5 Tips for Families of a Future NCAA Student Athlete


The primary role of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is to ensure that an NCAA student athlete is equipped to handle experiences that occur on the field, in the classroom, and in life, and its categorization of the diverse schools that make up its membership—over 1,100 schools which play in 3 divisions—put the NCAA student athlete on a level playing field with other like-minded institutions.

For high schoolers hoping to become an NCAA student athlete, pursuing this path can be overwhelming. You are left with a lot to navigate without much direction. Beyond the normal factors of SAT scores, AP exams, and choosing a school and career path, you have to consider schools with the sports programs and coaches you will thrive under in the division (I, II, or III) that you want. For Christian athletes, the values and culture of the school are also important factors.

While the NCAA does set academic requirements for an NCAA student athlete, little attention is paid to whether the courses the student is taking will lead to a degree in the area that the NCAA student athlete would like to pursue. For this reason, it is crucial that you engage in the advising process early with a counselor who is invested in your student’s academic and athletic career.

We have five tips to help both parents and students navigate the maze of choosing and applying to a college or university when your high schooler is hoping to play an NCAA sport.

Discuss Career and Sports Interests with Your Student

  • Talk to your student about careers that they are interested in pursuing.

  • Talk to your student about sports they would like to play in college.

  • Discuss with your student the role his or her faith should play in choosing a college.

  • Research schools where strengths in those areas overlap. Make a list of the schools you find, and send for catalogs.

  • Narrow the list down to the top 10.

  • If possible, visit the schools, talk to the admission officers and the coach and his staff.

  • Take notes on their answers, promises and scholarship opportunities that they offer.

Meet with a Counselor

Once you have made a list and begun visiting schools, you and your future NCAA student athlete should meet with his or her current high school counselor.

  • A counselor will be able to advise your student on which classes will help in their admittance to those different colleges and universities.

  • Discuss what tests are coming up and the pros and cons of taking them more than once.

  • The counselor may also know some recruiters for your student’s desired schools.

  • You should also discuss which division might be most beneficial for your student.

    • Division I schools have a larger population, larger budget and more support members for their teams.

    • Division II schools try to balance an educational experience with the athletics.

    • Division III schools are smaller and concentrate more on the academics and have shorter seasons so that the student-athlete aren’t away from their studies for long periods of time.

    • In Division I and II schools, the student must meet the academic requirements of the NCAA as well as the amateur status. In Division III schools, you only have to meet the school’s requirements for admission and the amateur status.

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Get a Head Start on College Academics

Diving into the world of NCAA athletics can take a toll on a student new to college. Working harder in high school can help lighten the load and build good study habits for when he or she is an NCAA student athlete. The more of a head start that a student is able to get, the easier the transition will be.

  • Taking AP courses and passing the AP exam may help satisfy some core requirements for the chosen school. Your counselor should be able to help you determine which courses may apply.

  • Another way to satisfy some academic requirements early is to take online college courses approved by the schools you hope to attend.

  • When your student first registers for college classes he or she should also talk to the coaches and support staff for guidance in selecting courses and course times that accommodate practice and playing time.

Keep Athletic Goals in Perspective

If your student wants to become a professional athlete, encourage them and connect them to the resources they may need, but also help them keep these goals in perspective. The reality is that fewer than 2% will go pro.

  • Pray with your student that God would give them insight into the plan he has for athletics in his or her life.

  • Encourage them to humbly ask God for what their heart desires, and trust him to give them what is best. “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

  • Remind them of the value of playing regardless of where it may lead.

    • First of all, playing sports can be a form of worship. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).

    • Secondly, playing sports at an NCAA school, an NCAA student athlete will learn valuable lifelong lessons like working hard, managing multiple commitments, and fighting for what they want. These skills will prove invaluable in any field.

  • Talk with the coaches, teachers, and others involved in counseling your NCAA student athlete to make sure that they don’t place too many unrealistic goals on the student’s shoulders.

  • Make sure that your student is enjoying their experiences throughout their college years. Sports should be fun, not a chore.

Monitor Your Student's Experience as an NCAA Athlete

Once all of the decisions and preparations have been made, you can sit back and watch as your student works his or her way through the rigors of college and playing sports.

  • Avoid hovering and pestering, but be available to support and listen to the challenges your student is facing.

  • When you have the opportunity, pay attention to whether or not your student is enjoying sports and able to keep up in school.

  • Encourage your student to engage with the social community outside of the sports team.

Figuring out what school is right for you is a challenging process—and not all high schools are up to the task. If your school is not up to the task of guiding your student through the process of becoming an NCAA student athlete, consider Enlightium Academy, an NCAA approved and accredited online Christian school that allows your student to work at his or her own pace on a flexible schedule.

The high school counselors at Enlightium Academy are committed to guiding your student on the road to college. They will help you choose courses, prepare for entrance exams, and help you find colleges that adhere to your academic and athletic standards, as well as your values. They can also give you guidance into online courses that your college will accept. For more information, click on the button below.

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