NCAA Eligibility: How Student-Athletes Can Stay in the Game During COVID-19

January 06, 2022
Female Tennis Player

To get their shot at a spot on an NCAA sports team, high school athletes need to have an unstoppable drive for excellence every time they step onto the field, court or track. But just as important, they need to bring that same motivation and dedication to the classroom.

NCAA Division 1 and 2 universities require a college-bound student-athlete’s schedule to be just as demanding as their practice and game schedule. The ability to balance academics with sports is crucial to success in college, and building those skills in high school better prepares a student for the tough – yet incredibly rewarding – road ahead.

All incoming freshman athletes must meet the NCAA 10/7 core-course progression requirements to be eligible to compete their initial year of full-time enrollment. That means by the start of their seventh high school semester, or the beginning of their senior year, students should have completed 10 of the 16 NCAA-approved core courses, and at least seven of them must be in English, math, and science. But be aware that any classes taught at a slower pace – such as those titled basic, essential, fundamental, or foundational – are not included in that 16.

How has the pandemic impacted eligibility requirements?

For 2022 graduating seniors, the NCAA no longer requires the submission of standardized test scores. Eligibility is calculated based solely on their NCAA core-course GPA (2.3 for Division 1 and 2.2 for Division 2) and the 10/7 core-course progression requirements. However, the NCAA does recommend that students still take the ACT or SAT as their college of choice may still request it for admission.

At high schools where pass or fail grades were issued during the 2020/2021 or 2021/22 school years, the waters become a bit muddied. According to the NCAA:

If the student's core-course GPA would increase by assigning a value of 2.3, this value will be assigned to the passed courses. However, if the student's core-course GPA would decrease by including the 2.3 value for passed courses, the student’s core-course GPA will be calculated based only on courses with assigned letter grades from previous terms.

So, in other words, there’s not much leeway for students, even if their school shifts temporarily to remote learning. While the NCAA is still reviewing its policies for the 2023/2024 academic year as COVID-19 continues to rage on, high school students need to remain stringent about their academic track.

Help students get their game plan in place now

To ensure a student meets NCAA eligibility requirements and is ready with pen in hand to sign their letter of intent senior year, we’ve created a planning guide to share with them as soon as they enter high school:

9th Grade: The Planning Year

  • Meet with your guidance counselor to be sure you’re taking NCAA-approved courses.
  • Start with four core courses, including one each of English, math, science, and social science.
  • Keep your grades up – if you’re struggling, reach out to a teacher who can guide you to tutoring resources or online tools.

10th Grade: The Planning Year

  • Register for a Profile Page or Certification account with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
  • If you fall behind academically, ask your school counselor for help finding approved courses you should be taking.
  • Monitor your NCAA Eligibility account for next steps.
  • Ask your school counselor to upload your transcript to the Eligibility Center at the end of the year.

11th Grade: The Planning Year

  • Work with your school counselor to make sure you’re on track to complete at least 10 of the NCAA-approved courses by the end of your junior year.
  • While the SAT or ACT may not be required for 2023 admission, it is still recommended that you take one standardized test in case the college of your choice requires them. Scores can be submitted through the NCAA Eligibility Center.
  • Ensure your sports participating information is correct in your Eligibility Center account.
  • Ask your counselor to upload your transcript to the Eligibility Center at the end of the year.

12th Grade: The Graduation Year!

  • Complete your final NCAA-approved core courses.
  • If you haven’t taken it already, consider taking the ACT or SAT and submit scores to the Eligibility Center even if the NCAA does not require them.
  • Request your final amateurism certification (beginning April 1 for fall enrollment and October 1 for winter/spring enrollment) in your Eligibility Center account.
  • Ask your counselor to upload your final, official transcript with proof of graduation to your Eligibility Center account.

With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, it’s important that students, coaches, and counselors follow the NCAA COVID-19 Coronavirus Resources page for the latest updates on recruiting, eligibility, and academic waivers.

While unexpected challenges may affect the remainder of the school year, the determination and hard work student-athletes demonstrate day after day will help them overcome any obstacle and get them ready to continue their athletic journey at the university of their dreams.

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