You Can’t Just Wait For A Scholarship After High School

Athletic Scholarship

NCAA eligibility is a complex subject, and most athletes do not realize they start losing eligibility just one year after they graduate high school. Make sure you fully understand the rules for your sport before you decide to delay your college enrollment.

How Much Eligibility Do I Start With?

You get five years to compete in four. The fifth year is called a red-shirt year. Red-shirting allows you to take a year of competition off for many different reasons but permits you to compete athletically in four years. Athletes use their red-shirt year to heal from injuries, catch up on academics, let athletes ahead of them on the depth chart graduate, among many other reasons.

Understand the Rules

For all NCAA Division I sports (except men’s ice hockey and skiing and men’s and women’s tennis), athletes are given a one-year grace period before they start losing eligibility. One year after your high school graduation, the NCAA can take away a year of competition for every year you continue to play organized sports.

If you play division I men’s hockey or skiing, your grace period is longer than that of other athletes. You are allowed to delay your college enrollment until your 21st birthday. Every 12 months you continue to play after your 21st birthday, you will lose a season of competition. In men’s and women’s tennis, the grace period is shortened to just six months after your high school graduation.

All NCAA Division II sports give you a one-year grace period. There are no exceptions to the rules for division II.

What if I don’t Play Sports After High School—Can They Still Take Away My Eligibility?

You may not lose any eligibility if you don’t continue to play sports after high school, but it is extremely difficult to get recruited if you aren’t playing competitively. The NCAA has strict guidelines for determining what organized competition is, and almost anything short of a pickup game can hurt your eligibility. The bottom line is not playing to save eligibility will not help you.

What Are My Other Options?

You still have the one-year grace period, so make sure that if you do use it, then you are using it to get better at your sport and connect with college coaches. After you graduate high school, you can take a year to play at a prep school; this is known as postgraduate studies. Junior college is another option. You may not have full eligibility by the time you transfer to a four-year college, but at least you will be competing in your sport and starting your college education. You will also be playing at a higher level, which looks great in NCAA coaches’ eyes.

NCAA eligibility can be hard to understand, so make sure to ask us your questions in the comments section below! You can also connect with us on FacebookTwitter, or Google+!

35 Responses to “You Can’t Just Wait For A Scholarship After High School”

  1. Aaron

    I have a student who graduated HS December 2009, he worked the following year, then attended prep in 11/12. How many years of eligibility does he have left? Does he need to red shirt the first year?

  2. I’ve graduated from HS in june 2010. I participated in competitions in 2011, but did not participated in any organized competition in 2012. I want to go to University in january 2013, do I have 3 or 4 years eligibility left? Thanks

    • Judy Miramontes

      Hi Dario,
      Thanks for your question. Determining your eligibility will be confirmed with the NCAA eligibility center, it also has to deal with the sport you play and if you attend any college courses since graduating high school. You are correct in estimating you will have 3 maybe four years left. The best thing to do now is to reach out to college coaches to see if you have what it takes to compete for their teams. It may be hard since you are not competing now; they are going to want to see your most recent stats. Have you applied to any universities at this point?

      • I’m in the track & field. Did not attend any college courses since graduation from my HS. The think that bothers me is that everbody is saying different. I mean, I’ve called the NCAA 3 times. Each time a different person answerd the phone and gave me different answers. The first wasn’t sure, the second told me I have only 3 years and will have to sit down a season of 2013 becouse of the late enrollment, and the third told me i will have no problems and will have all 4 years of eligibility. So I’m confused who to belive? I mean if they from the NCAA gave me different aswers who will know?
        Thanks, Dario

    • Judy Miramontes

      Red shirt does not delay academics. Usually athletes redshirt their first season or when they have an injury. If you still have eligibility years left then you will be able to compete. This is something that should be discussed with your coach and compliance officer to make sure everything is in order.

  3. hey am international student and am out of high school and i want to play for a division 1 college team but i just dont know if they would let me and i dont have any video but i can make one.i am in kentucky and am reenrolled in my high school though and 2 if u know of a coach,could u oliz connect me with him coz i need help bro to play name is john i graduated high school in may 2012. played in the kcaa league and was the third best player in the league!

  4. I have a student who became ill with chronic Lyme disease in high school and was not well enough to attend college or play sports. Part of his recovery was playing in league games at a sport club he belonged to. (basketball) He then attended a open gym at a junior college and was offered a partial scholarship. he signed a letter of intent and started classes. After practicing and playing in one scrimmage game he realized he was not well enough to play at this time. His Doctor agrees. What are his options?

  5. I coach a winter football program for 13-17yo. If a senior athlete plays for me after his high school season would he lose a year of eligibility? We are a non profit 501c3 organization and run a youth football program for 5-14yo during the fall.

    • johninfante

      Athletes can continue participating in their sport for one year after they graduate high school without losing eligibility. So if a player graduates this spring for instance, he could continue playing football until August of the following year.

      One thing to keep in mind: the date this year period starts is the earlier of when the athlete graduates or was scheduled to graduate. So if an athlete graduates late, use the year their class graduated.

  6. To
    begin with, I came to the US when i was 18yrs.I graduated high school
    August of 2006 (19yrs). There after, i took a semester off. I enrolled
    at a community college
    Spring 2007 or January 2007. I graduated fall 2010 (23yrs) My school
    was part time and full time. I enrolled at Mercy College fall 2011 at
    the age of 24yrs. This is my last semester here at a four year school and am 25yrs.
    It is too bad that i did not know about how the eligibility works. I
    only played for the community college fall of 2010.

