, my high school/club coach or no one (you chose the university on your own).
  •  Please list all official visits taken – If you have taken any official visits, list them here.
  •  Did you or someone representing you ever use a recruiting service or another individual to help you find an institution or aid in finding an athletic scholarship? – As long as you are using an NCAA-compliant recruiting service, you will have no issues. Next College Student Athlete is an NCAA-compliant recruiting service. If you have any questions about whether a recruiting service is certified, always ask for proof of certification before you get involved with them.

NCAA amateurism rules

The NCAA rules in this area are not easy to interpret. However more than 95 percent of recruits will not have a problem meeting the NCAA requirements. For athletes who have a nontraditional athletic history, here are the main points to look out for concerning your eligibility.

  •  Receiving compensation that exceeds actual and necessary expenses – The NCAA does allow athletes to receive some compensation as an amateur athlete, as long as the amounts do not exceed what are deemed actual and necessary expenses. Some athletes are asked to join travel teams in which their cost is covered by the team (this would be allowed). However, if an athlete is paid more than the travel costs, they could get into trouble.
  •  Receiving compensation for media appearances based on your athletic ability or fame – The obvious rules violation is being paid appearance fees, but this can also include things like athletes with large YouTube followings where they are profiting from advertising dollars.
  •  Endorsing (expressly or implicitly) commercial products or services – This is one of the more difficult areas to interpret. If the athlete is being paid in any way to wear a specific brand or promote a product, it would be considered a violation.
  •  Accepting prize money beyond the actual/necessary expenses – It is not illegal for a potential NCAA athlete to have competed in professional competition. However, if they are eligible to win prize money, it cannot exceed the amount more than the necessary expenses. **There is an exception for tennis players, who are allowed to accept up to $10,000/year and still maintain eligibility.

WHAT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LEGALITY OF SOMETHING: The NCAA does not provide guidance on what is and is not permissible. Informed Athlete, run by Rick Allen, is one of the few sources where you can get a detailed review and explanation of your NCAA rules questions. Contact him if you have questions about any of the above points.

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