Step One to Becoming a Collegiate Athlete: NCAA Eligibility Center

Get better at the sports you play and the life you lead at STACK. Improve your training, nutrition and lifestyle with daily

You want to be a collegiate athlete, but to accomplish that goal, where do you start? Simple: enroll in the NCAA Eligibility Center, an organization that collaborates with the NCAA and is "charged" with determining the eligibility of all incoming Division I and Division II freshmen student-athletes. This is achieved through the evaluation of high school academic records and by calculating core course grade point averages [GPAs] and standardized test scores.

Each division has its own standards for entering freshmen. Below is a brief description of how eligibility is determined:

Division I
Division I freshmen athletes must meet minimum eligibility standards based on three factors: core course GPA, standardized test scores and minimum academic requirements. The GPA and standardized test scores are measured on a sliding scale. In addition, the GPA must be determined from grades in 16 pre-approved core courses.

Division II
Division II eligibility standards are similar to those for Division I, but they use a simple formula. All entering freshmen who wish to practice and compete in college must demonstrate at least a 2.0 core course GPA and either a minimum SAT score of 820 [verbal and math combined] or a minimum sum ACT score of 68. In addition, the GPA must be determined from grades in 14 pre-approved core courses.

Division III
Eligibility requirements to compete at the D-III level are determined differently and decided internally at each school. However, many schools have minimum GPA, test score and core course requirements. Basically, once a student has been admitted to a Division III school, he/she will be eligible to practice and compete.

Core course requirement may seem a little confusing, but the Eligibility Center wants to be sure prospects are taking the "meat and potato" high school academic coursework. Therefore, grades in courses such as art, music and physical education are NOT calculated in the core course GPA.

Registration with the Eligibility Center is a two-step process. I encourage prospects and families to begin the process as soon as junior year grades are available. The first step is painless: families can register online at All you need is a credit card to pay the annual fee [$60]. It takes about 25 minutes to fill in your contact information and answer several questions. Final eligibility is determined after senior year grades are presented to the Eligibility Center.

Tom Kovic is the founder and president of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises families and prospective student-athletes in developing and executing personal plans for the college search. Kovic has delivered nearly 300 presentations and seminars to more than 3,500 participants. He is the author of Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide to college athletics recruiting, and he is a regular contributor to numerous educational and sports publications.

Prior to founding his own company, Kovic coached gymnastics at The University of Pennsylvania. He has coached 34 individual Ivy League Champions, three ECAC athletes of the year and more than 160 NCAA Academic All-Americans. He was named ECAC Coach of the Year twice.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock