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August 30, 2021

What You Need to Know When Considering the NAIA

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When it comes to college athletics, everyone’s first thought is often of the NCAA. However, there is another option for high school student-athletes: the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Before deciding which school to attend, you should research the NAIA and decide which athletic association is best for you.

NAIA General Information

Although the NAIA is a much smaller association than with the NCAA, it is still comprised of 60,000 student-athletes at 300 schools, competing in 13 sports and 23 national championships. NAIA schools also give out more than $500 million in financial aid each year, and different sports have different scholarship amounts which can be awarded. 

Another significant difference between the NCAA and NAIA is that the NAIA does not have a letter of intent program, meaning more flexible signing dates. Students may still sign a letter of intent specific to their school and team. 

Academic Eligibility Requirements

To be a student-athlete in the NAIA schools, you must meet the academic requirements as well. To be eligible, you must meet two out of these three requirements:

  1. Achieve 18 ACT score or 860 SAT score
  2. Achieve a minimum 2.0 overall high school GPA on a 4.0 scale
  3. Graduate in the top half of your high school class

Compare to: NCAA Academic Standards

Other Requirements

Like the NCAA, the NAIA requires all high school student-athletes to go through the eligibility center. You must finish the following tasks:

  1. Register with the NAIA Eligibility Center and pay the $70 fee ($120 for international students)
  2. Submit your personal information, including your contact info, address, high School attended, and sport(s) played
  3. Have your standardized test scores sent to the eligibility center 
  4. Have your guidance counselor send your official transcripts to the NAIA Eligibility Center

LRT Recruiting Tips

Flexibility is one of the compelling reasons why NAIA schools may be the way to go. In fact, there are no rules concerning the recruiting of prospective student-athletes who are in high school or below. Also, there are no recruiting calendars, dead periods, or contact restrictions. As a result, if you are in a showcase and a coach asks to speak with you about your performance or their institution, ask if they are an NAIA school. If the answer is yes, just feel free to speak with them all you want. Otherwise, if they are part of the NCAA, say hello and ask them to call you later.

The NAIA also passed NIL rights before the NCAA, further displaying their flexibility and support of their athletes.

Related: NAIA Gives Athletes Access to Name, Image, and Likeness

Finally, while the NAIA may not have as impressive a reputation as the NCAA, NAIA athletes still get to opportunity to play at the professional level, so if your goal is to go pro, but you want to attend a smaller school and compete for an association that is for the athletes, NAIA may be the way to go.

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