College eligibility requirements are one of the most complex areas of the recruiting process, especially for athletes who do not take the traditional route of getting recruited during high school. Making the decision to participate in college sports can be complicated. For athletes who are unsure if they have what it takes to participate at the college level, they may be reluctant to get involved in the recruiting process right away. Others may not know if they are ready for college, and they don’t think about competing until they have already graduated high school.
Learning the Process After High School
It’s important for student athletes to understand the different athletic divisions in college sports. Each division level will have its own eligibility standards, which are required for all students who want to compete at the college level. Knowing where to find the eligibility information that is relevant to you will be your best resource when deciding to play sports again and finding the best division level to meet your needs.
The Division Levels
The NCAA Division I and Division II levels have the strictest eligibility requirements for both incoming freshman and transfer students. Both of these divisions are able to grant athletic scholarships to student athletes, which is the main reason students must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. To become eligible, athletes will need to meet all requirements of the eligibility center to be granted clearance to compete at the division I or division II levels.
The NCAA Division III eligibility varies by individual institution requirements. At this level, student athletes need to be in contact with coaches from member schools to discuss possible athletic opportunities. Transfers and special circumstances can be discussed with coaches and conference eligibility staff to determine status. Having access to official eligibility rules will give you an idea of what your eligibility status will be once entering into an NCAA college.
NAIA schools have their own set of standards when it comes to student athletes’ eligibility requirements. The NAIA, like NCAA Divisions I and II, requires athletes to register and complete the NAIA Eligibility Center’s requirements. NAIA players are allowed to compete in four seasons of their sport. For special eligibility circumstances, athletes will need to be reviewed by the NAIA Eligibility Center, the college coach who is interested in recruiting the player, and administrators for the college conference.
Junior colleges in the NJCAA system are two-year schools which do not require student athletes to register with an eligibility center. At the NJCAA level, eligibility requirements are the least strict. Junior college is a great starting point for athletes unsure if they can handle college and sports, as well as athletes who wish to return to competitive play after a hiatus from school and sports.
Remember all college division levels require student athletes to meet not only eligibility requirements, but also the enrollment expectations of the college or university they plan to attend.
It’s completely understandable that student athletes’ plans are not always going to work out the way they expect them to, which is why each of the division levels provides information on special circumstances. If you have any other eligibility questions, then leave them in the comments section below or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!