A question which we ask many of our athletes is “Do you know which division level you are best suited to play in?” Very few potential recruits know what division level they are suited for or even the difference between the division levels.
Get an understanding of each division level; ask your current coach for advice or even get some tips by attending college camps and showcases where you will be working with college coaches. It’s important to not be stubborn about this; thinking that you are a division I athlete when coaches clearly know you are not, will make your recruiting process miserable. College coaches will be reluctant to respond to athletes they feel do not meet the level of competition for their program.
Here is a quick overview of the different college division levels, get a sense of which college will be the best fit for you.
NCAA division I
Division I is what many recruits think of when they begin considering college sports, mostly because of how ESPN televises top high school athletes’ signing NLI’s. Division I schools begin recruiting and expressing their interest in athletes early; this does not mean you will not have a chance at playing at a DI if you’re not being recruited now, only that college coaches need to know who you are. Coaches at this level expect recruits to have the necessary experience in their sport including club and travel teams, along with years of experience and dedication to the sport.
Like division I, athletes are able to obtain an athletic scholarship at this level of competition. Division II also consists of colleges which compete at top levels of play. The competition is tough, but if you have the drive, experience and the grades than you will be able to find a suitable college at this level.
NCAA division III
This is the only NCAA division level where athletes do not register with the NCAA eligibility center because athletes at this level are not eligible to gain an athletic scholarship; instead, athletes will need to apply for institutional financial aid the same as the student-body population.
NAIA colleges and universities are a great option for high school athletes who wish to continue playing sports at the college level, but who also want to concentrate on life after college sports. NAIA schools pride themselves on being a small community, consisting of colleges and universities with smaller populations. NAIA offers athletic scholarships; students will need to go through the NAIA eligibility center in order to meet requirements to participate in athletics at this level. NAIA is the perfect option for student-athletes who love their sport and take their academics seriously.
National Junior College Athletic Association is where student-athletes who wish to attend a 2-year college will go. NJCAA colleges are able to offer student-athletes scholarships; granted the school has the funds for scholarships, be sure to discuss this with coaches first. Athletes interested in participating at the Junior college level will not need to go through an eligibility process, only meet requirements of the junior college they wish to attend. Some student-athletes have planned to attend a junior college first in order to get a feel for playing sports at the college level. Junior colleges can be a good way for an athlete to get their feet wet and then to transfer to a 4-year college.
Remember to keep your options open in order to expand your college opportunities.