Are you thinking about participating in intercollegiate sports in college? If so, it’s important that you learn about the process as soon as possible. Freshman year is not too early. The NCAA has many rules that you must comply with in order to be eligible to play in college. Follow these steps to learn more and register your eligibility.
The first step is to visit the NCAA Eligibility Center website: www.eligibilitycenter.org
Take some time to check out the site and learn about playing college sports. Make sure you read the information for US Students under the "Resource" Tab, especially the Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete. It explains what high school classes you need to take, the GPA and SAT/ACT test scores you need, and the other tasks you need to complete to become eligible to play.
If you are a top athlete on the recruitment track, make sure you read the recruitment information under the Resource Tab and follow the calendar for your sport exactly. If you or your parents talk to college coaches or recruiters on a day when you shouldn’t, you will become ineligible. Don’t get caught unaware.
Create your account and complete your registration. This is a multi-step process. Follow the check list so you don’t forget anything. Especially make sure that you send in your official transcript at the end of your Junior year. Also remember to send your SAT/ACT test scores to the Eligibility Center using code 9999. If you take the tests multiple times, all scores must be sent.
The NCAA Eligibility Rules change frequently, so make sure you check the site on a regular basis.
Here is a presentation that explains the whole process. It is from the "Resources" Tab of the High School Administrators section of the Eligibility Center website. Most of the information in that section only pertains to counselors, but there are some informational documents that you or your parents may find useful. You can get there by clicking on the "High School Administrators Enter Here" link.
Your Path to the Student-Athlete Experience
Finally, remember that you should pick a college you will be happy with, even if your athletic career doesn’t work out. Explore schools playing at various division levels, too. While Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships, being a recruited athlete can sometimes help in the admissions process. You can check which colleges compete in which sports and divisions at the main NCAA website: www.ncaa.org. Go to the "About the NCAA" tab and click on the "Who We Are" link.
Spend some time exploring the athletics websites of the colleges you're interested in. See if there are profiles of the athletes and coaches in your sport. Do you think you would fit in? Are any of the players in your position or specialty graduating soon, creating possible opportunities for you? Are there any special resources available for athletes like tutors or early registration for classes? Is there a "recruit me" link? Are there any videos or stats you should be preparing? Are there any tournaments that the coaches attend? This research can help you evaluate schools to find a good match for you and may improve your chances of getting in.
If you plan to visit a school and time permits, try to arrange an interview with the coach in addition to your school tour; this shows the school and coach that you are interested in not only attending this school but also playing on his or her team. The conversation should also help you get a better feel for the school and help you decide if it seems like a place where you can thrive.