What ACT Scores Do You Need to Qualify for the NCAA?
Many high school athletes have dreams of playing sports in college, and there are options for almost any level of play. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) offers three divisions of play for nearly 400,000 student athletes at over 1,000 schools nationwide.
What many high school athletes don’t realize, though, is that the NCAA maintains strict eligibility requirements for all students. If you’re hoping to play NCAA sports, you need to make sure that you can meet the requirements, especially when it comes to test scores. To learn more about the ACT scores you need to qualify for playing in the NCAA, don’t miss this post.
Why Are There NCAA Eligibility Requirements?
The goal of NCAA eligibility requirements is to ensure that student athletes are prepared for the rigors of college academics and to level the field of play by disqualifying any professional athletes from participation.
Because NCAA student athletes are entitled to numerous benefits, ranging from medical insurance and academic assistance to athletic scholarships and student assistance funds, the NCAA strives to make certain that athletes are held to specific standards. Eligibility requirements are one way of doing this.
How the NCAA Considers Your GPA
The NCAA calculates your GPA based on a 4.0 scale, but it only considers your core classes. This means that the GPA on your transcript may differ slightly from the GPA used by the NCAA, since your transcript weighs all classes, not just core courses.
Core courses per the NCAA include the following:
- Four years of English
- Three years of math at the Algebra I level or higher
- Two years of natural or physical science (one lab if offered at any high school attended)
- One year of additional English, math, or natural/physical science
- Two years of social science
- Four years of foreign language, philosophy, or comparative religion
For help converting your GPA to a 4.0 scale, check out our post How to Convert Your GPA to a 4.0 Scale.
How Your ACT Score is Calculated
The ACT has four sections: math, English, science, and writing. Each section is scored on a scale from 1-36. Normally, you consider your ACT as a composite score. This is the average of all your section scores and it is also on the scale 1-36.
The NCAA does not consider your composite score. Instead, it considers your scores as a sum with a total possible between 4-144. It’s also worth noting that the NCAA does superscore, meaning that if you take the test more than once, they will consider your highest section scores from any test administrations.
What Are the NCAA Eligibility Requirements for Division III?
There are no specific eligibility requirements established by the NCAA for Division III athletes. This is because Division III is not able to offer many of the benefits that Division I or II schools do, including athletic scholarships.
Instead, the NCAA defers to each college individually when evaluating student applications for Division III. In order to play Division III sports, a student athlete must qualify for admissions at that Division III school, meeting all GPA and SAT or ACT requirements.
What Are the NCAA Eligibility Requirements for Divisions II?
NCAA eligibility requirements start to become significant at the Division II level. This is due in part to the fact that 56% of Division II athletes receive some type of athletic scholarship. Basically, in addition to taking a full load of core courses, Division II athletes need to achieve a 2.2 GPA on a 4.0 score and meet ACT score requirements. These score requirements vary according to your GPA. The lower your GPA, the higher you’ll need to score on your ACT.
If you want to play Division II sports but have not met the eligibility requirements by your freshman year of college, you will not be able to compete. That being said, if you meet specific requirements to be a partial qualifier, you may still be allowed to practice with the team while you complete the remaining requirements.
See the chart at the end of this article for specific GPA and ACT scores required.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for NCAA Division I?
NCAA eligibility requirements are most stringent for Division I athletes. In addition to taking a full load of core courses, Division I athletes need to achieve a 2.3 GPA on a 4.0 score and meet standardized testing requirements. Testing requirements vary according to your GPA. The lower your GPA, the higher you’ll need to score on your ACT.
If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, you may not compete during your first year of college. That being said, if you meet specific requirements to be a partial qualifier, you may still be allowed to practice with the team while you complete the remaining requirements.
You can learn more about test scores and the NCAA sliding scale here.
NCAA Sliding Scale GPA and ACT Sum Scores
|Division I||Division II|
|Core Course GPA||ACT Sum||Core Course GPA||ACT Sum|
|3.550 & above||37||3.300 & above||37|
|2.450||70||2.200||70 & above|
How to Achieve Your Target ACT Score for the NCAA
The best way to achieve your target ACT score is through plenty of ACT prep started well in advance.
Take a practice test early on to see how your scores shape up. Then, you can use that initial test to help guide your study plan. Carefully review your mistakes and select specific areas for improvement.
In addition, keep in mind that although the NCAA considers all sections of the ACT through their sum, you can certainly play to your strengths by excelling in areas that you’re naturally better at.
You can read more about our top tips for ACT success in these posts:
Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.
Want more SAT tips sent to you?
Sign up below and we'll send you expert SAT tips and guides.