Part 2: Determine Academic Eligibility & Level of Athletic Competition


Katie Andersen

I always start my college recruiting list-making process by evaluating a student-athlete’s academic eligibility and possible levels of athletic competition. I take a broad approach when creating this initial recruiting list to ensure that my student-athletes consider many different academic and athletic alternatives without eliminating schools too quickly based on other factors. Other factors come into play in Part 3 of this blog series.

 Part 2:  Academic Eligibility – NCAA Div I, Div II, Div III, or NAIA

I review a student’s academic eligibility before getting started down the recruiting path so I am able help the student resolve possible grade deficiencies before it’s too late as well as understand at which athletic level the student-athlete is academically eligible to compete (not to be confused with academically or athletically “recruitable”… but more on that later).

The academic eligibility rules are changing nearly every year to enforce stricter academic standards, so it is important to stay current with these rules to ensure I handle each class of student-athletes correctly.

NCAA and NAIA academic eligibility is all about meeting the minimum standards in order to “qualify” for receiving athletic aid, practicing and competing with the team. Each of the websites listed below explain the specifics:

  • NCAA Eligibility Center–   Click High School Administrators Enter Here → Resources to see all of the information available for counselors. The most useful downloads include:
    • Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete
    • Initial Eligibility Quick Reference Guide
    • DI and DII Core GPA Worksheet
  • NAIA Eligibility Center
  • CCCAA  (Athletic Association for California Community Colleges)
  • NCJAA  (Athletic Association for Junior Colleges outside California)
Which schools offer each sport?

Once I know the student-athlete’s level of academic eligibility I focus on creating a list of schools that offer the student-athlete’s sport. Currently, the easiest place to start the sport-specific school search is This is a public website that presents most of the critical details about which schools offer which sports broken down by NCAA and NAIA division level. They recently added 2013-2014 data for each school, including sport-specific:

  • Roster size for the sport
  • NCAA and NAIA scholarship maximums as regulated by each organization

In addition, use GuidedPath to view:

  • College name
  • Acceptance rate
  • Average SAT
  • Average amount of financial aid
  • Average amount of athletic aid
  • Cost of attendance for out of state and in state

The benefit of using the GuidedPath search tool for college admissions data is you can easily sort and prioritize your data.  Notice how the colleges offering the highest Average Athletic Award are sorted to the top of the list.athlete_search1

How competitive is each school within its division or conference?

Athletic rankings, win-loss records and conference affiliation are also important aspects of a student-athlete’s college list because this information helps define the competitive level of recruiting at each school. I also look at the RPI or Rating Percentage Index, a ranking system used in many sports, which is a calculation based on wins, losses, and strength of schedule. These sites provide athletic ranking and conference standings for most sports:




If I need to find deeper ranking information than the top 25 teams, I search for sport-specific college ranking websites dedicated to complete college athletic rankings. The following websites provide an example of this type of ranking information:

Cross Country / Track & Field





The next Step
The final step is researching the factors I mentioned earlier (average GPA, test scores, cost of attendance, location, size of school, majors, etc.). I’ll cover this in more detail in Part 3 of this series, so watch for this next post.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *