How to become a college athlete

You want to be a great athlete? There is only one place to look: Straight in the mirror. Every single day is a chance to get better at your sport and it is on YOU to make a plan and execute it to build your skills, make yourself a more intelligent player and get your body in the best condition possible.

Your coach, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, i.e. all the people around you, can support you OR be a detriment to your development but in the end you have to make up your mind, day in and day out, to get better. Excuses are used all the time in sports: “I don’t get along with the coach” , “I don’t play enough” , “We play a bad system” , “My teammates aren’t that good” . You have to be a person of strong character to overcome making excuses like this when the going gets tough and your goal is to compete at a higher level. If you can keep your motivation and work ethic level high during these periods, you are not only getting better when others are not but you are also training yourself mentally to succeed under adverse conditions which is a great life trait to have.

It’s on you to not only work hard but also to work smart, especially in these 3 areas:

Practice Habits

  • Are you doing things after practice (when people are not looking) to build your skills?
  • Are you changing up your skill drills and practice habits, forcing your body to adapt and also get your brain working at the same time?
  • Are you working on skills that are out of your comfort zone to help you improve and not just the easy things that you are already good at?

Strength and Conditioning Training

  • Do you have a plan or program in place, prior to arriving at the gym, knowing exactly what you are going to do (and accomplish) that day?
  • When you are training your body do you have the proper form?
  • Are you doing the right sport specific exercises?
  • Are you getting the proper rest?
  • Are you eating properly?

Student of the Game

  • When you watch the pros or players at a higher level, are you watching the game as a fan or focusing on a player that plays your position and watch how they play?
  • Are you watching the little things they do that make themselves better?
  • Are you implementing those things into your own game?

Getting better is HARD. It takes planning and will power. Accepting that fact is sometimes the first step if you want to seriously improve and get to the next level. The great thing is the choice to get better is completely up to you, it’s all in your control and no one else can stop you.

What things do you do on a daily basis to make yourself a better athlete?

How to become a college athlete

You don’t necessarily need an athletic scholarship to play college sports.

The college search for athletes has grown complicated and increasingly competitive in the past decade. The high-stakes competition for scholarships is actually opening up more opportunities for walk-on athletes.

A walk-on prospect is a recruit who either lacks the athletic skill to attract a scholarship offer or who wants to attend a college that does not offer athletic scholarships (e.g., Division III programs and Ivy League schools cannot offer athletic scholarships).

The college search for athletes has grown complicated and increasingly competitive in the past decade. The high-stakes competition for scholarships is actually opening up more opportunities for walk-on athletes.

A walk-on prospect is a recruit who either lacks the athletic skill to attract a scholarship offer or who wants to attend a college that does not offer athletic scholarships (e.g., Division III programs and Ivy League schools cannot offer athletic scholarships).

At face value, this may appear to spell failure, but when you dig deeper into the potential gains, it becomes increasingly appealing.

D-I and D-II programs have a cap on the number of athletic scholarships they can offer and the number of aggregate scholarship athletes permitted on a squad in any given year. For example, in women’s lacrosse, the maximum number of scholarships is 12, but a typical D-I women’s lacrosse squad has around 35 athletes. This means that roughly two-thirds of the squad are walk-ons.

Honestly, college coaches draw little or no tangible distinction between a scholarship recipient and a walk-on student-athlete. They both have the same opportunity to impact the team. When the dust settles, a coach’s job is to win, and he or she will simply put the best team on the field to achieve that end.

Walk-on Scenarios

There are three possible walk-on situations:

  • Colleges where athletic scholarships are exhausted
  • Colleges that do not offer athletic scholarships
  • College coaches who have a clear tryout policy.

Verbal offers for athletic scholarships are becoming more popular, so there’s a chance that coaches from top-tier schools have committed their upper limit early. This may appear disappointing at first, but always look at the bigger picture. An athlete who might not qualify for a scholarship in his or her freshman year could very well qualify during subsequent years.

A small group of colleges and universities hold to a strict “non-athletic grant” policy for all student-athletes. In many cases, these programs are at brilliant academic institutions. Not only can coaches offer potential assistance with financial aid and non-athletic grants, they may, in many cases, offer robust influence in assisting prospects through the admissions process.

