NCAA Academic Requirements

College Planning
NCAA Academic Requirements

One of the most common reasons colleges stop recruiting high school athletes is academics. The academic requirements to stay eligible in the NCAA aren’t extreme and are quite frankly generous to student-athletes. Yet, many high school students put too much emphasis on their athletic achievements and not enough on their academic ones. That is just one reason you find so many talented players at the junior college or postgraduate level as they try to sort out their academics to play Division I. In this article, we’re going to highlight the NCAA eligibility requirements and the burden on student-athletes to maintain eligibility.

High School Requirements

Most recruits come into the college recruiting process assuming they just need to hit a minimum GPA in order to qualify. However, the NCAA academic eligibility standards are far more detailed than a simple number, and actually specify the number of core courses required as well as a sliding scale of core course GPA and test scores. Those who pay attention in the classroom and try their best will have an easy time hitting NCAA academic eligibility, especially with how straightforward the academic requirements are for the NCAA.

The approved core courses list starts with the standard four years of English as well as three years of math. Student-athletes are also required to take at least two years of a natural or physical science and two years of social science classes. The other courses offer a bit more choice with an additional year of either an English, math or science course as well as four years of additional coursework in a foreign language, philosophy or comparative religion class. A student athlete must complete at least 10 of those classes by the end of their third year in high school (i.e. before their seventh semester) before hi with seven of those 10 being English, math and science. These 10 core courses and the GPA acquired from these classes will determine the financial aid and eligibility for a student-athlete in their first semester/quarter on campus.

However, just taking the core courses is only half the battle as the grades in those classes determine the minimum test score required. The minimum core course GPA is 2.3, so just above a C average, but those also come with the strictest requirements for standardized testing. The NCAA supplies the full chart of minimums based on your core course GPA, but a 3.55 GPA or better would require a combined SAT score (critical reading and math) of 400 or a combined ACT sum score of 37. For a 2.3 GPA, the minimums are a 900 combined SAT and a 75 combined on the ACT. Those who fail to meet these combined minimums but graduated from high school with a qualifying GPA and qualifying test score are eligible for an academic year in residence.

Eligibility Center

The purpose of the NCAA eligibility center is to ensure there is a central database of a student-athlete’s academic statistics. It’s a one-stop shop for colleges to view a recruit’s high school transcript, GPA and test scores. It also makes the process easier to get a recruit approved to play once they get on campus because all of the academic information is already in the hands of the NCAA. In order to be a qualifier out of high school, a recruit must possess four elements: graduated from high school, completed all of the core courses, obtain the minimum core course GPA and submit the minimum test score on the ACT or SAT.

College Requirements

Once a student-athlete arrives in college, though, it is still a battle to maintain NCAA eligibility. There is no specific NCAA GPA requirements, but it is instead based on each school’s own requirements for graduation. The NCAA simply mandates the student-athlete be in line to graduate within four years in incremental steps. By the end of a student-athlete’s first year enrolled, they must have a cumulative GPA that is at least 90 percent of the school’s graduation GPA. That advances to 95 percent after two years and a student-athlete must enter their senior year at that minimum GPA.

However, the NCAA GPA requirements aren’t the only standards by which a student-athlete maintains their NCAA academic eligibility. In addition to the GPA requirements, student-athletes must also make sustainable progress towards a degree with specific benchmarks in place. Student-athletes can take any classes toward a degree in their first two years on campus, but they must declare a specific major by the start of their junior year. As such, there are no specific percentage requirements for a student-athlete’s first two years on campus. All that is required is a student enters their third year with at least 40 percent of their degree finished, it raises to 60 percent entering senior year and 80 percent for those student-athletes electing to take a fifth year.


There are of course punishments for those who fail to meet the NCAA eligibility requirements in order to compete. A player deemed academically ineligible remains such for the entire semester and is not allowed to participate in any competition. If a student-athlete becomes ineligible in the middle of the season, their suspension begins no later than the first day of the new semester. However, if a student-athlete becomes academically eligible in the middle of the season, they would be able to compete the day after the final exam is completed in the previous semester.

Division II and Division III Requirements

The NCAA academic requirements don’t change for Division II or Division III, though there are likely higher academic thresholds to meet. All of the other rules are also applicable to other NCAA divisions as it comes to maintaining eligibility and the process for gaining or losing eligibility.