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May 14, 2020

Do Incoming College Athletes Need Standardized Test Scores for the 2020-21 Academic Year?

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College admissions is a whirlwind of a process under normal circumstances, but the uncertainty surrounding it is only amplified now, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, the NCAA is acting fast in light of current events by temporarily waiving its standardized test score requirements for incoming athletes. 

As a former DI athlete whose ACT score was one point short of a full tuition scholarship, I can resonate with the hopeful college athletes who are thrilled at this announcement. However, the NCAA’s waiver is a bit more nuanced than it appears on the surface. Here’s what prospective athletes (and their parents) should know about the NCAA’s latest update:

First, the NCAA’s standardized test requirements only pertain to athletic eligibility, meaning that incoming athletes who register with the eligibility center and hit the NCAA’s academic thresholds are deemed full qualifiers and are able to practice, compete, and receive athletic aid. College admissions is a different process entirely, meaning that unless an athlete’s preferred university has also decided to waive standardized test requirements, high school students still need solid test scores to be admitted academically. The NCAA has no jurisdiction over the admissions process of its member schools, so universities themselves don’t have to waive their test score requirements (but some are). If you are an incoming athlete, be sure to keep up to date on your college’s potentially fluctuating admissions standards.

Second, there are still certain NCAA benchmarks that incoming athletes have to hit in order to maintain their athletic eligibility, so the standardized test waiver is not an invitation to let academics slip completely. However, the NCAA is setting a pretty low bar for incoming DI athletes who now only need a 2.3 high school GPA (2.2 for DII) in 10 NCAA-approved core courses in order to compete in the upcoming athletic year. But a lightened academic load can still be heavy in times like these, so stay diligent.

Finally, the waiver is not permanent and, as of right now, only pertains to future college freshmen coming into the 2020-21 season. Unless the effects of the coronavirus seep into next year, it is unlikely that the NCAA will extend the waiver, or permanently do away with its test score requirements. So if you are currently a high school junior or younger and you want to compete as an NCAA athlete, keep studying. 

Like many organizations, the NCAA is in a state of flux right now, and is making some good moves to ease the transition to college for incoming athletes. But even in times like these, one thing is consistent: the best thing a hopeful college athlete can do to make it to the next level is stay on top of their academics. Standardized test scores or not.