5 Keys to Understanding the Eligibility Center
Are you wanting to play college sports? Would an athletic scholarship make your financial situation a bit easier? Do you think you will just start the process your senior year of high school? Way too many teens think they will start when coaches start contacting them.
Unfortunately, the student-athlete needs to be proactive and take the initiative to market themselves to college coaches and make sure they are taking the right steps to being able to play in college. I highly recommend you get our FREE Special Report: Strategies to Emailing A College Coach. One item you will need to include in emailing a college coach is your Eligibility Center ID Number. You are probably thinking, Coach Renee, what on earth is that?
If you are looking to continue playing sports in college at the NCAA Division I, II, or NAIA level, you must understand some crucial steps of paperwork and criteria you need to meet academically and athletically to be eligible. There are 2 different Eligibility Centers. One is for the NCAA and another is for the NAIA, a different governing body. It is important to note that NCAA Division III does not have the same requirements as those wishing to play NCAA Division I or II sports in college. (Note: You may also hear the Eligibility Center referred to as the Clearinghouse, but that is a very outdated name that was changed many years ago.)
Having been a college coach for 17 years and NCAA Compliance Director, I now do recruiting education seminars for sports organizations and high schools. I also do a lot of individualized and group consulting for families on the college recruiting process. The number one misconception families have in regards to eligibility is that they think if the student-athlete is accepted to the college or university, then they are automatically eligible to play in college.
This is not necessarily true as I will describe in a story below! You must take the initiative to make sure you are on track. This is not the responsibility of the college coach, your school counselor, or your high school/club coach. The student-athlete needs to take the initiative on this!
Here are a few recommendations to make it an easier process:
1. Investigate EARLY in High School if You Are on Track for Your Core Courses!
Did you know that being eligible to play in college is NOT based on your overall high school GPA? Instead, it is based off a set of Core Courses being completed with a specific GPA. These Core Courses are determined by the governing bodies (NCAA and NAIA). It is crucial that you verify that you are on track with what coursework you are taking in conjunction with your high school and with the NCAA and/or NAIA very early in your high school career. Another big mistakes I often see families making is assuming if their student-athlete has a good overall GPA and taking Honors or Advanced Placement courses, that they will be eligible.
Here’s a story that will blow your mind: I once had a DI student-athlete who never checked out her Core Courses GPA with the NCAA and their school counselor after being advised to do so early in her high school career. After this young lady graduated from high school in June (2 months before she start her freshman season of competition at the college), the NCAA Compliance Director at the university saw an error on her files. He triple-checked because she had over a 4.0.
However, since she placed very high in academics in middle school, she opted to skip over a course in high school. She had not completed all of the Core Courses needed for Eligibility. Yes, you read that right…she had over a 4.0 and was not eligible.
Trust me, there is nothing worse than a student-athlete finding out the summer after you graduate high school with a 4.0 GPA, that you did not complete all of the correct courses for you to be eligible to play in college.
Actually, I lied. There is something worse….I had to call her to inform her of this problem and the only resolution was that this 4.0 student-athlete having to take TWO online courses that summer before she left for college. This teen who had worked her heart out throughout her high school years, had to go to summer school just to be eligible for her season in August. Let’s just say there were some tears from her and her momma! Trust me, do not assume everything is okay just because you have great grades!
Also, if you are a homeschooler, make sure you have visited this site for the NCAA Eligibility for Future Homeschoolers.
2. Do Not Wait Until Your Senior Year to Register!
As you can tell from the story above, I would recommend student-athletes registering for both Eligibility Centers early on in their high school career. I also do not recommend waiting until your senior year as college coaches will want to know your Eligibility Center ID numbers when you are emailing them to market themselves. I highly recommend you register during your freshman year and to place that number on your athlete resumes, videos, and in your emails to coaches. It allows them to see some of your information, but they do not have access to all of your records.
I was also recently asked if supplying your eligibility center number to a college means that you are committing to them. That is absolutely not true. It is no different than having a test score or videotape sent to a college coach; It is just a baby step in the process of everyone investigating if this the right fit or not for the student-athlete and college.
You may find out more information about the NAIA Eligibility Center here and the NCAA Eligibility Center here. I would recommend registering for both (as you can always cancel your registration), unless you are 100% certain which college you are attending.
3. Have Official Copies of Your Academic Transcripts Sent Directly to Them!
It is also important for you to have your OFFICIAL transcripts sent directly to the Centers. Do not just make a copy of your grades and mail them yourself. They need to have been sent directly from the high school (and this can often be done digitally). If you are a homeschooler, please contact the governing bodies directly as there a lot of unique requirements for you.
