How to Graduate Early from High School

graduating high school earlyFor a long time, the NCAA was mostly concerned with athletes graduating late from high school. Athletes who were short on their core courses or just wanted another year to develop physically would be held back or attend a year or two of prep school. And during those extra years, athletes might load up on courses and magically become eligible.

With the growth of midyear enrollees in football as well as the expansion of graduating early in other sports, leaving school before an athlete’s time rather than after is becoming a bigger issue. Deciding to graduate early is a major decision and one that can trip up an athlete’s eligibility.

A quick disclaimer: Whether an athlete should graduate early is one of those “If you have to ask, the answer is no” questions. Normally an athlete will only be graduating early if the university has suggested it. In those cases, the coaches or compliance office at the school will be in close contact with the prospect to make sure they meet the requirements ahead of time.

Ocassionally though, it makes sense for an athlete to be the one that suggests and pushes for early graduation. Athletes might also feel like they have questions or concerns that are not addressed by the school recruiting them. This guide is for those athletes.

Step One: Decide and Commit to Early Graduation ASAP

The sooner you decide you want to graduate early, the easier it will be. Remember that you will need to meet requirements designed to take four years in three and a half or even three years in some cases. The earlier you start this process, the less scrambling you will need to do at the end.

In addition to deciding, you need to commit to graduating early. Wavering back and forth is as bad or even worse than making a late decision to move up your graduation date. Early graduation is a major decision, one that you and your family may end up investing much time and money to make happen. Going back and forth will not only make graduating early harder, but could cause you issues with your eligibility based on a normal graduation date.

Step Two: Make Sure You Can Graduate Early

Many public schools restrict or prevent early graduation. Public schools receive their funding based on the number of pupils enrolled, and budget assuming that almost all students who start in the fall will be there in the spring. Private schools face the same challenge with budgeting tuition, but are often more flexible than public schools.

Check with your counselor or principal to make sure the school allows early graduation. If it does not, you may need to transfer to a new high school, normally a private school, to finish early. Online schools are particularly flexible, but you must make sure the NCAA has approved any online high school or coursework you plan to take.

Step Three: Get Ahead

To graduate early, you must meet all the requirements in a semester or two fewer than intended. In theory, you can make up the extra courses in the last semester, but that carries more risk. The better tactic is to spread the additional credits out over as long a period as possible.

The NCAA is also cracking down on athletes who are behind and in danger of not qualifying at all, but somehow manage to graduate and meet initial eligibility requirements early. To avoid extra scrutiny, get ahead as early as possible so your early graduation does not look too good to be true.

Step Four: Remember All the Requirements

To graduate and enroll early, athletes need to not only make sure they meet high school graduation requirements but the NCAA’s initial eligibility requirements as well. Once an athlete graduates, even an early graduation, the NCAA allows only one core course credit to be used for eligibility purposes. And once an athlete enrolls full-time in school, their academic record is locked in.

Athletes in private schools, especially religous schools, should keep in mind that their graduation requirements might be much different than the NCAA’s requirements. If you transfer to a private, religious school from a public school for one year or semester, you should be prepared to make up a large number of courses at the school as well as doing extra work to fulfill NCAA requirements.

Step Five: Don’t Forget the Paperwork

In addition to meeting the requirements, athletes must also make sure they take care of their administrative responsibilities. Athletes need to register with the Eligibility Center, make sure to select the correct (earlier) graduation date, complete the amateurism questionnaire, and get the necessary documents to the EC as quickly as possible.

The high school might also have its own tasks to complete. You may need to apply to graduate earlier. There may be capstone requirements, like papers or community service hours that must be completed. And if you are graduating early and enrolling in college midyear, make sure your high school knows because the timeline to get documents into the EC and to get certified is much tighter than over the summer.

Don’t Miss College Application Deadlines

Don’t Miss College Application Deadlines

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High School Senior Student-athletes Have a Busy Year Ahead

We know senioritis is quite contagious. It makes you want to kick-back and relax during your last year of high school, but if you are a student-athlete there really is no time to waste until a college acceptance letter is in your hands with the words: “YOU HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED.”

