PART 3: Evaluate Academic Fit for Student-Athletes


In  the second blog, Determine Academic Eligibility, I discussed academic eligibility, which is different from finding the best academic fit for a student-athlete. Many student-athletes believe if they are athletically talented the recruiting doors should be wide open at any school. It is not uncommon to hear that high-caliber athletes in revenue producing sports like football and basketball may have more flexibility when it comes to academic fit. While this may be true, student-athletes should not assume this is the case for all sports and all levels of athletics.

Why is it important to consider academic fit?

I always guide my student-athletes towards schools where they will have the best chance to be successful students, since about 1/3 of college athletes will end up leaving their teams at some point during college. Student-athletes get injured, don’t get enough playing time, feel overwhelmed with college expectations, or their academic priorities change. Coaches change jobs. There are numerous reasons why a student-athlete might quit the team. I emphasize selecting schools with a great academic fit for a student-athlete is an important back-up plan in case the athletic part doesn’t work out.

Which factors are important to consider regarding academic fit for student-athletes?

As mentioned in the previous blog post, GuidedPath makes the most important academic factors easy to compare from school to school.

  • College name
  • Location
  • Type of school (Private vs public)
  • Undergraduate size
  • Acceptance rate
  • GPA range
  • Average SAT or ACT (Remember that student-athletes have to take these tests for NCAA Div I and II Eligibility, even if they are considering Test Optional schools)
  • Average amount of financial aid
  • Average amount of athletic aid
  • Cost of attendance for out of state and in state
  • Field of study (Flexible depending on the student-athlete’s interests)

I believe it’s important for student-athletes to recognize the academic competitiveness of the regular students who will be sitting in their classes, especially those who want to attend highly selective schools. Sometimes the academic factors listed above require the additional support of a graphic that shows student-athletes a more vivid picture of their academic competition.

I use the College Admissions Tracker scattergram tool on for this purpose. This scattergram allows the user to filter data for athletes vs. regular students as well as Weighted and Unweighted GPA. It has a few drawbacks: the data is limited to users of the site and the user usually has to select multiple years to get enough meaningful plot points for athletes. This is an example of the scattergram for Long Beach State.

Filtered for Athletes

Filtered for Athletes


What is the NCAA Academic Progress Rate?

College coaches have to be careful to recruit and offer scholarships to student-athletes who can stay in school and graduate. The NCAA created a system for tracking the APR or Academic Progress Rate of their schools to ensure that scholarship athletes actually graduate or the school will face a penalty. NCAA Academic Progress Rate:

 How flexible are admissions standards for student-athletes?

This is a difficult question and the answer varies by school, sport, level of competition, and the reputation the coach has with the admissions department. I talk candidly about this issue with my students and parents. In today’s world, there is a lot of pressure for kids to go to the most academically competitive school or the school with the “best name”.  For student-athletes this may translate into trying to get recruited by a school that is not a good fit for a student’s academic abilities.

A staggering number of student-athletes drop out of college because they are not prepared to handle the academic side of college life and the pressure that comes with attending a school where the average student’s academic profile may be significantly different from the student-athlete’s. I tell my families to not get caught up in the recruiting hype and focus on seriously considering schools where the student-athlete is a solid academic fit and can graduate with a sense of confidence and accomplishment rather than the feeling that he is barely surviving.

What’s next?

Look for next week’s post on how to make sense of all the data and help your student athletes get started down the recruiting path.

1 Comment

  1. Sports Injury treatment

    Really cool article,very informative.

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