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Best Colleges for Student-Athletes | 2018 NCSA Power Rankings

 

Best Colleges for Student-Athletes | 2018 NCSA Power Rankings

NCSA Power Rankings recognize the “Best Colleges for Student-Athletes.“ Being a college student-athlete is about more than just sports, it is also about getting an education that will set you up for success for life. The NCSA Power Rankings breakdown schools by sport and division level, helping families identify potential colleges, no matter what type of school you might be considering after graduating from high school.

The 2018 NCSA Power Rankings are based on proprietary analyses using 2018 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, 2016 IPEDS graduation rates and NCSA’s own “NCSA Favorites” which identify the schools current high school student-athletes want to attend.



Best Colleges for Student Athletes

Best Colleges ranks the Top 100 schools for student-athletes for all sports in all divisions.

  1. Duke University
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of Notre Dame
  4. Harvard University
  5. Princeton University

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Best Division 1 Colleges

Best Colleges Division 1 ranks the Top 100 Division 1 colleges and universities for student-athletes for all sports.

  1. Duke University
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of Notre Dame
  4. Harvard University
  5. Princeton University

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Best Division 2 Colleges

Best Colleges Division 2 ranks the Top 100 Division 2 colleges and universities for student-athletes for all sports.

  1. University of California - San Diego
  2. Bentley University
  3. Colorado School of Mines
  4. Hillsdale College
  5. Rollins College

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Best Division 3 Colleges

Best Colleges Division 3 ranks the Top 100 Division 3 colleges and universities for student-athletes for all sports.

  1. Johns Hopkins University
  2. Amherst College
  3. University of Chicago
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT
  5. Tufts University

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Best NAIA Colleges

Best Colleges NAIA ranks the Top 100 NAIA colleges and universities for student-athletes for all sports.

  1. Taylor University
  2. Soka University of America
  3. Westmont College
  4. Dordt College
  5. Northwestern College - Iowa

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Best Football Colleges

Best Football Colleges ranks the Top 100 Football programs in the country for all divisions.

  1. Duke University
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of Notre Dame
  4. University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA
  5. University of Southern California

Best Division 1 Football Colleges

Best Division 2 Football Colleges

Best Division 3 Football Colleges

Best NAIA Football Colleges

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Best Field Hockey Colleges

Best Field Hockey Colleges ranks the Top 100 Field Hockey programs in the country for all divisions.

  1. Columbia University
  2. Duke University
  3. Princeton University
  4. Harvard University
  5. Yale University

Best Division 1 Field Hockey Colleges

Best Division 2 Field Hockey Colleges

Best Division 3 Field Hockey Colleges

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Best Women’s Volleyball Colleges

Best Women’s Volleyball Colleges ranks the Top 100 Volleyball programs in the country for all divisions.

  1. Stanford University
  2. Duke University
  3. Columbia University
  4. University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA
  5. University of Southern California

Best Division 1 Volleyball Colleges

Best Division 2 Volleyball Colleges

Best Division 3 Volleyball Colleges

Best NAIA Volleyball Colleges

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Best Women’s Soccer Colleges

Best Women’s Soccer Colleges ranks the Top 100 Women’s Soccer programs in the country for all divisions.

  1. Duke University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Yale University
  4. University of Notre Dame
  5. Harvard University

Best Division 1 Soccer Colleges

Best Division 2 Soccer Colleges

Best Division 3 Soccer Colleges

Best NAIA Soccer Colleges

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Best Men’s Soccer Colleges

Best Men’s Soccer Colleges ranks the Top 100 Men’s Soccer programs in the country for all divisions.

  1. Duke University
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of Notre Dame
  4. University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA
  5. Columbia University

Best Division 1 Soccer Colleges

Best Division 2 Soccer Colleges

Best Division 3 Soccer Colleges

Best NAIA Soccer Colleges

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Best Women’s Water Polo Colleges

Best Women’s Water Polo Colleges ranks the top Women’s Water Polo programs in the country for all divisions.

  1. Stanford University
  2. University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA
  3. University of California
  4. University of Southern California
  5. Princeton University

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Best Men’s Water Polo Colleges

Best Men’s Water Polo Colleges ranks the top Men’s Water Polo programs in the country for all divisions.

  1. Stanford University
  2. Harvard University
  3. Princeton University
  4. University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA
  5. University of California

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College search: Find the best colleges for you

Student-athletes usually have a couple of dream schools in mind when they begin their recruiting journey. But the chances of those coaches recruiting their position and offering a scholarship might be fairly slim. That’s why we tell every student-athlete to research several programs and build a school list to maximize their opportunities and find the best college matches.