Besides college sports recruiting, high school seniors need to study up for ACT and SAT exams, keep up grades, ask teachers and guidance counselors for letters of recommendation, apply for financial aid and start understanding which colleges will be the best fit both academically and athletically.

The best way to get ahead in your college recruitment is to be organized. No matter if you are working on contacting college coaches or submitting your college application– you need to know all important dates relevant to your recruitment.

The Best Time For You to Apply to College

Depending on the type of student you are, you will have options as to when to submit your college applications. Most students prefer to have everything in to colleges during the regular admissions deadlines, so they can have time to talk more with college coaches and make sure their grades and exam scores are on par to meet eligibility center and college entrance requirements.

Most Regular College Deadlines Are Due Between January and February of Your Senior Year

If you don’t want to hold off and wait any longer you may want to begin applying during the early admission deadlines. Early application deadlines begin as early as November 1. Some colleges may even have a second early admission date, which is due the end of December or the first part of January.

Know Your College Application Deadlines

You need to know dates. Your junior and senior years of high school is the best time for you to begin keeping track of college application deadlines for colleges you are interested in applying to. The best way would be to set up a common application account (which will be the best use if the colleges you are applying to all use the common application) if not, start a spread sheet, listing the colleges you want to apply to, the application deadlines and supplemental material each college requires. Do all you can to stay organized and on top of the college admissions process.

If you have more questions about applying and meeting college application deadlines then leave your comment below and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+!

Academic Eligibility: Athletes Need to Counsel Themselves

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The story of Corynne Notz and Calhan High school is a cautionary tale for every prospective student-athlete. Corynne was all set to play her freshman year at Colorado Christian University when the university discovered that two of her courses were not approved by the NCAA. That resulted in Corynne not being certified as a qualifier, and thus not eligible to play as a freshman at CCU.

The reason Corynne was tripped up by the Eligibility Center is a common one. The NCAA’s requirements are not the same as a school’s graduation requirements. Lists of approved courses must be checked and maintained, and documentation with the NCAA kept up to date. Smaller high schools, rural high schools, schools facing budget cuts, and schools that rarely produce college athletes are all more likely to have out-of-date core course lists and less advising targeted at athletes who wish to play in college.

A counselor specifically for athletes who helps select courses, keeps paperwork in line, and communicates regularly with the NCAA is a luxury that is common only in well-funded schools that often send athletes to Division I schools or Division II schools. For most prospects, they will need to do some of the advising themselves and work with the school to make sure the trip through the Eligibility Center is a smooth one. Here are a few tips:

See Who is in Charge

Anyone can look up a school’s list of approved courses. On that list are two additional pieces of information: the contact information for the person responsible for updating the course list and the date it was last updated. Athletes should touch base with this person to make sure they are still the NCAA eligibility contact, and to learn what type of services the school or district provides to athletes. This is especially urgent if the list has not been updated in the last year or two.

Check Your Own Courses

While looking at the course list, athletes should check both their transcript and future schedules against the NCAA approved core course list. Be pessimistic when you do this. If a course is even just named differently or has a different number or code, assume that it will not count unless the list is updated. And if you are behind the NCAA’s regular path (four core courses per year, English and math every year) then contact a counselor right away to fix the problem.

Get Help to Get Help

A counselor might be used to athletes and parents who think they are going to Division I but end up not playing college sports. He or she may be less willing to help out. If that is the case, have the coaches who are recruiting you call the counselor, or enlist the help of your high school coach. This will assure the counselor you are being recruited by schools, and you will need his or her help to get eligible.

Stick to the Basics

Sometimes even the most proactive student can get little or no help with the NCAA’s initial eligibility requirements. If that is the case, fall back on the simplest, most basic schedule. Take an English course, math course, science course, and social studies or foreign language every single term or year (depending on how the school schedules and awards credits). And stick to standard courses like English 2, or Physics rather than Film as Literature or Astronomy. While those courses often count, they are not always on a school’s approved list, especially one that is out-of-date.

Like it says above, these tips are useful for all prospective student-athletes. Even if your high school has a dedicated eligibility counselor for athletes, check your own progress from time to time. A counselor may think they have the process “wired” or figured out, and may miss changes in eligibility rules, not to mention the admissions requirements for specific schools. “Trust but verify” should be the motto of high school athletes when it comes to their academic requirements.