Many college coaches offer a fall tryout period when student-athletes have the opportunity to make a good impression and land spots on the team.

The Pitch

Grabbing the attention of college coaches, especially for walk-on candidates, takes a lot of convincing and grunt work.

First, the athlete and his or her family members must develop a “thick skin.” Feedback from coaches could be predominantly negative, so you need to prepare for the best and expect the worst when it’s decision time.

Second, it is critical to take a bold, “stick your foot in the door” approach in presenting your case. Remember, coaches are looking at three key attributes prospects: Strong academics, potentially impact athletes and strong character. Your recruiting approach should be vigorous, but polite.

Third, this should be a “prospect effort,” and not a mom-and-dad approach. Students need to buck up and confidently push the walk-on agenda with college coaches themselves, building a strong and convincing case.

Professional athletes play sports for a living. Professional team sports include football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Professional individual sports include tennis, golf and boxing.

If you want to be a professional athlete, you should attend college for two reasons:

  • Professional athletes are often chosen by scouts that go to colleges to seek out talented athletes.
  • Professional athletes usually retire at a fairly young age. A college education will help you in your second career. [Source: U.S. University Directory]

Professional athletes must:

  • Have good eyesight [source: U.S. University Directory].
  • Have good reflexes and coordination.
  • Perform well under pressure.
  • Be competitive.
  • Be disciplined.
  • Be prepared to travel a lot and/or relocate.

In order to become a pro athlete you’ll need to:

  • Start playing sports early in life.
  • Train rigorously.
  • Keep your body in excellent condition.
  • Earn good grades in school, so you’re allowed to play on your school’s team [source: BLS].
  • Join teams and clubs dedicated to your sport.
  • Try out for competitions and tournaments in your sport.
  • Apply for scholarships for outstanding athletes in your sport.

Your career path as a professional athlete will depend on your sport.

  • If you’re drafted in baseball, you’ll have to continue trying to qualify through a system of farm teams that the major league teams own.
  • If you’re drafted in football, you’ll go straight to a pro team.

Before becoming a professional athlete, remember:

  • As a pro athlete, your job follows you everywhere. Being a pro athlete is like being a famous actor or singer.
  • As a pro athlete, you may have curfews or other restrictions to abide by.

As public interest in sports grows and professional sports leagues expand, the number of athletes will probably increase. However, the competition in pro athletics is still extremely stiff because so many people want to enter the field.

Cite This!

Please copy/paste the following text to properly cite this HowStuffWorks.com article:

More Awesome Stuff

How to become a college athlete

How to become a college athlete

Explore More HowStuffWorks:

Learn How Everything Works!

We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided to them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services. You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

Do not sell my data

Information that may be used

  • Type of browser and its settings
  • Information about the device’s operating system
  • Cookie information
  • Information about other identifiers assigned to the device
  • The IP address from which the device accesses a client’s website or mobile application
  • Information about the user’s activity on that device, including web pages and mobile apps visited or used
  • Information about the geographic location of the device when it accesses a website or mobile application

You want to be a great athlete? There is only one place to look: Straight in the mirror. Every single day is a chance to get better at your sport and it is on YOU to make a plan and execute it to build your skills, make yourself a more intelligent player and get your body in the best condition possible.

Your coach, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, i.e. all the people around you, can support you OR be a detriment to your development but in the end you have to make up your mind, day in and day out, to get better. Excuses are used all the time in sports: “I don’t get along with the coach” , “I don’t play enough” , “We play a bad system” , “My teammates aren’t that good” . You have to be a person of strong character to overcome making excuses like this when the going gets tough and your goal is to compete at a higher level. If you can keep your motivation and work ethic level high during these periods, you are not only getting better when others are not but you are also training yourself mentally to succeed under adverse conditions which is a great life trait to have.

It’s on you to not only work hard but also to work smart, especially in these 3 areas:

Practice Habits

  • Are you doing things after practice (when people are not looking) to build your skills?
  • Are you changing up your skill drills and practice habits, forcing your body to adapt and also get your brain working at the same time?
  • Are you working on skills that are out of your comfort zone to help you improve and not just the easy things that you are already good at?

Strength and Conditioning Training

  • Do you have a plan or program in place, prior to arriving at the gym, knowing exactly what you are going to do (and accomplish) that day?
  • When you are training your body do you have the proper form?
  • Are you doing the right sport specific exercises?
  • Are you getting the proper rest?
  • Are you eating properly?

Student of the Game

  • When you watch the pros or players at a higher level, are you watching the game as a fan or focusing on a player that plays your position and watch how they play?
  • Are you watching the little things they do that make themselves better?
  • Are you implementing those things into your own game?

Getting better is HARD. It takes planning and will power. Accepting that fact is sometimes the first step if you want to seriously improve and get to the next level. The great thing is the choice to get better is completely up to you, it’s all in your control and no one else can stop you.

What things do you do on a daily basis to make yourself a better athlete?

Find Your Dream School

COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will continue our “Enroll with Confidence” refund policies. For full details, please click here.

$25 Off

Enter your email to unlock an extra $25 off an SAT or ACT program!

By submitting my email address. I certify that I am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from The Princeton Review, and agree to Terms of Use.

Are you a student athlete planning to play sports in college? Finding the right school for you is still about best overall fit. Make sure you are considering academics, campus culture, and financial aid—in addition to the athletics program—during your college search.

Whether you have dreams of going pro or just want to play for fun, here’s an overview of your sports options in college and some specific admission tips for athletes.

How to become a college athlete

Playing Sports in College

Varsity-Level Sports

Varsity athletes represent their schools at the highest level of competition. Funded by college athletic budgets, varsity teams play in conferences across the country. Athletes are recruited by college coaches or “walk-on” the team at the beginning of the season.

What are the NCAA Divisions?

The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCCA) is the largest organization that governs varsity sports at colleges and universities. The NCAA divides its member schools into three divisions based on 1.) school size, 2.) funding for athletics, 3.) campus experience for athletes, and 4.) availability of athletic scholarships.

Bigger student bodies, larger athletics budgets, and more media attention on their elite teams

(Ever heard of March Madness?)

Emphasize a balance between academic life and athletics.

Student athletes can compete at a high level and still have a traditional college experience.

Focus on academics and for athletes to be well-integrated on campus.

Tend to have shorter sports seasons with an emphasis on regional competition.

Club Sports

Club sports teams compete with other universities and colleges but are not regulated by an athletics association like varsity sports. Club teams are run by students who plan everything from hiring coaches to fundraising for gear and uniforms. Competition can still be fierce with rigorous weekly practice, regional tournaments, and national championships.

Intramural Sports

These recreational sports teams are for students of all athletic abilities. Instead of competing against other universities you’ll compete against other student teams at your school. Intramural teams can run the gamut from traditional sports like soccer, rugby, or softball to quirky options such as Ultimate Frisbee, Quidditch, or inner-tube water polo.

College Admissions Tips for Athletes

Meet with your college counselor early and often to make sure you’re moving toward your goals! Follow these tips for a smooth admissions process.

Understand the rules of recruitment.

If you have your eye on a varsity sport, be aware that members of the team are usually recruited by college coaches. There are rules for when and how coaches can get in touch with you. Check out the NCAA recruiting guidelines.

Plan ahead for NCAA Eligibility.

If you are applying to Division I or II schools, you will also need to meet NCAA Eligibility. These academic standards include: 1) required courses 2.) GPA cu t-offs and 3.) SAT/ACT score minimums. Eligible students may practice, compete, and get NCAA funding for their first year in college.

Raise your GPA.

NCAA Eligibility does not mean automatic admission! You’ll still have to go through the school’s admission committee, so work to get good grades in challenging courses. Our online tutors are here for you if your GPA needs a boost!

Choose your SAT/ACT test dates wisely.

Consider your sports schedule when choosing your test dates so that you can get in enough prep! For example, if you play a spring sport, you’ll have more time to prep for the SAT and/or ACT tests in the fall. Learn more about when you should take standardized tests.

Be original in your application essays.

Strategize with your college counselor about how to talk about playing sports in your college essays. Many essays sound the same—tell your sports story that nobody else can tell. Get feedback on your application essay.

Think beyond sports.

