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What Is the NCAA’s Minimum GPA Requirement?

By Jason Smith, Next College Student Athlete, 05/18/18, 12:00PM CDT

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The more schools your child can qualify for, the better his or her chances of landing a scholarship. Kids should strive for their best GPA possible to maximize the number of schools where they will have a chance to compete.

Student-athletes with an eye on a Division I or Division II athletic scholarship will need to be a star athlete — and a good student.

The NCAA has created a set of eligibility criteria that athletes must meet or exceed in order to compete at those levels. Specifically, GPA, core courses and standardized test scores are all factored into their eligibility status.  

What is the minimum GPA?

Your student-athlete needs a minimum GPA of 2.3 for DI and 2.2 for DII in the 16 core courses required by the NCAA. Note: This is different than the GPA on your child’s high school transcript. Core courses are NCAA-approved classes covering the subjects English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy.

So, essentially, grades outside these courses, such as electives, gym and driver’s ed don’t count toward their eligibility.

Also, for DI, your athlete must complete 10 of 16 core courses by the end of their junior year, seven of which must be in English, math or natural/physical science. After junior year, the grades in those seven classes are locked in and they cannot retake those classes.

That’s why it’s important to meet with your child’s high school guidance counselor to talk about their class schedule and make sure they’re on track.

Factoring in your athlete’s standardized test score

Next, you need to reference the NCAA sliding scale to factor in your student-athlete’s standardized test scores to determine their eligibility. The sliding scale is designed so that if you have a higher GPA, you can have lower SAT/ACT scores. And if you have really strong test scores, you can have a lower GPA.

When you first glance at the sliding scale, you may notice that the test scores look a little high. That’s because the NCAA uses a “combined SAT” test score and “ACT sum score.” Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as you think. The combined SAT simply means you add the math and reading scores and don’t use the written score. The ACT sum score is calculated by adding together the English, math, reading and science scores.

Don’t forget: When registering for the ACT or SAT, enter the code “9999” in the area identifying the schools you would like your test results shared with to send your scores to the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Make academics a priority  

Meeting just the minimum requirements may not be enough to secure an athletic scholarship. Let’s say a college coach is interested in two prospects. Both have similar athletic skill sets, however, one has a significantly higher GPA and test score than the other. It’s an easy choice, don’t you think?

In fact, many DI colleges and universities have fairly strict entrance requirements that all incoming students must meet. For example, PrepScholar has analyzed student profiles at colleges and universities across the United States, looking at the average GPA of incoming freshman. If your student-athlete has a 2.5 GPA, here’s where they would fall:

  • They would have a good shot at getting into about 33 different colleges and universities (this includes Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA)
  • Around 1,519 schools would be out of reach if they have a 2.5 GPA or lower
  • Only 2.13 percent of all colleges and universities have an average GPA below a 2.5

When it comes to recruiting, the goal is to have as many options as possible. Some schools may not be recruiting your son or daughter’s position for their grad year, while other schools may be looking for an athlete with a different skill set.

The more schools student athletes can qualify for, the better their chances of landing a scholarship. They should strive for their best GPA possible to maximize the number of schools where they will have a chance to compete.

Learn more about determining your NCAA Eligibility.

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