College Planning

College Planning Checklist for Student-Athletes

Are you thinking about playing college sports? If so, here’s what you need to do to get ready.

First, you need to know more about the three NCAA® divisions:

  • Division I is the biggest and most competitive NCAA division. Colleges that compete in Division I must offer scholarships—many cover full tuition—to their student-athletes.
  • Division II athletic programs are smaller and less competitive than those in Division I. Most student-athletes don’t get full scholarships, but many get financial aid.
  • Division III programs are the least competitive. Division III colleges don’t offer sports-related financial aid but do recruit athletes, which can help you get into a college that wants you in its program.

Students who want to compete at a Division I or Division II college must meet standards set by NCAA members. For Division III, athletes must meet the admission standards set by each college. Find out more about eligibility standards on the NCAA website.

Next, take these steps to make sure you’re thinking about your high school academics and post-college career plans proactively

When you’re in 9th grade:

  • Ask your counselor for a list of your high school’s NCAA core courses and learn more about the academic requirements for both Division I and Division II
    • This is important because your high school’s graduation requirements might not satisfy the NCAA or the colleges you want to attend
  • Create a 4-year high school plan
  • Check if your high school offers the PSAT 8/9
  • Start to think and ask about careers that interest you
  • Explore internship opportunities and ways to save for college

When you’re in 10th grade:

  • Register for an NCAA Certification Account or Profile Page at the NCAA Eligibility Center
  • Meet with your counselor again and ask these 20 questions to make sure you’re on track with college planning
  • Take the PSAT 10 or PSAT/NMSQT
  • Research financial aid, and don’t hesitate to ask an adult you trust for help.
  • Attend college and career fairs with this checklist to help you get the information you want
  • Participate in student clubs or volunteer

When you’re in 11th grade:

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT and learn about eligibility for the National Merit® Scholarship Program
  • Ask your counselor about SAT fee waivers
    • If you’re eligible, you’ll get other benefits like unlimited free score reports and free college application fee waivers
  • Register for the SAT and link your College Board account to Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy® for free practice tests
  • If you’ve taken the PSAT/NMSQT, explore career opportunities with our Career Search tool
  • Create a username and password for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and gather necessary tax returns and other financial documents
  • Build a college list with the college search tool on BigFuture and edit it as you discover more colleges
  • Take the SAT and use code 9999 to make sure the NCAA gets your score
  • Visit colleges
  • Review application materials needed for the colleges you’re interested in
    • Some colleges ask for letters of recommendation—think about which teacher, coach, or counselor you would ask
  • At the end of the year, ask your counselor to upload your official transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center

When you’re in 12th grade:

  • Narrow down and strengthen your college list, and note early admission and regular application deadlines
  • If you take the SAT again, make sure you practice with Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy and use code 9999 to send your score to the NCAA
  • Order official SAT score reports for the colleges you’re applying to
  • Complete the FAFSA
  • Draft your application essays and ask for feedback
  • Ask your counselor to send your official transcript to colleges
  • Complete your college applications by the deadline
  • Request your final amateurism certification from the NCAA after April 1 at the NCAA Eligibility Center
  • Commit to a college by May 1