Do you have any questions about your academic eligibility? Just ask us in the comments section below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!

Understanding the NCAA’s Changes to Academic Standards for International Students

The Bible for international prospects who want to play college athletics in Division I or Division II is the NCAA Guide to International Academic Standards for Athletics Eligibility. In the guide are the rules the NCAA uses to translate international academic systems to the NCAA initial eligibility Understanding the NCAA's Changes to Academic Standards for International Studentsguidelines that are based on the American school system.

The guide is typically updated twice a year, during the winter and during the summer. Updates can include adding new countries, changing grading scales, or changing which documents are accepted for initial eligibility purposes.

The following are changes over the last year. Any prospect who attended any portion of high school outside of the United States should review the guide. Especially those from countries with recent changes.

New Guide Entries


Kosovo was added with two Category One documents: the Diplomë për Kryerjen E Shkollës së Mesmet të Pergjithshme-Gjimnazit (Diploma of Completion of General Secondary School-Gymnasium) and the Diplomë për Kryerjen e Shkollës së Mesme të Lartë-Gjimnazit (Diploma for Completion of Middle and High School). Category One documents count for both high school graduation and the core curriculum requirement. That means a student who earns one of these diplomas or certificates not only is considered graduated from high school, but also is considered to have passed the 16 core courses. All that is left is to calculate the GPA. All other diplomas are Category Two or Category Three documents (more on those in a minute). Prospects will be considered a transfer student if they were enrolled at either the University of Prishtines or the University of Mitrovica. The grading scale looks like this:

  • Shkelqyeshem = A
  • Shume Mire = B
  • Mire = B
  • Mjaftueshem = C
  • Pamjeftueshem = F or failing


Liberia was added with no Category One documents and only one Category Two document that counts as graduation for eligibility purposes: the Liberia Senior High School Certificate. A prospect who presents a Category Two document is considered to have graduated from high school, but still must show they have completed the 16 core courses. This document is issued by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and requires the student to provide the Eligibility Center with information from a WAEC Scratch Card. The Scratch Card is explained below.

The Liberia Junior High School Certificate, also issued by the WAEC, is included as a Category Three document. A Category Three document is normally from levels below high school. But they may contain courses that count toward the 16 core course requirement. The grading scale is as follows:

  • Excellent or Very Good = A
  • Good or Credit (4 only) = B
  • Credit (5 or 6) = C
  • Pass = D
  • Fail = F or failing

Credential Changes


Such a problem with translation and transcript errors in Chinese documents has arisen that the NCAA now requires recruits to obtain a China Qualifications Verification (CQV) report. A CQV can be obtained from a number of agencies both in China and abroad, all of whom have been certified by the Chinese government. To obtain the CQV, the student sends the original language and translated documents to the agency who verifies their authenticity and correct translation.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education was added as a Category Two document, which means it counts as graduating from high school for eligibility purposes.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Because the IB is taught everywhere in the world, it can be mixed with other curricula. So the NCAA added IB test results as a special type of Category Three document. That means students who took IB exams but did not earn the IB diploma may use those exam results to show they completed core courses and toward their GPA, in combination with other transcripts and certificates.


The Further Education and Training Awards Council Level 5 Certificate was added as a Category Two document, which means it counts as graduating from high school for eligibility purposes. It also counts as completing the core course curriculum if on the transcript it shows five subjects were passed including English, math, physical science, and social science.


The Certifica di Esame di Stato [Classica, Scientifico, Linguistica] or the Certificate of State Examination [Classics, Sciences, Linguistics] was added as a Category One document. That means the certificate counts as both graduation from high school and completion of the NCAA’s core course curriculum.


Recruits from Kenya, which is an exam-based system, now must provide official transcripts as well as their exam results and grade reports.

Scratch Card

Students from the following countries will likely need to present a scratch card:

  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Liberia
  • Nigeria
  • Sierra Leone

A scratch card is issued by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to students who are taking exit examinations in the above countries. The scratch card is used to access online results of the exams. It is called a scratch card because students scratch off an area on the back to reveal a Personal Identification Number (PIN) they use to access their results. Students from those countries who want to use their exams for initial eligibility purposes must send the following information to the NCAA Eligibility Center via email (

  • The examination number;
  • Four digit examination year (e.g. 2012);
  • The type of examination;
  • The scratch card serial number; and
  • The PIN revealed on the scratch card

These will be used by the NCAA to confirm the results on the documents that recruits send to the Eligibility Center.

