If you play a varsity sport in high school, you may be thinking of playing sports at the collegiate level. When applying to college as an athlete, keep in mind the rules can be a little different. Before you prepare your application, there are some special guidelines you need to know. In today’s College 101 feature, we offer useful advice to help you navigate the application process.
If you successfully prepare in advance, you’ll be in great shape both on and off the field.
What is the NCAA?
The world of college athletics in many ways mirrors pro sports; for example, institutions around the country are broken up into different leagues and athletic associations. One of the largest governing bodies is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA as it’s widely known. The NCAA regulates a major portion of the athletic programs at colleges nationwide; which means most students playing a sport at the college varsity level will belong to an NCAA conference.
Essentially, these conferences are divided into three divisions, titled Division I, Division II and Division III. There are also subdivisions of the NCAA, such as the Colonial Athletic Association or the Big Ten Conference; these programs organize which schools will compete against each other.
Understanding the Divisions
Division I is the highest level of competition and is made up of some of the largest schools in the country. Division I also offers the most athletic scholarships. If you’re looking for a pro career, a D-I school is a great place to start. For all of these reasons, Division I athletic programs are also the most selective.
If you want to play competitively and receive athletic scholarship, but don’t want the pressure of trying to make it to the Rose Bowl, Division II might be a better fit. These programs offer some degree of scholarship and are still highly competitive in nature. Division III athletic programs tend to be the smallest and D-III schools don’t offer athletic scholarship. If all you want is to play, a D-III program might give you the best chance to do so.
Know the Rules
Due to the highly competitive nature of collegiate athletic programs, the NCAA has rules in place to ensure no one institution has an unfair advantage. While a school’s recruiting efforts would probably be wildly successful for giving all recruits a new car, the NCAA forbids gift giving. There are also restrictions concerning communication between potential recruits and the coaching staff of NCAA D-I and D-II teams.
Most schools permit students to reach out to coaches only at specific times during the recruitment cycle. Division III schools generally have less regulations regarding recruit/coach interactions. Of course, if you’re serious about playing in college, it’s very important to follow these rules. Most schools have a recruitment coordinator who will help put you in touch with the right coaching staff member.