The NCAA is placing an increasing value on academic standards for student athletes. One of the most confusing eligibility issues for prospective international student athletes is figuring out if they have a good enough GPA to satisfy the core course requirements.
The NCAA uses a sliding scale to determine athletic eligibility. The sliding scale correlates a student’s GPA in their core courses to either his or her ACT or SAT test score. Student athletes looking to compete at the NCAA Division I or Division II level must take either the SAT or ACT exam. Some students opt to take both exams. Many students also choose to take the exams multiple times because you can combine your best scores from each section of the exam (called superscoring). In addition, GPA and test scores high enough to be declared eligible do not guarantee admittance to a university.
The Academic Requirements are Different for Each Country
You can find the academic standards for your country here: NCAA International Athlete Eligibility Standards. Once you open the link, look for your country. For each country, it will list the appropriate certificate you should work toward. Make sure to also check out the Best Practices: Visas and I-20s section.
A great tool to help you figure out how your classes and grades will correlate to American standards is the Foreign GPA Calculator. Start by selecting your country. Next, choose the appropriate grading scale. Then, enter classes, credits or hours, and grades you received. Once you have entered all of your classes, grades, and credits, click calculate to see your equivalent US grade. The grading scale for the selected country is located below the actual calculator. You can find an explanation of how the GPA is calculated under the grading scale.
The NAIA is Different than the NCAA
Unlike the NCAA, the NAIA Eligibility Center does not consider any core course when reviewing eligibility. There are three main criteria to be eligible to play at an NAIA school: class rank, overall GPA, and standardized test score. Two of the aforementioned three categories must be satisfied. You must have at least a 2.0 GPA, graduate in the top half of your class, and/or score an 18 on the ACT or an 860 on the SAT.