Updated Grading Scale

The following countries have had changes to their grading scale in the last year:

  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Macedonia
  • Nigeria
  • Philippines
  • Serbia/Montenegro
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

Prospects who attended school in those countries should check the new grading scale to make sure they understand how grades from their country translate to the 4.0 GPA scale the Eligibility Center uses for certification.

Do you have questions about the new academic standards for international students? We can help! Just leave us a comment in the comments section below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!

Conferences, Not NCAA, Keep Nonqualifiers Out of School

Rodney Purvis non qualifier


One of the most stressful times for a college athlete is waiting for their initial eligibility status to clear. The NCAA Eligibility Center certifies athletes as qualifiers or non-qualifiers, and so they hold many of the cards for athletes waiting to be cleared. Delays; going back and forth between the Eligibility Center, high school, prospect and college; waivers and appeals are common enough to cause headaches for more than a few prospects, even if they make up just a tiny percentage of those that enrolling in college each year.

According to the NCAA, a prospect’s status as a non-qualifier should not prevent them from enrolling in school. As a non-qualifier, a student-athlete is prohibited from receiving an athletic scholarship, practicing with the team, and playing in games. They are not prohibited from being admitted to the school, attending classes, or even receiving some athletic department benefits like tutoring, training room services, and free tickets to home athletic events. Prop–48 kids, as they used to be called, were basically allowed to enroll at whatever school they wanted, provided they could pay their own way and focused on just school for a year.

It’s the Conference Rules, not the NCAA Rules

The reason non-qualifiers are often not allowed to enroll in schools is because of conference non-qualifier rules. The rules vary from conference to conference and some conferences do not have a non-qualifier rule at all. But the most common version reads something like this:
Any non-qualifier whose initial full-time collegiate enrollment occurs at a conference institution shall be permanently ineligible for practice, competition, and athletically-related financial aid at all conference institutions.

Or put more clearly, if a prospect who was declared a non-qualifier attends classes or reports to practice as a freshman, he or she can never play at that school or any other school in the same conference. Some conferences allow schools to take a limited number of non-qualifiers per year; a total of four with two men and two women and only one in each sport is an example. Other conferences have a limit on how many prospects who receive partial waivers may be added each year (a partial waiver allows a prospect to receive aid and practice, but not compete as a freshman). Most conferences with a non-qualifier rule exempt any prospect who receives a full initial eligibility waiver.

The result is that prospects who are declared non-qualifiers are not allowed to enroll and start classes at schools in conferences with such strict non-qualifier policies. Many prospects who simply have not been cleared yet are treated the same way. By doing so, they would not only forfeit their eligibility at that school, but also all other conference schools. It is such a harsh penalty that schools use extreme caution even with some athletes who will be qualifiers.

That was never supposed to be the intent of the NCAA’s initial eligibility rules. When commentators point to the success of Prop–48 kids as proof that the NCAA does not need initial eligibility standards, they ignore the possibility that having to sit out the first year might have been one of the keys to their success. A full academic year of focusing on school rather than athletics could have been what was needed to prepare the student for the rigors of being a student-athlete. Perhaps athletic aid should be permitted to non-qualifiers, but the NCAA never attached as severe a penalty to being a non-qualifier as conferences did.

But with the end of partial qualifiers in Division I and the proliferation of non-qualifier rules across many conferences including most major conferences, being deemed a Division I non-qualifier often closes the doors to the college, not just the stadium. Partial waivers have alleviated some of this, but any waiver process involves enough risk that a student waiting for a waiver will not be allowed to attend classes, and risks falling behind, something that students on the edge of the NCAA’s standards can often not afford. The new standards in 2016 will alleviate some of this by reintroducing partial qualifiers as academic red-shirts, but that assumes that conferences do not pass similar rules for academic red-shirts.

Check the Conference Non-qualifier Rules

Prospects should check into whether the schools they are interested in have conference non-qualifier rules. That should not take any of the focus away from meeting the NCAA’s initial eligibility standards, but it will let a prospect know up front what the options are if he or she happens to fall short. Transfers need to know this as well since many conference include stricter rules for non-qualifiers who would like to transfer in, such as requiring them to wait for two years after starting college or transferring in more credit that is required by the NCAA to get a transfer exception. Aside from just knowing their status, prospects need to be aware of what that status means for their education and athletic career.

Do you have questions about your eligibility? Leave them in the comments below or contact us on Facebook , Twitter or Google+.

Make Sure You Know The New NCAA Eligibility Standards

new ncaa eligibility rulesIn just a few weeks, a brand new group of high school students will start both their athletic and academic careers. Because of the way a bunch of rules in Division I combine together, the start of high school is extremely important. Once a student starts the ninth grade, they have 10 years and must meet a number of benchmarks along the way to use their full eligibility.

The New Rules Start for College Freshman Entering in 2016

This group of ninth graders is different then most because they will be the first group facing new initial eligibility standards. The new standards are a significant change from the old ones including a rule that requires students to show a level of progress earlier than previously required. The challenge now is to get the word out so that large numbers of prospects do not end up ineligible.

The NCAA is now considering a plan that would allow coaches to contact athletes in eighth grade, but only for the purpose of educating them about academic standards. That is actually a decent idea, although it requires accepting that these academic communications will become recruiting pitches. Brochures and emails explaining initial eligibility standards will be elaborate and colorful productions covered in school logos. And schools will make sure to send that academic information to prospects just to show interest.

Educating high school guidance counselors seems to make sense, except for two reasons. First, given the state of high school budgets, there is no guarantee that the counselor you educate today will still be there in 2016. Second, counselors have other things to worry about than initial eligibility. Their job, first and foremost, is to make sure students graduate even if it means ending up as a nonqualifier.

The Better Plan Would be to Educate High School and Club Coaches

Even though coaches might change jobs or be fired, we can be fairly confident the position will be there. Coaches also have much more contact and often more influence over a prospect to get them motivated to take academics seriously from day one.

Even if coaches and guidance counselors are educated on the rules and are willing and able to help, prospects and their parents should not let others be in control of their eligibility. Prospects need to keep eligibility in the back of their minds and parents need to educate themselves and track progress on their own to make sure the athlete is on track.

The NCAA could help out by allowing athletes to register with the Eligibility Center (formerly the Clearinghouse) as ninth graders and push payment back later in the recruiting process. That would help all prospects get some education and guidance while only those that need it pay for certification. Unfortunately the NCAA looks to be going the other direction:

Payment is necessary to complete a registration and receive certification. Incomplete accounts will be deleted in 30 days if no pmt recd.

— Eligibility Center (@NCAA_EC) August 16, 2012

That means prospects need to educate themselves and do some of the legwork to follow along with the new rules and track their progress. Prospects need to be responsible for their own eligibility, just like they need to be responsible for their recruiting.

Do you have questions about your eligibility? Ask us below in the comments or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+!

Reclassifying 101: Important Info to Consider Before Reclassifying

A lot of things can change during a prospect’s recruitment, but for a long time one of the givens was the year an athlete would finish high school and start college. The occasional recruit would have academic issues and need to go to prep school. A few football players every year would graduate and enroll a semester early for spring ball. But for the most part, athletes were part of one recruiting class and one recruiting class only.Reclassifying High School Graduation

Times have changed. A combination of factors including kids specializing earlier in one sport, the growth of nontraditional education in high schools, earlier commitments, and more sophisticated ways of doling out financial aid have made which class an athlete is in much fuzzier.

Reclassifying is becoming commonplace enough that athletes need to be reminded about how big of a decision it is. When athletes decide to reclassify, they are refusing to follow the path that many NCAA rules are built around. Extra care is needed to make sure they still follow those rules.

What is Reclassifying?

Reclassifying is deciding to change the date you graduate from high school and/or enter college after you have started the ninth grade. Changing either is important. If an athlete graduates from high school early but do not change the date he or she goes to college, there are rules that might impact his or her eligibility. The same goes for athletes who graduate on time from high school but delay their college enrollment.