Your best fit college is one you would attend even if you don’t make the team! Learn more about how to find the right school for you.

Need help crafting the right application plan for you? Our College Counselors will help you find, apply, and get accepted to your dream school. Get a personalized college admissions plan today!

Damond Talbot

  • October 15, 2020
  • For student-athletes to practice and play at the college or university level, they must satisfy NCAA eligibility requirements. They must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center at the beginning of their junior or end of sophomore years of high school and meet all NCAA academic requirements all through high school.

    The NCAA decides if a student-athlete is eligible based on his or her amateurism status and academic preparedness. They determine Academic eligibility using a combination of high school course work, GPA requirements, and ACT/SAT results. Also, the NCAA determines a student’s amateurism status based on the answers on his or her amateurism certificate. When student-athletes achieve NCAA-eligibility status, they can play for five academic years.

    What is the NCAA Eligibility Center?

    The NCAA Eligibility Center is considered a watchdog organization for NCAA athletics. They confirm the eligibility of student-athletes at Division I or Division ll schools. All NCAA student-athletes must register with the center before they can play any college sport or receive a scholarship from an NCAA school. The NCAA application process usually takes about 45 minutes. The student only needs a valid email address.

    Some details you’ll be asked to input during the registration process include:

    · Your high school name and location

    · Your high school coursework

    · Basic identification information such as name, birthday, sex, and address

    · The sport you want to play in college

    · The clubs, traveling teams, and high school teams you’ve played for

    You need to update these details regularly so NCAA schools looking for recruits will have your current coursework and GPA information.

    Becoming NCAA eligible might be exciting, but it requires a lot of patience and constant school work as well as training. Professional assistance in the UK from cheap essay writing service delivered with quality can sometimes help you achieve the balance you desire. This means you can focus on your on both your studies and sports without being overwhelmed. Furthermore, you don’t want to be deemed ineligible for the competition just because you’ve failed to maintain the required grade point.

    US Citizens, Canadian citizens, and citizens of US territories often pay a $90 fee to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. International students pay $150. In most cases, NCAA waives the registration fee for low income-students, but that’s only if they live in the US or its territories. US students who qualify for the ACT / SAT fee waivers can also receive the NCAA athlete registration waiver.

    What are the NCAA academic requirements to play and NCAA-sport?

    Division I Division II
    Core Course Requirements ✓ 4 years of English language✓ 3 years of mathematics (Algebra or higher level)✓ 2 years of physical/natural science (also one year of lab science if offered by the high school)✓ One more year of English language, mathematics, or science✓ 2 years of social science✓ 4 extra years of English language, mathematics, science (physical/ natural), foreign language, social science philosophy, or comparative religion ✓ 3 years of English language✓ 2 years of mathematics (Algebra 1 or higher)✓ 2 years of physical/natural science (also one year of lab science if offered by the high school)✓ 3 extra years of English language, mathematics, or science (physical/natural science)✓ 2 years of social science✓ 4 extra years of English language, mathematics, science (physical/ natural), foreign language, social science philosophy, or comparative religion
    NCAA GPA Requirements 2.3 2.2
    SAT or ACT If you graduate with a minimum GPA of 2.3, you must have a combined SAT score of 980 to satisfy NCAA SAT requirements or an ACT score of 75 for the NCAA ACT requirement. If you graduate with a minimum GPA of 2.2, you must have a combined SAT score of 920 to satisfy NCAA SAT requirements or an ACT score of 70 and above for the NCAA ACT requirement.

    What are the NCAA eligibility requirements for Division III athletes?

    Most of the time, Division III institutions set their academic eligibility standards. So, there are no NCAA eligibility standards for them. If you plan to compete in Division III schools, you must be accepted to the school just like any other student.

    You’ll not receive an athletic scholarship if you compete in Division III. And since academics come first, then sports in Division III institutions, you don’t have to be academically certified by the NCAA. That being said, it’s important to remain in good academic standing with your school by doing custom essays and research papers as you progress towards your degree.

    If you’re uncertain what division you want to compete in, you can begin with a free NCAA profile page. Once you peruse a Division I or Division II program, keep in mind that you can move to a Certification Account later.