How do you do a college search

Starting early in high school, student-athletes should begin to build their list of potential colleges. This college list should include 5 safety schools, 10 target schools and 5 dream schools.

  • Safety Schools: These are the types of schools you have on your list as a backup plan. You might get injured, the coach you want to play for could leave the program or any other number of problems. You need to make sure you have a plan for
  • Target Schools: These are the schools where you have the most realistic chance of getting in and will be the right fit athletically.
  • Dream Schools: Maybe this is a school that is a stretch academically, a school where you will need to improve significantly to qualify athletically or maybe it is going to be too expensive without significantly financial aid. You should have these dream schools on your list, but recognize, it is going to be a stretch to make them happen.

What to look for in a college

  • Academics: Being offered an athletic scholarship doesn’t guarantee your acceptance into a school—you must qualify academically, too. If your GPA or test scores were to go up a few points, how many new doors would open? Then, think about what you’d like to study in college and how much time you need to focus on academics outside of your sport. Ask the coach how other athletes manage their course loads and see if anyone is studying your major. You can use Parchment's website to easily compare where your grades and test scores stand among other students, and see your chances of being admitted into a college.
  • Athletics: While Division 1 offers a high level of competition, less than .2 percent of high school athletes go on to play at that level. Focus your efforts on finding the division level you fit in most. You want to target schools where you can make a valuable contribution to the team. That might be Division 2, Division 3, NAIA or even junior colleges, all of which offer great opportunities and scholarships. Learn the difference between the divisions (read more on that here) to understand which one is right for you.
  • Your personal preferences: This will be your home for the next four years, so you’ll want to settle in. Soak in the environment when you go on campus visits, including the location, school size, dorms and social vibe. Ask other students what they like about living on campus to see if you can picture yourself being there. Don’t forget to consider how far you are from home and even the weather. It’s beneficial to keep a checklist going of which personal preferences matter to you most as you start researching schools.
  • Cost: How much aid are you eligible to receive and can you afford the school without an athletic scholarship? You always want to keep these factors top-of-mind when pursuing programs.

What division level is right for you?

The majority of scholarship athletes compete outside of Division 1, it’s important to include a mix of Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA schools on your college lists. In fact, while 56 percent of Division 1 athletes receive some form of aid, 61 percent of Division 2 and 82 percent of Division 3 college athletes receive aid or need-based scholarships. The right division level for you comes down to what you are looking for in college.

  • NCAA Division 1: These programs are highly competitive and being an athlete is considered a full-time job. There are more than 330 D1 schools and they typically offer partial or full scholarships, but less than .8 percent of high school athletes play at this level.
  • NCAA Division 2: These programs tend to be a mix of private and public schools that are smaller to mid-sized. There are more than 300 D2 programs, all of which offer athletic scholarships. Athletes typically find a balance among their academics, athletics and social life at these institutions.
  • NCAA Division 3: There are more than 440 D3 schools and 81 percent of them are private institutions. In general, they tend to be smaller schools. D3 offers athletes more free time so they can have a well-rounded college experience.
  • NAIA: The average NAIA school has 2,000 students and there are more than 250 programs nationwide. Like Division 3, these schools are smaller.
  • Junior College: Junior colleges offer a 2-year associate degree, and most can offer scholarships. For many athletes, junior college is an opportunity to improve and grow, while discovering different subjects they’d like to major in.

25 Questions to ask when researching a college

  1. What do I want to major in? Does the college offer my major?
  2. Have other athletes graduated with my major?
  3. How academically selective would I like the college to be?
  4. Do my grades and test scores fit within the requirements?
  5. What kind of academic support would I need?
  6. What teacher-to-student ratio works best for me?
  7. Which division reflects my key stats and athletic ability?
  8. Do I want to play for a consistently winning/top conference team?
  9. Would I consider walking on to an athletic program?
  10. Which coaching style and training program do I respond to best?
  11. Do I need a lot of playing time?
  12. Is the coach recruiting my position, or have they offered scholarships to anyone in my position?
  13. How much offseason training is required?
  14. Do I want to stay close to home? Or am I willing to go out of state?
  15. What is the weather like there? Do I care?
  16. Which kind of campus environment suits me best—social, commuter, or quiet campus?
  17. What school size feels right to me—less than 5,000 students, more than 15,000, or somewhere in between?
  18. What kind of housing situation do I want?
  19. How much free time would I like to have outside of sports?
  20. Do I want to study abroad, or travel?
  21. What can I afford, and how much debt would I go into?
  22. What kind of athletic scholarship would be required to make a school affordable?
  23. How much do I need in grants and other academic aid?
  24. Would I consider a private school?
  25. Am I interested in a specialized college, such a religious school or military academy?

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