Academic Issues

The most important academic consideration when reclassifying is the NCAA’s core-curriculum time limitation, from Bylaw

A prospective student-athlete must complete his or her core-curriculum requirements not later than the high school graduation date of the prospective student-athlete’s class [as determined by the first year of enrollment in high school (ninth grade) or the international equivalent…]. Graduation from high school or secondary school shall be based on the prospective student-athlete’s prescribed educational path in his or her country.

This generally means that a prospect must have finished the NCAA’s 16 require core courses by the time he or she finishes high school. A prospect’s GPA is also more or less locked in based on classes completed before graduation.

There is one exception. An athlete may take up to one core course after graduation, provided he or she graduates on time and completes the extra credit within one year. That could be one year of a course or one semester each of two courses. Athletes who do not graduate on time are not allowed to use this exception.

If an athlete graduates early, then they may use the one additional course exception, but the one-year time period starts when the athlete graduates, not the graduation date for the class. If the two dates are different, the NCAA counts the earlier date.

Note that Division II does not have this requirement. Athletes can use any courses completed prior to starting college to become a Division II qualifier.

Athletic Issues

While some athletes reclassify for academic reasons, more and more changes in when they graduate and enroll in college are for athletic reasons. Athletes want to enroll a semester early and acclimate to college; enrolling a year early or later has advantages in the recruiting process.

Critical to keep in mind is the NCAA’s delayed enrollment rule from Bylaw Once athletes graduate from high school, the NCAA requires them to enroll in college within one year following high school graduation. If after a year, an athlete still has not enrolled in college and continues to compete in his or her sport, two things happen:

  • The athlete is charged one season of competition for every year they continue to compete; and
  • The athlete must sit out their first year after they enroll in college.

As an example, say a golfer graduates from high school, then takes two years to try and make it as a professional (but maintains his amateur status). After not making it on the tour, he enrolls in college. He would need to sit out his first year, after which he would only have three seasons to play. Tennis athletes have even less time to enroll. Their grace period is only six months, or basically one semester.

Like the academic rules, the NCAA uses the earlier of the expected graduation date or an athlete’s actual graduation date. So if an athlete graduates high school in three years, he or she does not get an additional year to delay enrollment. If athletes have to repeat a year of high school, then play a year at a prep school, they are in the same situation as the golfer above.

Tips for Athletes

If you think you might reclassify, you need to keep more things in mind than the average recruit.

  • Make sure your academics are in order. Once you change the date you plan to graduate, either earlier or later, your options for fixing eligibility issues are reduced quickly.
  • Check to see if you are allowed to graduate early or take classes after graduation. The need for tax dollars means some schools limit or prohibit students from graduating early. The lack of tax dollars means classes for students who have graduated are disappearing.
  • Complete eligibility requirements in an academically sound manner. Graduating from high school early might seem like a good idea until rushing through school work leaves you ineligible.
  • Consider other aspects of high school. Graduating early might mean no prom, no graduation ceremony, or even no senior year. Going to prep school might mean watching friends go off to college while you stay behind.
  • Watch your athletic eligibility. Delaying your enrollment for more than a year or graduating early to focus on your sport before starting college can cause you to lose some of your eligibility.

IMPORTANT ADDITION. We have a new article about how to reclassify here.

Are you considering reclassification and have questions about it? Ask us in the comments section below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!

What Coaches Can’t Do In the Admissions Process

Recruiting is most often associated with college athletics, but recruiting is an activity performed all over a college campus. Schools are trying to attract superstar professors. Journals are fighting to grab the best articles. And labs are working to get research projects and grants.

The All-around Competition  is More Challenging

Economic pressures have made the competition for students, not just student-athletes, much more vigorous for the admissions office. As support from legislatures dwindles and the cost of college rises, schools are looking for any students able to pay full tuition. Combine that with more sophisticated methods of meeting diversity targets for enrollment, and admissions is no longer sitting around waiting for applications.

