Enrolling in Division I or Division II sports program is a lot different than just playing sports in high school. The NCAA takes sports seriously as a part of its larger education system. There are a variety of eligibility requirements and different principles and rules that are put in place so that students succeed as athletes and beyond.
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What to Expect as a Student-Athlete
Enrolling in Division I or Division II program comes with a lot of opportunities, but it also comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility. Is it a cold environment, where you’re used to playing in a warm environment? Or is it hot for the games, when you’re used to the cold weather?
Enrolling in Division I or Division II means that you’ll have to consider so many different aspects of a school beyond just sports. In fact, the sports programs are only a part of your experience. You’ll also need to consider the quality of the education and the trajectory that you want to have after school. These things can be huge factors in your quality of life during school and beyond.
Where to Be a Student-Athlete?
Know who you are. You might be the kind of person who thrives in a smaller environment, or you might be gunning for one of the most popular college football stadiums in the country. Neither is correct. The right place for you as a student-athlete is the location where you can get a great education, have an awesome experience, and expand your career. You might be trying to go professional after college, or you may want to transition to a different career—and you might not know what you want to do yet!
Definitely don’t pick a team based on the school colors. Enrolling in Division I or Division II means that you’ll have to take seriously different parts of the school experience, beyond just the branding of the team. While there’s a temptation to only be talking to the athletic departments, if you think you know exactly what major you want, it’s helpful to be in conversation with the education department as well.
Playing in College Games
Gameday is about lots more than just the actual sporting event. The best college basketball arenas and the best college football stadiums also have great local attractions. Whether you’re just in town for the day, you live nearby, or you’ve got the weekend to explore—there are enough great events to stretch any college gameday into a bigger event. Many of the best college basketball arenas are in the heart of downtown locations. The gymnasium is often a center point for entertainment.
As a student-athlete, you’ll get to travel to a lot of different locations for games. While you won’t spend a ton of time in a city, you may have the chance to go out a little bit. To see some of the places you might get to go, check out that college’s game schedule from previous seasons.
College gamedays are not always what they seem. Traveling can take a major toll on athletes, and some people will have to balance heavy course loads with games. It’s not uncommon for people to be studying the morning before a game or the night after. Games are important, but school plays a factor too. Most athletic directors prioritize the sports and life success of athletes, trying to balance managing a winning sports franchise with a successful student body. Schools want people to be better athletes when they graduate, but also better people, prepared for careers of their choosing—inside and outside sports.
NCAA Eligibility Center
To go through the process of enrolling in Division I or Division II school to play sports, you have to register with the NCAA eligibility center. You can create a certification account online and the simple system guides you through the process. You can then select the schools you want to compete at, make official visits, and sign a letter of intent that takes you to the school of your choosing. If you’re going to play DIII college sports, you can create a free profile, but the registration process is entirely different.
In order to apply and get certified, it’s helpful to have the following information:
- A valid email address that you have access to and stay connected with.
- Personal information, like your name, birthday, and contact information.
- Education history, including the schools that you’ve attended.
- A history of the sports that you’ve played, the expenses, and the awards. This is necessary to certify that you are in fact an amateur and therefore eligible to play NCAA sports.
- A nonrefundable registration fee.
NCAA Core Principles And Rules
Enrolling in Division I or Division II school is a big decision. And while the experience of college sports can be really great for individuals and really beneficial for schools, the NCAA also has a ton of rules for colleges who are going to have students enrolling in Division I or Division II school. There are 16 core principles that the NCAA lays out for the ways that schools are supposed to participate in the NCAA.
Many of the rules fall under student well-being, extending the experience of enrolling in Division I or Division II school far beyond simple athletics. Student well-being ensures that student-athletes get great overall education experience. It values cultural diversity and gender equity, and also has regulations for the health and safety of the students. It lays out some rules for fairness and openness, and it also details the student-coach relationship rules and the involvement that student-athletes are expected to have.
There are also rules about gender equity and gender bias, stipulating that schools have to comply with federal and state legislations. There are rules for encouraging sportsmanship and ethical conduct, as well as rules for sound academic standards. A school also has rules around recruiting and financial aid—there are ways that you can fairly compensate players, and ways that you cannot. And then there are rules on practices, playing, and postseason competitions.
Bylaw 2.14 states that the requirements for participation that are placed on college athletes will minimize interference with the opportunities for getting an education that is roughly consistent with what the general student body receives. This is critical, because it means that sports can’t interfere with the general ability to obtain the education that everyone else at the school is getting—it extends the importance of college sports into education far beyond sports fields and courts.
As a student, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations so that you know approximately what it will be like as a student-athlete. Being a student-athlete is about a lot more than just trying to make the game-winning touchdown in a bowl game, or having a few seconds to make a play in the first round of March Madness—it’s a whole life.