What GPA Do You Need For A Sports Scholarship?

As a high school athlete, or the parent of one, you are probably curious what the GPA requirements are to be rewarded a division one, two, or three scholarship.

To be eligible to participate in all team activities in the student’s first year of college, a student athlete must graduate with at least a 2.3 high school GPA. A GPA that lies within the range of 2.0-2.3 is still able to qualify for an athletic scholarship, but upon enrolling the student will be temporarily on academic redshirt until the grades are improved. At all divisions of college athletics, the NCAA abides by either the D1, D2, or D3 ‘sliding scale’ that uses ACT and SAT scores alongside a student’s GPA to deem an individual eligible/ineligible.

While all levels of college athletics recognize and follow these clear-cut eligibility standards, that’s not to say coaches don’t take these numbers into account throughout the recruiting process. Some coaches are known specifically for not even considering athletes below a certain GPA. Below is a more in-depth analysis of the NCAA’s eligibility standards, the NCAA sliding scales, a plan to use throughout high school, some helpful tips as to why and how to keep your GPA up, and alternative options.

NCAA Eligibility Standards

The NCAA has strict eligibility requirements that progress throughout a student’s typical four years at a university. Laid out below are the GPA requirements for athletic eligibility of students who are first, second, third, and fourth year students.

First Year - 90 percent of the minimum GPA required for graduation (1.8)
Second Year - 95 percent of the minimum GPA required for graduation (1.9)
Third Year - 100 percent of the minimum GPA required for graduation
Fourth Year - 100 percent of the minimum GPA required for graduation

While achieving a 2.0 may initially sound achievable as well as rather easy to a prospective college athlete, the intense college workload as well as the time commitment of playing on a college sports team, can make it difficult to meet this requirement. It’s important to build time-management skills and discipline early to be prepared for the challenges of being an NCAA student-athlete.

NCAA Sliding Scales

NCAA sliding scales include three separate categories to determine whether an individual will be eligible. As mentioned above, the NCAA has a sliding scale for all levels of athletics (D1, D2, and D3) and adjusts their scales accordingly. The way these scales differ is through their academic requirements. At a division one level, the NCAA has higher standards for eligibility and being offered a scholarship.

Additional NCAA Eligibility Requirements

While all this information may feel bombarding, the NCAA actually does a very good job at effectively laying out a plan for you spanning from your freshmen year of high school to graduation.

Freshmen Year: As a freshman, one of the most important things you can do is download the NCAA’s core course list. The NCAA requires you complete and pass 16 “core courses” throughout high school. Make sure to meet with your counselor and plan effectively to meet the requirements. Additionally, during your freshman year it’s advised to create your own NCAA profile account. This is your first step towards becoming a college athlete.

Sophomore Year: The PSAT precedes the SAT and gives you a feel for what the SAT will be like. Take this exam to better prepare yourself for the SAT the following year. Alongside this, make sure to meet with your academic counselor and check to make sure you are on track to complete the 16 NCAA core courses.

Junior Year: This is the big year. First off, if at this point you are being recruited, it is important to create a NCAA Certification Account. This has a small fee attached to it. Junior year is also the time at which it is necessary to take both the SAT and the ACT. Following your sixth semester in high school it is also imperative to send your transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center. If you complete these tasks and keep knocking out the NCAA’s core course requirements, you are well on your way to becoming a college athlete.

Senior Year: Senior year is a time to retake the SAT or ACT to improve test scores and finish strong. The only things required throughout this year is that a student’s counselor sends final high school transcripts and proof of graduation to the NCAA Eligibility Center as well as confirming amateurism via the required amateurism questionnaire. You did it! Next step, college.

Tips to Maintain a High GPA

Show Up to Class: Yes, going to class is indeed important. While there may be so many other things you would rather be doing than sitting in class listening to a boring teacher, showing up to class is the most vital piece of advice you could be given if you want to improve your GPA. Being present and taking notes provide you with all the resources you need to understand and perform well in the class.

Time Management: Being a student-athlete on any level isn’t easy by any means. Time-management is one of the most useful skills you can acquire. If you are able to use your time effectively, it makes it either to perform better in whatever sport you play as well as in the classroom.

Ask Questions in Class: If you don’t understand a concept in class, asking is the most important thing you can do. Just because you may be taught something, it has no significance if you don’t understand it. Often, asking questions can put you in the good graces of your teacher.

Be Organized: Organization can solve all sorts of problems. If you can’t find your notes, you won’t study, and you just may fail that test. Being organized is one of the most basic, yet overwhelmingly necessary, things you can do in order to maintain a high GPA.

Sleep: As I am sure you are well aware, sleep is an extremely important part of the overall functioning of the human body. Getting behind on sleep is never a good idea and may have negative effects that diminish performance in the classroom and on the playing field.

Why is it Important to Maintain a High GPA?

Coaches: As a prospective college athlete, one of the things that you should emphasize is making a great impression. When a coach receives your official transcript and sees a 2.3 GPA, let’s just say he won’t be overly impressed. Furthering this point, some coaches at certain institutions aren’t willing to give students even a look if their GPA is concerningly low. Just remember, your GPA may meet the eligibility requirements, but just scraping by isn’t benefiting anyone.

Precaution: While it may seem unthinkable to envision failing a test, or even a class for that matter, things like this do happen. If you are consistent in your studies and maintain a relatively high GPA, you can maintain and overcome a possible slip-up in a class.

Professional Career: Although all of us at one time thought we could be in the NBA or NFL, the reality of it all is that it's extremely unlikely. This is where maintaining a high GPA is important. The sport you play will be one of, if not the most important thing in your life throughout college, but it’s extremely important to have a plan in case things don’t work out. Maintaining a high GPA makes it easier to find work post-grad as an individual’s GPA is one of the first things an employer will look at.

What Should I Do If My GPA is Too Low For An Athletic Scholarship?

One of the most important things to understand when asking this question is that even if your GPA is low right now, there are always ways to turn it around and achieve the end goals you have in mind.

Junior College: This is not an uncommon path at all for many athletes. For whatever the reasons maybe, if your GPA is too low to be considered for an athletic scholarship, many individuals choose Junior College as an alternative route. Not only does Junior College provide an opportunity to impress universities by improving your GPA, but it also is an environment that allows you to put your athletic skills on display.

Things to Keep in Mind

As a parent or student, there are a few things to keep in mind about how to be eligible to receive an athletic scholarship.

Objective and Subjective: The specific eligibility requirements of the NCAA are well-defined as the minimum GPA requirement is a 2.3 or a lower GPA with an accompanying higher SAT/ACT score (reference sliding scales). Eligibility for college athletics is also subjective in the sense that your GPA has a profound effect on the recruitment process. Depending on the opinion of the coach and the school’s prestige, a higher GPA may be highly recommended. In order to have the greatest opportunity to play a sport in college, it’s best to maintain a high GPA.

Ability Isn’t Everything: You may be one of the most gifted athletes in the area, but if you aren’t able to, or choose not to be a good student, that skill is thrown out the window. Once you receive a college scholarship, you are referred to as a student-athlete; note the word ‘student.’ Universities expect individuals attending on athletic scholarship to uphold their education standards to the same extent as do students not on scholarship. It’s about more than solely sports.

Don’t Slack Off: Students often fail to realize that by not giving their all in the classroom there is only one person that they are hurting. Themselves. Choosing not to participate or try in your classes may at the time seem like the best option, but educating yourself is important in the real-world for both basic knowledge as well as a future profession.

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