By Suzie Hinman Locke

Coach, Butler Community College

You may be the best player on the field or court, but if you aren’t taking care of business in the classroom you could be jeopardizing opportunities to play college athletics. Typically, I would not tell anyone to focus solely on NCAA Division I institutions, but when it comes to academics the circumstances change.


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NCAA Division I has the most rigorous academic eligibility requirements of athletic associations.

*Remember, certain institutions may have higher standards, but in order to be NCAA eligible you have to meet minimum requirements.

The following pieces are key components to your future success

Step 1: Take (and Pass) your Core Courses!

You must complete 16 core courses in 8 semesters (beginning in your 9th grade year). Those core courses are:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of math
  • 2 years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science, if offered)
  • 1 extra year of English, math, or natural/physical science
  • 2 years of social science
  • 4 years of extra core courses (from any of the above categories, or foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy)

Have you met with your guidance counselor? School guidance counselors should know what courses you need to take and how to stay on track to be academically eligible.

Step 2: Keep your Grades Up

Obviously, not everyone is going to stand on the stage as the valedictorian during graduation, but that does not mean your grades should go by the wayside. The NCAA has strict regulations regarding your GPA in core-courses.

GPA requirements operate on a sliding scale determined by combining your GPA and your cumulative SAT/ACT score.  The table below has examples of the scale. (Note: ACT score below represents the sum of English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science scores.)










3.55 and above



As you can see, the higher your GPA, the lower the NCAA requirements are on standardized tests. In other words, if you keep up your GPA you will face less pressure to perform at a high level on the standardized tests. However, being eligible for the NCAA does not guarantee admission to an institution.

Step 3: Fill those Bubbles

Maybe you get pumped up about filling in bubbles with a pencil, or maybe you do not, but regardless you must take the ACT or SAT for your initial eligibility. The table above gives you a general idea of the cumulative scores required to be eligible, so put on those thinking caps, sharpen your pencils and get bubbling!  Again, utilize your school’s guidance counselors for help with signing up for either the ACT, SAT, or both (check with your schools of interest because some schools may only accept the SAT).

More on the sliding scale can be found at the NCAA Eligibility Center website.

Step 4: Sign Up

Head to and sign up. The NCAA Eligibility Center certifies the academic and amateur status of prospective athletes.  The site requires several pieces of information from you including high school transcripts, test scores and athletic participation information.

Step 5: Cap and Gown

All these steps are pushed to the wayside if you fail to graduate from high school. All your hard work in school will be worth it. Starting with your freshman year, you need to set your eyes on the prize: Cap, Gown and Diploma!

If you complete these five steps, and meet the NCAA requirements, you will be academically eligible to participate in athletics and potentially receive a scholarship during your first year.

Your future is in your hands. Good luck!