Colleges fielding intercollegiate teams are organized into associations. The three largest — National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) — are also called conferences. These organizations set the rules regarding recruiting, eligibility requirements and athletic scholarships for member colleges.

The NCAA is the most influential of the two conferences. Its members include the largest colleges.

  • NCAA Division I colleges are the most competitive athletically, can offer full and partial athletic scholarships (partially funded by the NCAA) and have academic eligibility requirements.
  • NCAA Division II colleges are less competitive than Division I and have different eligibility guidelines and financial aid offerings.
  • NCAA Division III colleges have no academic eligibility requirements and no NCAA-funded financial aid. (However, the colleges can offer scholarships of their own and sometimes exceed the aid of DI schools.)

NCAA Eligibility Center

The NCAA Eligibility Center is an organization affiliated with the NCAA that evaluates students' academic records to determine if they are eligible to play in Division I or II colleges. For example, prospective Division I and II athletes need to take NCAA-specified core courses beginning in ninth grade as well as a minimum SAT or ACT test score. See for more info. We recommend registration during your sophomore year.

Guide For The College Bound Student-Athlete

Download the 2016-2017 NCAA Student Athlete Guide to learn more about how to start planning, the specified core courses, required GPA and test scores, and FAQs.

Sample Game Plan Assets
NAIA Eligibility Center
The NAIA requires all student-athletes to have their eligibility determined before they can play. Visit for more information.

Infographics (download)

Handouts (download)

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