    In terms of teams. I have played about 12 approximately
    amateur teams all over new york and new jersey. My current league is the
    garden state league including 3 other Spanish local leagues . I play in
    the Netherlands/Holland for one season for an amateur club or division
    4 and returned to NY but was never paid in all these games.

    is my history. Please i will be glad if something will work for me.
    Because i will cry if finish my college soccer like this. I was even thinking i
    have saved my eligibility.


  7. I graduated from a 4-year bachelor’s program in 2012 but only played 2 years of women’s bball at the NAIA level. Initially received interest from several D1 institutions but chose a ministry-based school. After graduating, I also worked as an assistant coach at the high school level in the 2012-2013 season. How many years of eligibility would I have for the NCAA taking all this into consideration?

    • David Frank

      Once you begin playing college sports you have five years to play four years. Based on what you’ve said, it sounds like you no longer have eligibility.

  8. Anonymous

    I was wondering if there is anyway of playing in college? I don’t know yet but I may not be a qualifier for div 1 because I don’t meet the sliding scale and my act sun score is not a 68 which means I can’t compete at div 2 either. Is there anyway possible that I could run track in college or would I have to wait until my sophomore year of college.

    • David Frank

      You could be eligible to run at the JUCO level right away. Then after two years you can transfer to a four year school and finish your eligibility. Good luck.

      • Anonymous

        I’m planning on attending Eastern Michigan in the fall is there anyway possible that I could ever run in college? I had colleges looking at me and wanting to offer me but I wasn’t eligible will i ever be able to run?

        • David Frank

          You can get your eligibility after the first year of school. Once you get to school, make sure and meet with the coach to find out what you will have to do to make the team and get eligible.

  9. Gerald Mitchell

    My son graduated highschool in 2010,he is now taking classes at a juco, he is a 6’4 combo guard, he wants to walk on at the juco or transfer to another school. How much eligibility does he have left? A 2010 grad that hasn’t played yet???

    • David Frank

      Assuming he didn’t play in any organized competition since he graduated he could have at minimum 3 years left, including this year. There might be waiver opportunities for more years, but you won’t know until you get an athletic department to look into it for you.

  10. Danny Moreno

    Hello I’m having a trouble with a situation I’m in. To start I graduated last year. I’m Class of 2013 I have not attended any Junior College. I’ve been playing with an Academy Team to get recruited for soccer. Am I eligible to get recruited or did I need to go to junior college right after high school? Please help I’m desperate for this answer. Can I still get scholarships and when the coaches ask me for my grades do I show them my high school grades?

    • David Frank

      You are still eligible. You have one year after graduating high school to delay enrollment (which you’ve done). You will need to enroll in a college this fall or you will risk losing eligibility. Best of luck.

  11. Rashawn Johnson

    Hey i graduated in 2008 and enrolled in a community college in 2009. I really didnt take school that serious until 2010. I just graduated with a 2 year degree this past fall semester where I then learned that i have no years left to play d1 football. D1 has always been my dream. I busted my butt to get a 2 year and was very excited that I could finally transfer to a four year and start playing then i was told the bad news. What can i do because i havent played 1 down of college football

  12. Rashawn Johnson

    I also went to a juco in kansas for the 2012 spring semester but ended up leaving in march so i basically i only stayed there for 2 months. Then i went back to the community college and finished up my 2 year so how will this play into my eligibility also

    • David Frank

      Without looking over your complete academic record, I wouldn’t be able to say what your eligibility status is. I can say, eligibility is calculated based just on the years of football you play. The NCAA gives you one year to delay enrollment in to college before you begin losing eligibility. That said, you started college the year after you graduated and your clock started then. There might be an opportunity for one year of eligibility at a four year DI school, but probably nothing more.

      Your best bet is to contact coaches at the schools you are interested in and see if they would be willing to try and get you an additional year of eligibility. Best of luck.

  13. Our child was recruited to a DII softball program. Unfortunately the coach that recruited her left a few weeks before the season started. The coach that replaced the head coach didn’t have the same vision for our child. Everything has been 100% opposite as we were told by the coach that left. We asked for our daughter to be red shirted but the new coach said she didn’t want to do that as our daughter would be a very important part in the roster & would get a lot of playing time; which hasn’t happened. She has been put in “token” times. We read somewhere that you can have minimal playing time & still retain & not lose the year of eligibility. Where can we find how much time they can play and not have the year taken off of eligibility? Thanks.

    • David Frank

      I am not sure about the rule you are referring where an uninjured player plays “minimal time” and keeps a year of eligibility. The only time I’ve heard of athletes keeping a year of eligibility was if they had a season ending injury. Even then, if you have played any minutes past the halfway point in the season you lose your eligibility. If she has appeared in more than a couple games (no matter how limited) I don’t know of any rule that gets her year of eligibility back if she is uninjured. Best of luck.

  14. Hi David, my son plays football and will graduate after this coming school year. He starts his senior year at age 16, a little young, so is considering waiting a year and then enrolling at a JC and playing. It sounds like the 5 years to play 4 will still apply however my question is if he chose to enroll after just sitting one semester (the Fall) and attending in the spring would that make a difference since football is a Fall sport? In other words does the sport have to be in season to count as one of the years of eligibility? Does my son sitting one semester extend his eligibility for football the same as sitting one full year?

  15. Matthias A

    Hi I graduate in 2015 but will be only 16 and am already talking to some colleges, but i was wondering if i take a year at junior college and play basketball will i still have the four years of eligibility when i go to play d2 or d1 ncaa bball. the reason i want to do this is because i feel it would be better for me to grow physically and work on my game for a year. as well as this would probably let me get better schollarship offers. so how many years eligibility would i have after playing one jc right out of highschool? will i have 4?

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>