The Requirements for College Athletes

by Dr. Kelly S. Meier
Remember: the word student comes before athlete in college.

Being a college student athlete is an honor. If you’re planning to play sports in college, you’ll need to meet specific requirements established by the National College Athletic Association and your academic institution. These guidelines are designed to protect your quest to seek a college degree. You should begin preparing in high school to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. Learn all you can, meet with the athletic department of your prospective college and consult with your high school coach to prepare for college athletics.

Show Off Your Smarts

The NCAA has established guidelines related to academic achievement in high school for all student athletes. For example, a student athlete must finish 16 core classes, including math, science and English with a 2.0 GPA prior to their last semester in high to be eligible for scholarships and to play Division I and II sports. In addition, an 820 score on the SAT, or an ACT equivalent score, is required. Division III schools are not bound to NCAA academic requirements. You’ll also need to research the admissions requirements for the institution you wish to attend. Most schools require a minimum score on a college entrance exam, college preparatory classes and a specific high school GPA for admission.

Know Your Limits

There are specific NCAA guidelines governing the college recruitment process for high school athletes. Colleges and universities are responsible for following these rules, but you need to be aware of them as well. If you are connected to a violation, your eligibility as a college athlete is put at risk. For example, if a college pays for you and your family to visit campus, it is considered an official visit. You can accept transportation, housing and three meals per day for this visit. The college can also invite you and two guests to a college athletic event. If you accept anything else, you may risk your eligibility.

Don’t Be Greedy

As early as your high school junior year, you’ll need to register with the NCAA eligibility center. One aspect of eligibility for prospective college athletes is to ensure you have amateur status. This means you haven’t received payment or prize money for anything related to your athletic involvement or compensation for expenses other than travel related costs. You can fill out the forms and answer the questions by visiting the NCAA website. If you are unsure about the questions, talk to your parents or current coach for assistance.

Clear The Way

To ensure you’re healthy and physically able to participate in intercollegiate athletics, you’ll need to have a health examination that complies with NCAA guidelines. Typically, you’ll need to submit proof of this before school begins. Be sure to use the NCAA form that includes information about your athletic history as well as your physical well-being. You’ll also need to complete other paperwork regarding Sickle Cell testing, prescription and banned medications. You can get a medical exception for some banned drugs, such as medications for ADD or ADHD, as long as you have justification from your physician. Without medical clearance, you can’t participate or receive scholarship dollars as an athlete.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly S. Meier is a professor and college administrator for a large public institution in Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University and her master's degree and doctorate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has published more than 15 books on education, group development and diversity.

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