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Past articles:
  • Hitting the last-second shot

  • Scholarships,
    Part I

  • Becoming Scholarship Savvy
    Playing scholarship basketball is a great way to fund your college education. Here's how to make the first moves.

    By Shelly Wilson

    For many high school players, it's the ultimate dream: to earn an athletic scholarship to play basketball at the collegiate level. So, how do you go about doing this? Besides working hard at your game and your schoolwork, there is a lot to learn about making this dream a reality. In the following two-part article, we'll answer some of the most frequently asked questions on making the move to the college court.

    Part I: Scholarships 101--click here to read last week's article.

    Part II: The Academic Picture

    In order to be considered for an athletic scholarship, you must first be deemed academically eligible to join an athletic program. The minimum requirements for eligibility vary from division to division and from governing association to governing association. The three main associations are the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA).

    These associations set the minimum academic requirements for athletic eligibility. However, it's important to remember that requirements for college admission are different from athletic eligibility requirements and are set by each college or university. Some university admissions programs are highly selective, admitting only the very best students, while others have more relaxed standards. The bottom line is this: A student-athlete must fulfill both the governing athletic organization's athletic eligibility requirements and the individual school's academic admissions requirements in order to compete at the college of her choice.

    NCAA Eligibility
    Of the three associations, the NCAA has the most stringent academic requirements for athletic eligibility. At the Division I and Division II levels, the NCAA categorizes incoming athletes as qualifiers, partial qualifiers, and nonqualifiers based on the student-athlete's fulfillment of the NCAA's minimum academic requirements. These categories are also sometimes referred to as certification status. Each category dictates what privileges an athlete is entitled to.

    Division I Eligibility
    In order to be classified as a qualifier in Division I, you must graduate from high school and have completed a core curriculum of at least 13 academic courses. The NCAA provides a list of the courses at your high school that are considered NCAA core-curriculum courses. This list is available online. Of those core courses, you must successfully complete:

  • 4 years of English
  • 2 years of mathematics, (one year must be algebra and the second year must be either geometry or a higher-level math course for which geometry is a prerequisite)
  • 2 years of natural or physical science (one year of which must be a lab course if lab courses are offered at your high school).
  • 2 years of social science
  • 1 additional year of either English, math, or natural or physical science.
  • 2 additional years of academic courses in any of the above subjects or foreign language, computer science, philosophy, or comparative religion.
  • In addition, the NCAA has core-course grade-point average (GPA) and ACT/SAT score requirements based on a sliding scale called the Qualifier Index. Basically, the higher your core-course GPA, the lower your ACT or SAT test score needs to be, and vice-versa. For example, if your core-course GPA is 2.5 and above, you only need a combined score of 820 on the SAT. But if your core-course GPA is only 2.0, then you must score 1010 on the SAT.

    Notice we keep saying "core-course GPA" and not simply "GPA." It's important to remember that when determining your qualification status, the NCAA will not average in any courses taken during your high school career that were not on its list of core courses. So even if you scored "A"s in gym to bring your high school GPA up, the NCAA won't be considering those grades when it calculates your average. The Qualifier Index is available online.

    Partial qualifiers are those student-athletes who have not met the requirements to be classified as a qualifier, but have graduated from high school, successfully completed the 13 core courses stated above, and have a core-course grade-point average and ACT or SAT score based on the Partial Qualifier Index, also available online at the address mentioned above.

    Until you graduate from high school, you're automatically a nonqualifier. Graduates are classified as nonqualifiers if they fail to meet the GPA and test score requirements of the Qualifier Index or the Partial Qualifier Index.

    Your classification as qualifier, partial qualifier, or nonqualifier is important because it determines what an athletic program can provide you. Qualifier, obviously, is the classification you want and provides you with the best possible opportunity to compete and receive athletic scholarship money. In Division I, qualifiers are entitled to compete, practice, and receive an athletic scholarship in their freshman year. In addition, they are eligible for four seasons of competition.

    Partial qualifiers are eligible to practice with the team and receive an athletic scholarship, but they may not compete during their freshman years. Partial qualifiers are also allowed only three seasons of competition after their freshman year. However, a new rule states that if a partial qualifier earns a baccalaureate degree by the end of her senior year, she may compete one more year.

    Nonqualifiers are not eligible for regular-season competition or practice during their freshman year. They may not receive athletic scholarships their first year and they are permitted only three seasons of competition.

    Division II Eligibility
    NCAA Division II is a little bit more lenient in its academic requirements. A D-II qualifier is a high school graduate with at least a 2.0 core-course GPA in a curriculum of at least 13 core courses, including:

  • 3 years of English
  • 2 years of mathematics
  • 2 years of natural or physical science (one year of which must be a lab course if lab courses are offered at your high school).
  • 2 years of social science
  • 2 additional years of either English, math, or natural or physical science.
  • 2 additional years of academic courses in any of the above subjects or foreign language, computer science, philosophy, or comparative religion.
  • A qualifier must also have a combined SAT score of 820 or a score of 68 on the ACT.

