NCAA Initial Eligibility Center

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Sports may be number one in your mind, but there's a reason student comes before athlete in student-athlete. If you don't give academics top priority in high school, you have a good chance of becoming neither a student nor an athlete after graduation. To continue your status as both, make the NCAA Initial Eligibility Center your first stop on the recruiting trail.

What is the NCAA Initial Eligibility Center?

Formerly known as the NCAA Clearinghouse, the Center determines whether a high school student is eligible to participate in Division I or II athletics. "The [Center] is confirming that the courses you took are college readiness courses," Nancy Nitardy says.

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Sports may be number one in your mind, but there's a reason student comes before athlete in student-athlete. If you don't give academics top priority in high school, you have a good chance of becoming neither a student nor an athlete after graduation. To continue your status as both, make the NCAA Initial Eligibility Center your first stop on the recruiting trail.

What is the NCAA Initial Eligibility Center?

Formerly known as the NCAA Clearinghouse, the Center determines whether a high school student is eligible to participate in Division I or II athletics. "The [Center] is confirming that the courses you took are college readiness courses," Nancy Nitardy says.

Nitardy, a recruiting expert, recommends registering with the Center as early as spring semester of junior year. By registering, you qualify to make official college visits during your senior year. However, registration does not mean you are NCAA-eligible; that happens at the completion of your senior year.

ACT vs. SAT

Nitardy recommends taking both standardized tests, because there's a good chance you'll do better comparatively on one. If you test early enough in high school—at least by your junior year—you'll have the option of retesting to improve your scores.

Is one test better than the other? Nitardy thinks the NCAA "sort of" favors the ACT. One reason may be that the writing portion of the SAT is not used for NCAA purposes, leaving the critical reading and math sections to count for your score. The ACT is the sum of four sections: English, math, critical reading and science. Nitardy adds, "I've found that a lot of athletes actually do better on the ACT." Maybe because the NCAA considers scores on four sections, rather than just the SAT's two.

What You Need to Do: A Year-by-Year Breakdown

Grades 9 and 10

• Review the NCAA core-course requirements to make sure you're on track; verify with your guidance counselor

Grade 11

• Register with the Eligibility Center
• Again, make sure you're on track to meet NCAA core-course requirements
• At the completion of your junior year, have your guidance counselor send a copy of your transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center
• When taking the ACT or SAT, request that a set of test results be sent to the Eligibility Center

Grade 12

• Complete the Eligibility Center's Amateurism Questionnaire [used to determine a prospect's eligibility according to NCAA rules]; review and finalize your answers to the Questionnaire before submitting your electronic signature for final verification
• Have your high school guidance counselor send final transcripts, including proof of graduation, to the Eligibility Center

High School Course Requirements

Division I: 16 Core-Course Rule
Complete 16 core courses
• 4 years of English
• 3 years of math [Algebra I or higher]
• 2 years of natural/physical science [one year of lab if offered by high school]
• 1 year of additional English, math or natural/ physical science
• 2 years of social science
• 4 years of additional courses [choose from English, math, science, social science, foreign language, nonsectarian religion or philosophy]

Division II: 14 Core-Course Rule
Complete 14 core courses
• 3 years of English
• 2 years of math [Algebra I or higher]
• 2 years of natural/physical science [one year of lab if offered by high school]
• 2 years of additional English, math or natural/ physical science
• 2 years of social science
• 3 years of additional courses [choose from English, math, science, social science, foreign language, nonsectarian religion or philosophy]

Division III
The NCAA has no academic eligibility requirements for D-III colleges. Check with each college for specific admission policies.

Related Links:
Academic Pitfalls
2009 Key Recruiting Checklist
Bob Sanders' Recruiting Experience
Recruiting Terminology
Financial Aid 411
Divisional Breakdown
Self Marketing Tips
Communicating With a Coach 
Gauging A Coach's Interest
Official College Visits
Researching Colleges
Key NCAA Rules & Regs


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: TRACK | STUDENT | COURSES | ELIGIBILITY CENTER | GRADUATION | GUIDANCE COUNSELOR | COLLEGE VISITS