That means more effort is going into attracting students of all types. But as Sean Devlin of Front Rush points out, there is very little coordination between admissions and athletics:

Coaches are collecting highly qualified data on recruits that any admissions officer could use for their own recruiting initiatives. An athlete may fall short in their athletic ability and may not be a fit for their respective sport, but at the same time that does not mean that they are not a fit for the university as a whole. The university could benefit greatly by having access to that vital recruit information. Similarly, if the recruit is a fit for the team and the university, the combined efforts of the coach and admissions officer could help improve the probability of actually recruiting that athlete. Then from a coaches perspective, they could leverage admissions data to help focus their efforts. For example, it would be great if a coach knew immediately when a recruit’s academic status changed from applied to accepted.
 Certainly there are technological challenges with sharing information between athletics and admissions. But more important is the culture of distrust between admissions and the athletic department.”

The Athletic and Academic Departments don’t Always See Eye-to-Eye

The athletic department sees admissions as a hurdle to allowing coaches to recruit who they want. With the rise of national eligibility standards for freshmen, an admissions department enforcing higher standards seems like a unnecessary second step. The relationship with fans and alumni can be tense as well, especially when an eligible freshman is not admitted.

Admissions sees athletics as potentially usurping their authority and bringing in athletes not prepared to be successful at the school. To an admissions office, NCAA standards are a baseline only, and might not reflect what it takes to do well at an individual school.

This relationship is not always antagonistic and many athletic departments have a good relationship with the admissions office. But it is never entirely comfortable, and both sides always hold a little back. It also only takes a couple bad experiences for a coach or admissions official to get a bad taste and start digging in for fights regularly.

Generally, it will be good for prospects if athletics and admissions start working closer together. It will mean fewer places to send information, faster admissions decisions, and better updates along the way about the progress of an application. Fewer athletes will end up with a surprising admission decision late in the recruiting process.

It is not without negatives though. The biggest issue will be when a school has an admissions and financial aid office that work very closely together and use the same set of information. If admissions (and thus financial aid) know who the athletes being recruited are, it could cause financial aid to become wary about awarding financial aid to athletes. This is because of NCAA rules requiring that financial aid be awarded without regard to athletics or it becomes countable as an athletic scholarship.

Important Takeaways

There are two key takeaways for prospects and families. First, ask about the admissions process early on in your recruitment. Knowing when to apply, what is required, what the admissions standards are and when you can expect a decision are all critical for prospects to keep in mind.

Second, remember that the athlete is often the only person who will have a complete set of information. It is up to the prospect to keep track of what was sent to the athletic department, the admissions office, and the Eligibility Center. Everyone has their own deadlines or wants recruits to get tasks done as soon as possible, so it’s up to recruits to prioritize and keep everything organized.

Do you still have questions about the relationship between coaches and the admissions office? Just ask us in the comment section below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!

Using APR as a Prospect, Part 2

Once you have an understanding about how the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, or APR is calculated, you can better understand what an APR score is when you dig into it, and what it tells you about the past and present situation at a school.

Figuring out the APR Situation

Start by looking up a school’s multi-year APR. That number tells you something, but not enough. First off, APRs typically have a one-year lag time. The most recent APR released was from the 2010–2011 school year and the 2011–2012 school year is already over.

More importantly, the next APR will drop the oldest of the four years and replace it with the most recent. This is why you must also look up a school’s single year APRs, which are in the head coach database.

You want to note a few things about the multi-year and single year APR scores:

• The multi-year APR score
• The single year APR score
• The trend of multi-year APR scores
• The trend of single year APR scores
• What single year scores will be dropped over the next two years

When looking at the trend of single year APR scores, look at how much they are fluctuating. A single bad year might be a fluke. But if the APR is regularly fluctuating between very high scores and very low scores, there might be something else going on.

What’s Behind the APR Score

Once you’ve looked into the score itself, start to look at what might have caused any issues. Was there a coaching change recently? Were players dismissed for disciplinary reasons? Were a number of athletes ineligible for a semester?

You probably can’t get to the bottom of every issue with an APR score. But you can get a better idea of whether the issue had more to do with eligibility or retention. From there, you can begin a discussion with the coaching staff.

Asking About the APR

When discussing a team’s APR with the coach, the goal is to get some additional information about the team’s score. If there were a number of transfers one year, was there a reason? If there was a coaching change, have things settled down?

The other important topic, especially if an APR score is being weighed down by eligibility issues, is what changes the team and the athletic department have instituted. One thing to look for is a commitment by the coaching staff to be involved rather than just more academic resources. Student-athletes with coaches who emphasize academics are more likely to graduate.