    A D-II partial qualifier must have graduated from high school and have either the specified minimum test score or successfully have completed 13 core courses with a 2.0 core-course GPA or higher. Division II partial qualifiers may practice with the team and receive athletic scholarships during their first year, but may not compete. After that, athletes are eligible for four more seasons of competition.

    Division II nonqualifiers have either not graduated high school or have failed to meet either the GPA or the test score requirement of a qualifier. Nonqualifiers are not eligible for regular-season competition or practice during their first year and may not receive athletic scholarships as a freshmen. After their freshman year, D-II nonqualifiers are eligible for four seasons of competition.

    Division III
    Since NCAA Division III schools do not award athletic scholarships, their athletic eligibility requirements are determined by institutional, conference, and other NCAA regulations, and not according to the terms discussed above.

    NAIA and Junior College Eligibility Requirements
    To be eligible to compete and receive an athletic scholarship from an NAIA school you must meet two of the three following requirements:

    1. Score an 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT.
    2. Have a high school overall GPA of at least 2.00 on a 4.00 scale.
    3. Graduate in the top half of your class.
    NAIA athletes are limited to four seasons of competition. (These same eligibility requirements are also used by programs at D-I and D-II NCCAA schools.)

    To be eligible for competition at an NJCAA school, a student-athlete must be a high school graduate, high school equivalency graduate, or have passed the General Education Development (GED) test. Non-graduates can become eligible by completing and passing one academic term of at least 12 credits with a 1.75 GPA. Students who are deemed eligible are permitted two seasons of competition as long as they haven't competed at any other intercollegiate level in the previous two years.

    In addition to these organizations, there are three smaller governing bodies: the California Community College Commission on Athletics (CCCCA), the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), and the National Small College Athletic Association (NSCAA). These associations also set athletic eligibility requirements for their member institutions.

    The NCCAA's Division I and Division II athletic eligibility requirements follow the same criteria as established by the NAIA. (See above.) The CCCCA and the NSCAA have less strict requirements.

    CCCCA programs state that as long as an incoming freshman student-athletes is 18 years of age and a high school graduate, she is eligible to compete. It's during the second year when grades and course load become considerations for continued eligibility. The NSCAA also requires that incoming freshman possess a high school diploma or GED, but in addition, college freshman must also be enrolled in a course load of at least 12 hours before competition begins.

    What is the NCAA Clearinghouse?
    If you are interested in attending an NCAA Division I or II school, the body that assigns your qualification status is the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. If you intend to compete at the NCAA Division I or II level, you must register with this organization.

    Think of the Clearinghouse as a big database where all your core courses, grades, and test information is "entered" or submitted. Then, when a college coach contacts the Clearinghouse to request a certification decision on you, the Clearinghouse evaluates all the information it has in your file and declares you a qualifier, partial-qualifier, or nonqualifier.

    But simply applying to the Clearinghouse does not ensure certification. There are tens of thousands of athletes every year who register with the Clearinghouse and never get recruited or even pursued by coaches. So to cut down on its workload, the Clearinghouse does not evaluate every student's record as it arrives, but instead waits until a coach requests a certification decision on a particular student. If a program does not call asking for your certification status, the Clearinghouse will not evaluate your information.

    Registering with the Clearinghouse is a pretty easy process, but it does take some effort on your part. Here's how and when to register.

    The NCAA Eligibility Rules handbook recommends that athletes register with the Clearinghouse early in their senior year or late in their junior year. Doing so will give you a chance to identify any missing core-courses, GPA shortcomings, or low test scores, and will give you time in the coming year to remedy them. If you're hoping to join a Division I team, it's important that you fulfill all your course requirements before the end of your senior year. This is because the Clearinghouse will not consider the results from any summer-school sessions that follow your senior year when it decides on your certification. For Division II eligibility, however, summer-school courses are considered.

    To apply to the Clearinghouse, get your application form from your high school's guidance counselor. The fee for processing the information is $25. You must complete the "Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse Student Release" form and mail the white copy in with the fee. The remaining pink and yellow copies will be used by your school to file your official transcripts with the Clearinghouse. It is your responsibility to make sure your high school gets the pink and yellow forms. It's also your job to make sure those final high school transcripts are mailed out before your school office closes for the summer. If they aren't sent to the Clearinghouse before then, you may be stuck waiting for the Clearinghouse to receive and process your transcripts in the fall--which could mean a delay in receiving scholarship opportunities. If you have attended more than one high school, the Clearinghouse will need an official transcript for each school you attended. If the form is not available at your school, you can request the release form by calling (800) 638-3731.

    You also need to make sure the Clearinghouse gets your official test scores. Although it would be easier, you cannot send a photocopy of your personal copy of your test scores. Instead, you need to either request that your high school include your SAT or ACT test score on your official transcript, or, if your school won't do that, you need to request that the scores be sent directly from the testing agency. If you have yet to take the test, you can have your scores sent directly to the Clearinghouse by using the code 9999 on the test form. If you have already sat for the SAT or ACT, you'll need to write the appropriate testing agency and request that your official scores be sent to the Clearinghouse.

    What questions do you have about becoming more scholarship savvy? E-mail us at with your questions on the topic. We'll post one new question and answer on college scholarships every other week.

    Author Shelly Wilson is an Assistant Editor at Gball.

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