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What you need to know about being a college athlete?

There are over four-thousand universities and colleges in the US, in different locations, at different levels of athletics, and different costs. College sports is a competitive and complicated system. There are three most popular organizations in the system you need to know. They are NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.


(Click here to the Official Website of NCAA)

The National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA) is a non-profit organization that regulates college sports at 1098 colleges and universities and 102 athletics conferences. It has three divisions. Colleges and universities in Division 1 and 2 are large public institutions, while those in Division 3 are usually small private institutions.

NCAA is the largest and the most popular organization in the intercollegiate sports system.

Division 1 and Division 2 athletic programs can provide athletic scholarships. Division 3 colleges may not provide scholarships based on athletic ability. It provides non-athletics aid

but students receive merit or need-based aid.


(Click here to the Official Website of NAIA)

NAIA stands for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. It has smaller colleges and universities than the NCAA. The NAIA also has two divisions. NAIA’s Division 1 is similar to the Division 2 of the NCAA. However, NAIA has a much more flexible set of rules for its member institutions. Schools and individual leagues in NAIA can set their own rules and budgets instead of complying with the highly regulated rules of NCAA member institutions.


(Click here to the Official Website of NJCAA)

NJCAA stands for the National Junior College Athletic Association. The member institutions in the NJCAA are community colleges. NJCAA member institutions are great pathways to NCAA and NAIA. Students can transfer from a community college to a four-year institution after two years. The benefits include lower cost and less competitive academic standards.

NJCAA has three divisions. Colleges in Division 1 and 2 offer athletic scholarships. Colleges in Division 3 are not permitted to offer any athletic scholarships.

(California has a separate California Community College Athletic Association, the CCCAA.)

As a student athlete, knowing the difference between the various athletic associations is important for you. Let's take a comprehensive comparison of the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.


You can also watch this video to learn more about NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA and their differences.

Facts you should know about playing a sport in college

1. Your scholarship may not meet you need

The amount and type of scholarship you receive will depend on which association your school is affiliated with and which division within that association your school plays in.

There’s a good chance your scholarship won’t cover the cost of tuition, with the average athletic scholarship coming out to about $10,400. Outside of football and men’s basketball, the average is $8,700. In addition, coaches can divide their allotment of full-ride scholarships into a greater number of partial tuition scholarships, as it allows coaches greater flexibility when recruiting players.

2. You may receive more aid in Division 3 of the NCAA

Division 3 institutions are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships. However, these institutions are typically smaller private colleges and they often give merit awards for student accomplishments. According to US News, some of the best financial aid for athletes come from these schools. These merit grants often cut tuition by over 50%.

3. The NCAA has specific academic requirements

Some students athletes may believe academics are less important or not even necessary for college application. However, the NCAA has specific academic requirements for student athletes. You must register with the NCAA Eligibility Centers to be considered, and you need to consult the NCAA Eligibility Center to stay on track with requirements.

If you are applying for institutions in NAIA and NJCAA,

Click here to check your eligibility at NAIA Eligibility Information Center.

Click here to your eligibility at NJCAA Eligibility Information Center.

4. You must contact coaches proactively

Even for all-star student athletes, it is recommended to contact college coaches to let them know about you. Don't expect coaches to visit your campus. Today, more coaches would like to recruit online.

Click here to create a athletic profile and locate over 2000 college sports programs.

What do you need to prepare in high school?

Prepare early

You need to prepare for college early. Today, colleges are recruiting early, especially for female sports. You should start thinking about the process and get ready by the end of sophomore year. There are many benefits to start the process early. First, it gives time for you and your parents to determine your goals. You can start exploring a broader list of colleges, then identify schools that are well fit for you academically, athletically and financially. Accordingly, it helps you develop a list of their favorable colleges. Second, academics are exceedingly important to you. Good grades allow you to have more options for colleges. In addition, NCAA and NAIA have their own academic eligibility centers that you need to fill out for division one and two institutions. Therefore, you need to keep a good grade. If you had under-performed academics before, the earlier you focus on grades and start making efforts, the better grades you will achieve in the future.

Be a multi-sport athlete

Taking part in multiple sports can provide you with cross training that can improve certain physical skills. It also helps maintain your interest because you may feel bored for playing the same sport year-round. In addition, it allows you to decide which sport you really like. Exposure to new things generates fresh interest and adversities. A full-star leader of the football team may sit on the bench in basketball. However, it improves personal growth and mental toughness. I’ve seen many star players become mediocre when they take part in the pro-leagues. Some feel anxious and depressive, while some hold a positive attitude and get stronger with every setback. Therefore, you need to be a multi-sport athlete. Not only it sharpens your physical skills but also it shapes your characters.

Build a good relationship with coaches

It is significant to connect with coaches early and proactively and build a relationship with them. First, coaches evaluate student athletes through camps and typical days, so you will know what level you really can or should be playing. Hence, it helps improve your goals and prepare accordingly. Second, you need to reach out to coaches proactively and well-prepared. Coaches are diligent with managing recruiting. They prefer to manage the information coming from the students showing intended interest than look for the students on campus. Therefore, online communication becomes the new trend and is the key. You need to connect with coaches and market yourself, such as creating a one-page student-athlete profile and summarizing your academic and athletic qualifications, making recruiting videos, using social medias and professional websites to broaden prospective coaches. It’s also essential to follow up with coaches and get their feedback.

Have a broken-leg plan

Think about you can never play sports again. What’s next?

Student athletes may meet special issues such as getting injured, the coach is no longer recruiting, new recruiting rules have been released and failed in academics. It’s necessary to create a back-up plan early, even for the most promising athletes. There are over four thousand colleges across the United States. You can always find the right-fit one for you.

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