You’ve heard about the Eligibility Center from other parents. Maybe a coach has recommended you register with the eligibility center. And you’re wondering, what on earth is this thing and what do they expect me to do? Don’t worry. Here’s a summary of everything you need to know about it.
The NCAA Eligibility Center is the office of the NCAA responsible for certifying athletes’ academic records and amateur status. It used to be called the NCAA Clearing House. High school athletes register all of their information with the Eligibility Center and, if approved, are qualified to compete in Division I and II athletics.
In order to qualify academically students must complete college preparatory core classes, maintain a minimum GPA, and graduate from high school. A minimum ACT/SAT score used to be part of the requirements. However, right now the Eligibility Center is leaving that to the discretion of individual institutions.
The NCAA also certifies that athletes are competing as amateurs. This means they have not received a salary or prize money for athletic competition. And they have not played for a professional team.
What type of account should you create with the Eligibility Center?
On the homepage, you’ll see three types of accounts.
- A free profile page account
- An amateurism certification account
- An academic and amateurism certification account
In order to compete as a Division I or II athlete your teen must receive an Academic and Amateurism Certification. Your teen needs to register for this before going on an official visit or signing a Letter of Intent.
The fee for an academic and amateurism certification is $100. There is a fee-waiver program. If your family qualifies for the school lunch program or you’ve received a fee waiver for ACT/SAT testing, you will qualify. Your teen needs to speak to their high school counselor to have the paperwork submitted to the Eligibility Center.
The NCAA does not require Division III athletes to register with the Eligibility Center. Individual colleges may ask athletes to complete an amateurism account.
The free profile account is useful for middle school students or students who are undecided about what Division they’ll compete in. Later the profile account can be transferred to another type of account if needed.
If you can afford it, I recommend you go ahead and register for an academic and amateurism certification. If your teen is talking to coaches at different levels, you don’t know which Division they’ll end up in. You want them to be eligible to compete. In addition, creating an academic certification account communicates to DI and II coaches that you’re taking the recruiting process seriously. Once it’s done, you’re ready for anything.
When should my teen register with the Eligibility Center?
There is no definite answer to this. The NCAA website suggests your athlete should register either before their freshman or sophomore year of high school. Yet, even middle school students can create a free profile.
By registering early your teen will be able to track their eligibility and make sure they’re taking the appropriate core classes to be eligible.
It’s also never too late. If your teen is late to the recruiting game and you’ve missed these deadlines, jump in and do it now.
Once your teen has created an account, they can log in and update their profile at any time.
There are two key points in the timeline to keep in mind:
- After 6 semesters of high school, the high school counselor should send a copy of your teen’s transcript to the Eligibility Center.
- After graduation, the counselor will send in your teen’s final transcript and proof of graduation.
Those are the two important deadlines for determining academic eligibility.
How is academic eligibility determined?
The Eligibility Center determines academic eligibility using the GPA your teen earns in a requisite number of core courses.
Your teen’s eligibility GPA is calculated using only the grades earned in core courses. Therefore, the cumulative GPA may be different than the number your teen sees in their Eligibility Center account. To compete in DI athletics your teen must have a GPA of 2.3 in core courses.
If your teen is overwhelmed by school, have them focus on their core courses first. The grades they earn in elective courses don’t matter for their NCAA eligibility. Although remember, the college admissions department will still consider the overall GPA for admission to the school.
What are core courses?
Core courses are high school classes that prepare students for a four-year college or university. They include courses in English, Math (Algebra I and higher), Science, Social Science, and Non-Doctrinal Religion or Philosophy. Dual enrollment courses may be counted.
Not every course your student takes is considered a core course. For example, most electives are not core courses. Classes like art, health, and PE might count toward graduation requirements, but do not count toward college athletic eligibility. Also, any course that is taught below grade level is not considered a core course. If your teen is in basic, foundational, or remedial courses they may not qualify for DI or II athletics.
Your teen should talk with their high school counselor to be sure they’re registering for the right courses. You can also double-check the NCAA approved course list. From the Eligibility Center homepage, pull down the menu under the help button and click on “Find your Core Courses” from the menu. Your teen is ultimately responsible for their own eligibility, so double-checking is always a good idea.
Qualifying with the Eligibility Center
Once your teen has completed their profile and their transcripts have been sent in, the Eligibility Center can qualify them. There are four categories:
- Your teen may be an Early Academic Qualifier after 6 semesters. They must have a GPA of at least 3.0 for DI and 2.5 for DII in the requisite number of core classes. A final transcript and proof of graduation must be provided.
- Your teen may be a qualifier. They graduate with a high enough GPA and have taken all the core courses.
- Your athlete could be classified as an Academic Redshirt. In DII this is called a Partial Qualifier. Your teen may receive scholarship money and practice with the team. However, they are unable to compete in games or matches until they have completed some college courses and earned a GPA of at least 2.0. Read more about Redshirts in this article.
- Finally, your teen may be a non-qualifier. They have not met the academic requirements of the NCAA and cannot compete at a DI or DII school. But there’s still hope. Your teen may be able to compete at a Junior College, and complete coursework to bring up their grades. Check out the article 10 Benefits of Choosing a JUCO. Then after two years, they can still transfer to a four-year institution. Read about transfer students on the Eligibility Center homepage under the “Help” button.
Is there an advantage to being an Early Academic Qualifier?
On the one hand, coaches love talented athletes. If your teen has the talent and work ethic to be a DI athlete, coaches will recruit them. It’s not just the smart kids who get roster spots.
However, coaches love recruiting Early Academic Qualifiers. Coaches like the confidence it gives them that this recruit will be eligible to compete. When your teen looks like a rock-star athlete and student coaches will notice. And when coaches have that confidence offers and scholarships follow.
If your teen is a freshman or sophomore, talk to them about making this a goal. They’ll be glad they did.
Should homeschool students register with the Eligibility Center?
Yes! Every Division I and II athlete must register with the Eligibility Center. But first, let’s be clear on the definition of “homeschool.”
Your teen may be enrolled in online education or virtual education. They complete their work at home but are under a school. This is not considered homeschooling by the Eligibility Center. These students should have access to a high school counselor who can help them complete all the necessary steps with the NCAA.
The NCAA Eligibility Center considers it homeschooling if a parent or parent-directed tutor oversees all student work. Parents will need to work with the NCAA to validate their instruction as meeting the requirements for core courses. On the Eligibility Center homepage, under the Help menu, find the link for the “Home School Toolkit.”
I once helped a mom, whose daughter became a DI tennis player, walk through this process. The Toolkit provides detailed instructions on everything you need to know and even has a sample transcript so you know how to format it. The process is a little complicated, but you can definitely do it! Check out this article on Can a Home School Athlete Play College Athletics.
My biggest tip is to be sure you’re using college prep curriculum. Prepare your teen for college academics and you won’t have any trouble with the NCAA.
Register your teen with the Eligibility Center!
Now you know all the basics about qualifying your teen to compete in Division I and II athletics. Don’t be daunted by the process. Set aside 30-45 minutes. Sit down with your teen and work through the process step-by-step. Here’s the link to the Eligibility Center homepage.
Your teen is about to become an adult and is responsible for their eligibility! This is an essential step of the recruiting process, so get it done!