We all know how influential the SAT & ACT are in college admissions. However, not everyone realizes that the big tests also play a role in college athletics. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) oversees the Division I, II, and III sports with the philosophy that graduating from college is as important an achievement as winning on the field. One of the ways the NCAA manages the success of its student-athletes is by ensuring high school graduates are academically prepared for college coursework.
The NCAA requires college-bound student-athletes to meet a core-course progression requirement to be eligible to compete in the initial year of full-time enrollment at an Division I school. NCAA Eligibility Requirements also establish minimum requirements for grades and test scores on a sliding scale, which means the lower your GPA is, the higher your SAT or ACT scores must be if you want to play Division I sports in your first year of college:
The eligibility requirements are not exactly stringent: a student with a GPA of 3.5 or higher needs a combined SAT EBRW/M score of 400, which you get for writing your name and leaving the rest of the test blank! Even a 2.3 GPA, which is equivalent to a C+ or 78 average, requires an ACT score in the 43rd percentile or, if that’s too tough, an SAT score around the 20th percentile. Curiously, the NCAA has always looked at the sum of the four multiple-choice ACT section, rather than the traditional average.
The good news for students seeking Division I eligibility is that NCAA superscores both the SAT and ACT, although the organization will not combine section scores from the current SAT with scores taken prior to March 2016. The bad news for some is that students with GPAs lower than 2.3 are automatically redshirted as freshmen, which means they will not be eligible to compete no matter how high their test scores are.
Note that NCAA has added Division II test score requirements as well, but they are even less demanding than Division I. Since these requirements shift over time, anyone interested in becoming an NCAA student-athlete should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.