Can You Get A Sports Scholarship With Bad Grades?

As a high school student-athlete who is familiar with the struggle of juggling academics and athletics, or a concerned family member, I’m sure you’re curious about the role grades play in determining which athletes are eligible, and more likely, to receive scholarships from college programs.

Within college sports, each division has different academic requirements that athletes must meet to be eligible for a scholarship. For division specific requirements, scroll down to the next section. Generally, athletes must have a minimum of a 2.0 GPA and an SAT score of approximately 900 to be considered for scholarships. However, just scraping by with the minimum academic achievements is not always enough to be eligible for a scholarship at the school of your choice. College coaches care about your academic record, and many schools have much stricter academic requirements than what is required by their division’s eligibility center.

Athletes often struggle to excel in both academics and athletics since both require a huge investment of time and effort. In order to give you the best chance of being eligible for and receiving a scholarship, it is important to understand the grades and test scores that colleges are looking for their athletes to have. For this reason, we’ve given you more information about the division-specific academic requirements below.

Academic Requirements For Each Division Of College Sports

Division 1: Division 1 programs use a formula that combines high school GPA and performance on standardized testing (ACT or SAT) to determine an athlete’s eligibility for scholarships. In order for you to qualify for a scholarship you must have, at minimum, a 2.0/4.0 GPA. The test score that is required for you to be eligible is dependent upon your GPA. The higher your GPA, the lower your test score can be. If your GPA is exactly a 2.0/4.0, you must score either a combined 1020 on the reading and math sections of the SAT or a total of 86 points on the English, Math, Science, and Reading sections of the ACT. However, if your GPA is a 3.5/4.0, you only need a 420 combined score on the SAT or a 39 combined score on the ACT.

Division 2: Division 2 programs use the same sliding scale that Division 1 programs use. If you are eligible to play for a Division 1 program, you are eligible to play for a Division 2 program, and vice-versa. As of 2015, you are not allowed to play for a Division 1 or 2 program your freshman year if your GPA as an incoming freshman is below a 2.3/4.0. You can still receive a scholarship with a 2.0/4.0, but there is a mandatory academic redshirt year for athletes with GPAs between 2.0 and 2.3. Below you can find the sliding scale for NCAA Divisions 1 and 2.

GPA For Scholarships GPA For Competition SAT ACT
3.5 3.95 420 39
3.4 3.85 460 42
3.3 3.75 500 44
3.2 3.65 540 47
3.1 3.55 580 49
3.0 3.45 620 52
2.9 3.35 660 54
2.8 3.25 700 57
2.7 3.15 740 61
2.6 3.05 780 64
2.5 2.95 820 68
2.4 2.85 860 71
2.3 2.75 900 75
2.2 2.65 940 79
2.1 2.55 980 83
2.0 2.45 1020 86

Division 3: Division 3 schools determine their own eligibility requirements. Different Division 3 schools have vastly different academic requirements. However, Division 3 schools don’t offer athletic scholarships; they only offer academic ones. This means the higher your GPA and test scores, the more likely you are to receive a scholarship.

NAIA: The NAIA has significantly different requirements than Divisions 1, 2, and 3. There are three separate requirements that determine your eligibility in the NAIA. In order to be eligible for a scholarship, you must fulfill two of the three requirements. First, you must graduate in the top half of your high school class. Second, you need to have a minimum of a 2.0/4.0 GPA. Finally, you have to score an 860 on the SAT or an 18 on the ACT.

What Should You Do If You Are At Risk Of Being Ineligible?

Get Started Early: If you want to play a sport in college, you should begin thinking about your academic eligibility as early as possible- even your freshman year of high school. Waiting until your junior or senior year of high school to start considering your academic eligibility makes it much harder to correct course if you do find that you may be academically ineligible. By beginning to think about it as early as possible, you give yourself plenty of time to determine the steps you need to take to ensure you are academically eligible when you arrive to college.

Talk To Your School’s Guidance Counselor: Your high school’s guidance/college counselor is essentially a resident expert when it comes to academic eligibility for athletes. They will be able to explain the requirements for different divisions, and can also help you contact college coaches to find out individual schools’ academic requirements. Additionally, they will be able to explain the steps you should take to become/remain academically eligible.

Study for the ACT Or SAT: A major part of academic eligibility for athletes is standardized testing. The two commonly accepted forms of standardized testing are the ACT and the SAT. Thousands of students around the country take both of these exams, so there are plenty of resources available to help you prepare for them. You can buy a comprehensive prep book for roughly ten dollars or, if you want to save some money, there are free practice exams online. Using these resources to study for the ACT/SAT makes it much more likely that you will get the score required for academic eligibility at your preferred college.

What Grades Do You Need To Remain Eligible Once On Campus?

Academic requirements don’t disappear once you arrive to campus. You must continue to meet your college’s requirements in order to keep your scholarship and be allowed to compete. Here are the NCAA’s requirements, by division, for remaining academically eligible while you’re on campus.

Division 1: For Division 1 programs, athletes must meet the minimum GPA required to graduate at their institution. For example, if your school requires its graduates to have a 2.2 GPA or higher, then you must have, at minimum, a 2.2 GPA throughout your time in college. Additionally, you must earn at least 6 credits each semester to be eligible, 40% of the required coursework for your degree must be completed by the end of your second year, and 80% of the coursework has to be completed by the end of your fourth year.

Division 2: Division 2 programs require you to earn a 2.0 GPA each school year. Division 2 athletes also must take a minimum of 24 credit hours each school year, and a minimum of nine each semester, to remain eligible.

Division 3: Division 3 does not have any national requirements for maintaining eligibility. It’s up to the individual school to set their academic standards. To remain eligible, student-athletes must be progressing towards their degree while meeting their school’s requirements. Additionally, Division 3 athletes have to be enrolled in at least 12 hours each semester.

Things To Keep In Mind

Coaches Care About Academics College coaches care a lot about your academics when they are deciding whether to recruit you to their program. A strong academic record indicates to a coach that they won’t have to worry about you juggling the responsibilities of being both a full-time student and a full-time athlete once you arrive to campus. Coaches are much less likely to want you to be a part of their program if they are worried about you being academically ineligible.

Meeting The Minimum Academic Requirements May Not Be Enough Many schools have their own academic requirements that are significantly stricter than the NCAA’s. When you’re making the list of schools that you’re interested in, you should search each school’s website or contact the school’s coach to find out their individual academic requirements.

Leverage Your Resources As a student, you have many resources to help you succeed academically. We already mentioned prep books and guidance counselors. Additionally, your teachers, families, and fellow students are great people to talk to if you feel you need academic help.

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