    Conclusion

    We hope this guide has provided you with sufficient information to keep you on track to meet the NCAA academic eligibility requirement for Division II and Division II schools of your choosing.

    Unfortunately, there are no Division III NCAA eligibility requirements because Division III institutions feature their own admission requirements that you have to meet to maintain eligibility.

    How Being A Student Athlete Today Can Provides Benefits For the Future

    By Katie Barrer

    Our team was fortunate enough to work with two star Duck athletes who are also former Metro league athletes at Jesuit High School in Portland, OR. Doug Brenner, a freshman football player, and his junior sister, volleyball, track, and former basketball and softball star Liz Brenner, have lived a life of athletics ever since they could remember. One of the commonalities we found between Doug, Liz, and all of our featured athletes, is that balancing a life of athletics, a student life, and a social life, is no easy task. For those of us on the outside of the athletic scene, it may be easy to wonder, “Is all of it worth it?” Is putting in the strenuous hours of being a student athlete worth the exhaustion and the commitment if a student does not plan on going into their sport professionally?

    According to the NCAA, only the following percentages of college athletes go into their said sport professionally:

    Men’s Ice Hockey-1.3%

    The statistics say it all. Unfortunately, many of our Oregon Duck athletes will never make it to the big leagues. For some, playing a sport in college is a way to even attend school, such as getting an athletic scholarship, and with that, these kids are already “living the dream”. For others, professional sports will always be their goal and their lifelong dream completed. Besides the potential to maybe someday become a professional athlete, being a student athlete does have other pros.

    Research has shown that being a student athlete in college has many other positive aspects than just the special athletic amenities we see here at the U of O. The opportunity to play a sport while also being a student shapes the man or woman athlete into someone who is educated, healthy, and an overall team player, according to Web Star Recruits. Student athletes are more likely to finish college and less likely to drop out than non-athlete students. Athletes also have the advantage of registering for classes before non-athlete students and often have mandatory study hours and tutoring sessions to help boost their GPA, something not always easily accessible to non-athlete students. Lastly, going into college can be a nerve-wracking time for those who find socializing easy. Being a student athlete almost forces you to be social from the beginning and helps to establish life-long friendships and relationships.

    Being a college athlete also prepares one for the real world and life after college. According to Kerry Brown of NCSA Athletic Recruiting, there are four main ways why being a college athlete can help one far along the road in life:

    1. Being a student athlete provides discipline. This goes along with the crazy balancing act that student athletes have; managing a work out and practice schedule to fit in with necessary classes, tutoring, and any other social aspect of their life is not for the faint of heart. It takes commitment and the ability to recognize what is most important. Learning discipline prepares athletes for the future of a career and family life, especially when it comes to time management. Athletes will have a leg up in life when they have plans to attend their daughter’s recital, create a meeting brief, maybe take the wife out on a date, and somehow save a coworker’s work project in order to not lose a client: they have been doing it for years.
    2. Financial Security. Athletes have a great opportunity to pay for a good part of their college through scholarships, something that not everyone gets to experience. With American college student debt reaching almost $1 trillion dollars, getting money to do what you love and attend school is definitely an advantage. Between getting room and board paid for and all the other amenities that come with being an athlete, like free medical care in some cases, depending on the sport at hand, an athlete can save upwards to $120,000. That is a hefty chunk of change that can be used for future life endeavors.
    3. Education. According to research done by the current U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, college athletes tend to have higher GPAs than the average college student. The NCAA is making requirements for being a college athlete much more rigorous when it comes to maintaining an education. Being an athlete often requires much more focus that goes beyond the classroom and beyond a college campus. Having a higher GPA means getting into better schools, potentially having better career choices, and leads to much better networking, Brown’s fourth point.
    4. Career. Having the opportunity to be a student athlete allows one to work with an elite group of people many other students do not have the chance of knowing. Beyond the court or field after college, these connections can come in handy for a future career. Being an athlete requires a lot of socialization, communication skills, and team building; all traits that work well for a resume and into the real world. Employers also recognize the accomplishments that young athletes have and often take that into account when considering one for a job. In a survey of 100 CEOs, 94% had played sports and 100% said they would hire a student-athlete over a non-student athlete.