You will also need to send a final copy of your transcripts after you graduate from high school. I recommend requesting this prior to summer of your high school graduation as many of these clerical staff are on vacation when you may need this completed.
If you are an international student-athlete, it is important for you to understand the specific requirements regarding your academic records for your country and language. Please see the Eligibility Center websites to understand how submitting your transcripts is different from Americans.
4. Have Your ACT/SAT Official Test Results Sent Directly to Them!
It is a MUCH easier process if you add in the specific codes for the NCAA and NAIA when you register for your tests. When the College Board asks for which colleges you want to have your test scores sent to, add in 9999 for the NCAA Eligibility Center and 9876 for the NAIA. You can request it after the fact, but this is much easier! Are you trying to decide if you should take the ACT or the SAT? See our blog here!
Another story that happened to another student-athlete of mine who had a very common first and last name (think Sarah Johnson, it wasn’t these but something you regularly hear). She had over a 30 on her ACT and over a 4.0 GPA. She had taken all the right courses, but kept showing up as ineligible. Well, my student-athlete’s files were crossed with another person of the exact same name who had a 14 ACT and also a 4.0. Luckily, we caught it before she had to miss a scrimmage or game, but it was not a fun process to resolve! Take this process very seriously!
5. Do Complete the Amateurism Questions! But Why on Earth Twice?
You will be asked some questions related to amateurism as you register. They are basically trying to determine if you have been paid to play (or rewarded) beyond normal travel expenses. For the majority of high school student-athletes, this has zero to do with them, but you still MUST complete these questions. It often can come into play for international student-athletes or those who have competed overseas especially in tennis, golf, and soccer.
In the spring of your senior year (for NCAA, after April 1), you will need to go back in and complete some questions and request final amateurism certification. Basically, these are just a follow-up from when you originally registered. In theory, you registered during you freshman year of high school so it is basically updating or verifying your answers. You would be surprised how many families forget to do this!
Want to know more of what you should do after you sign? See our blog about 11 Important Steps To Take After Signing!
Confused or overwhelmed by this whole process? Start by registering and the governing bodies will help you start the process and provide some more information. You should also join some of our FREE Facebook groups below to ask questions, hear from a team of expert administrators in all areas of being a student-athlete and the college recruiting process. We have lots of former college coaches and tons of other subject matter experts including everything from test prep experts to NCAA Compliance staff, to a sports dietitian, a mental game coach, multiple scholarship and enrollment specialists, and even a Doctor of Physical Therapy!
Besides being a recruiting educator, I am the author of a book where we have recently interviewed 65 college coaches and athletic directors, titled Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide. We have gathered lots of information for you and your student-athletes to really understand what athletics staff are looking for in the college recruiting process. You can also learn more about the college recruiting process by listening to a podcast I was recently on with the Parenting Aces Podcast.
Please join our mailing list to get a FREE Special Report: Strategies to Emailing A College Coach by going to www.lookingforafullride.com. If you are interested in booking a seminar or consulting session, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want some help with the recruiting process? Join some of our 9 Facebook Groups:
- Parents of High School Student Athletes Walking Through The Process (All Sports)
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- Club/HS Coaches Learning College Recruiting Process (All Sports)
- Play College Soccer (Soccer Specifically)
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Coach Renee Lopez
As a 17 year coaching veteran, Coach Renee Lopez is a recruiting expert for high school student-athletes. She uses her NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA Head Coaching experience to help families navigate the recruiting process to be identified by college coaches and help them find the right “fit” for playing at the next level. She has produced 3 All-Americans, over 30 All-Conference athletes and Her teams have been honored with awards for team academic accomplishments, sportsmanship, and sports ministry. In addition, Coach Renee Lopez has been named Coach of the Year by her peers.
She presents recruiting seminars across the country, has recently been featured in USA Weekly, with the National Alliance for Youth Sports, on SiriusXM Radio and ESPN Radio. She is the author of the book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide where she has interviewed over 65 college recruiters across all sports and college levels. In addition, she runs 9 Facebook groups to help facilitate conversations on college recruiting education, coaching education, leadership development, and sports ministry. She is also a certified speaker, trainer and coach for the John Maxwell Team, Jon Gordon Company, 3Dimensional Coaching, and the Positive Coaching Alliance.
She also does private consulting for student-athletes and their families to help in understanding the often daunting process of recruiting. (See one family’s testimonial.) If you are looking for help in the college recruiting process, please email Coach Renee Lopez at email@example.com.