When a Problem Is Not a Problem

There are times when an APR score is deceiving because older low scores are bringing down the average. If an APR seems low but the low single year scores are about to be dropped and there was a good explanation for them, there might not be an issue.

On the other hand, higher scores can temporarily mask an APR on a downward trend. As higher scores are dropped, the team may need to post equal or better scores to avoid penalties. That can lead to pressure on student-athletes to enroll in certain majors or restrictions on athletes who want to transfer if they do not qualify for exceptions.

Just One Tool

Like who the coach is, what formation or system a team uses, and what the dorms look like, APR is just one piece of information athletes should take into account when selecting a college. Use it not only as a characteristic of a school but also as a place to start a discussion about academics with a coach. Above all, know the situation, good or bad, before you make a decision. It is much easier to know beforehand and make a decision than to change your mind after your team is facing penalties.

Do you have questions about what the APR means for you? Just ask us in the comment section below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!

Using APR as a Prospect, Part 1 of 2

One of the major successes of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, or APR, has been just how much the APR is talked about. Coaches obsess over it, fans follow it, and current student-athletes can be affected by it. Less discussed is how the APR affects recruits.

Luckily, prospects are in a great position to do something about the APR, provided they are willing to do the research. The biggest thing prospects can do to is to avoid putting themselves in a position where they end up paying for a team’s APR troubles that they may have had little or nothing to do with themselves.

APR Basics

The Academic Progress Rate is a measure of how well a team has done in two areas: student-athletes remaining academically eligible and student-athletes being retained or graduating. That rate is calculated every term, which is combined with the other terms in an academic year to get a single year rate. The most recent four single year rates are combined to make a multi-year rate which is the basis for APR penalties.

The APR Cohort

Calculating APR starts with determining the APR cohort, the group of student-athletes who will make up the APR score. The APR cohort is normally all student-athletes on an athletic scholarship who were enrolled for a term. If a team does not offer scholarships (like Ivy League schools), the APR includes all student-athletes enrolled for a term who meet the NCAA’s definition of a recruited student-athlete (i.e. was given an official visit, coach made a home visit, or was called more than once).

Calculating the APR

Each student-athlete in the APR cohort can earn two points each term: one point for being academically eligible for the following term and one point for enrolling full time for the following term (or graduating). Normally a student-athlete can earn four points over the course of a year (six at a quarter school). There are situations though were a student-athlete does not lose a point, but does not gain one either. An example is a student-athlete who transfers but meets an exception in the APR guidelines. Her score would be 1/1 point for that term, since the retention point is not counted.

Single Year and Multi-Year

To calculate a single year rate, you take all the student-athletes in the cohort and add up their possible points and their earned points. For example, imagine you have a men’s basketball team with the following situation:

• Ten players are eligible and return or graduate: Each 4/4 points.
• One player is eligible, but transfers: 3/4 points.
• One player is ineligible and leaves school: 2/4 points.
• One player is eligible, transfers, and qualifies for an exception: 3/3 points.

This team had a total of 51 points possible and earned 48. Some quick math: 48/51 = .941 * 1000 = 941. That 941 would be the single year rate for this team.
To calculate the multi-year rate, all of the points earned over the most recent four years are added up and divided by all the points possible over the same four years. If a team has fewer points and possible points in one year (because of fewer athletes on scholarship), that year will have less of an impact on the multi-year rate than a year with a larger cohort.

What This Means for Recruits

Knowing how the APR is calculated is important for recruits to understand how APR works and what a good or bad APR score tells you about a team. The goal is not to calculate a school’s APR on your own. That’s possible only in a select few sports and will only ever be an approximation.

Rather, this knowledge helps recruits and their families understand how individual events can affect the APR. Knowing that a rash of transfers could impact the APR dramatically or not at all gives athletes and parents a jumping off point to discuss the event with coaches. That will be the constant refrain with APR for recruits: it’s one of the best ways to start a conversation about academics.

In the companion to this article, we’ll look what you can learn from APR reports and how to start going beyond the raw numbers of an APR score.

Do you have questions about what the APR means for you? Just ask us in the comment section below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!