    It would be difficult for a lot of us non-athlete students to stand up and say that we could do what these young men and women do everyday. Though a lot of these student athletes may never play professionally, their drive and passion for what they do should serve as an inspiration to us all. Being an athlete in college is like having a full time job on top of being a student, and takes a lot more commitment and perseverance than many of us can imagine. The benefits of being a student athlete do not only take place in the present, but also stand for a lifetime.

    “Benefits of Being a Student Athlete in College.” Web Star Recruits. 2012. Web. 3 June 2014. .

    Find Your Dream School

    COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will continue our “Enroll with Confidence” refund policies. For full details, please click here.

    $25 Off

    Enter your email to unlock an extra $25 off an SAT or ACT program!

    By submitting my email address. I certify that I am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from The Princeton Review, and agree to Terms of Use.

    Are you a student athlete planning to play sports in college? Finding the right school for you is still about best overall fit. Make sure you are considering academics, campus culture, and financial aid—in addition to the athletics program—during your college search.

    Whether you have dreams of going pro or just want to play for fun, here’s an overview of your sports options in college and some specific admission tips for athletes.

    How to become a college athlete

    Playing Sports in College

    Varsity-Level Sports

    Varsity athletes represent their schools at the highest level of competition. Funded by college athletic budgets, varsity teams play in conferences across the country. Athletes are recruited by college coaches or “walk-on” the team at the beginning of the season.

    What are the NCAA Divisions?

    The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCCA) is the largest organization that governs varsity sports at colleges and universities. The NCAA divides its member schools into three divisions based on 1.) school size, 2.) funding for athletics, 3.) campus experience for athletes, and 4.) availability of athletic scholarships.

    Bigger student bodies, larger athletics budgets, and more media attention on their elite teams

    (Ever heard of March Madness?)

    Emphasize a balance between academic life and athletics.

    Student athletes can compete at a high level and still have a traditional college experience.

    Focus on academics and for athletes to be well-integrated on campus.

    Tend to have shorter sports seasons with an emphasis on regional competition.

    Club Sports

    Club sports teams compete with other universities and colleges but are not regulated by an athletics association like varsity sports. Club teams are run by students who plan everything from hiring coaches to fundraising for gear and uniforms. Competition can still be fierce with rigorous weekly practice, regional tournaments, and national championships.

    Intramural Sports

    These recreational sports teams are for students of all athletic abilities. Instead of competing against other universities you’ll compete against other student teams at your school. Intramural teams can run the gamut from traditional sports like soccer, rugby, or softball to quirky options such as Ultimate Frisbee, Quidditch, or inner-tube water polo.

    College Admissions Tips for Athletes

    Meet with your college counselor early and often to make sure you’re moving toward your goals! Follow these tips for a smooth admissions process.

    Understand the rules of recruitment.

    If you have your eye on a varsity sport, be aware that members of the team are usually recruited by college coaches. There are rules for when and how coaches can get in touch with you. Check out the NCAA recruiting guidelines.

    Plan ahead for NCAA Eligibility.

    If you are applying to Division I or II schools, you will also need to meet NCAA Eligibility. These academic standards include: 1) required courses 2.) GPA cu t-offs and 3.) SAT/ACT score minimums. Eligible students may practice, compete, and get NCAA funding for their first year in college.

    Raise your GPA.

    NCAA Eligibility does not mean automatic admission! You’ll still have to go through the school’s admission committee, so work to get good grades in challenging courses. Our online tutors are here for you if your GPA needs a boost!

    Choose your SAT/ACT test dates wisely.

    Consider your sports schedule when choosing your test dates so that you can get in enough prep! For example, if you play a spring sport, you’ll have more time to prep for the SAT and/or ACT tests in the fall. Learn more about when you should take standardized tests.

    Be original in your application essays.

    Strategize with your college counselor about how to talk about playing sports in your college essays. Many essays sound the same—tell your sports story that nobody else can tell. Get feedback on your application essay.

    Think beyond sports.

    Your best fit college is one you would attend even if you don’t make the team! Learn more about how to find the right school for you.

    Need help crafting the right application plan for you? Our College Counselors will help you find, apply, and get accepted to your dream school. Get a personalized college admissions plan today!