Women’s gymnastics is offered at 81 NCAA colleges, with the majority of them being Division 1 programs. Student-athletes who are interested in competing at this level need to research the schools they’re interested in and evaluate the athlete roster to better understand what opportunities are available. In this section, we break down the differences among the three NCAA divisions and cover the different colleges with gymnastics, so student-athletes can build a strong prospective college list.
When it comes to recruiting, women’s gymnastics is one of the most competitive sports out there. There are only 81 gymnastics programs in the country, home to over 1,000 gymnasts. Most of them—62 schools—compete at the Division 1 level. Divisions 2 offers the fewest opportunities, with only five programs. However, that doesn’t mean student-athletes should overlook this level. Division 2 schools offer great athletic opportunities, often competing against Division 1 programs, as well as athletic scholarships.
There are 15 Division 3 women’s gymnastics colleges, and even though the landscape here is also small, the talent is strong. Division 3 gymnasts compete against Division 2—and even Division 1—programs regularly. Plus, student-athletes often find that Division 3 offers more opportunities to focus on academics, work part-time and participate in internships.
There are 62 Division 1 gymnastics colleges located throughout the country, competing in a variety of conferences, including SEC, MPSF, Pac-12, MAC, MRGC, ECAC, MIC, Big 12, EAGL and Big Ten. From these conferences, teams and individuals qualify for the national championship through preliminary competition within four regions. Simply put: the competition is tough. Division 1 athletics is considered a full-time job, where athletes undergo rigorous training schedules year-round. But the pay off, of course, is worth it for student-athletes who want to compete at the highest possible level.
With only five D2 gymnastics schools, Division 2 gymnastics is the smallest division within the NCAA. They’re located across the U.S. in Connecticut, Missouri, Washington, Texas and Pennsylvania, and range in study body population, from Seattle Pacific University at about 3,800 students to West Chester University of Pennsylvania at over 17,000 students. These schools compete within three conferences, including the Midwest Independent Conference, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference, and they also compete against Division 1 programs.
Receiving a scholarship at one of these Division 2 gymnastics programs is extremely competitive, as there are only about 100 athletes and 36 scholarships available. However, coaches can divide the aid among gymnasts and provide partial scholarships to several athletes on their team.
There are 81 NCAA women’s gymnastics programs in the country, 15 of which belong to Division 3 schools. In the last 10 years, two former D3 gymnastics teams cut their program—MIT and Wilson College—although they do still run club programs.
Because the Division 3 gymnastics landscape is so small, many student-athletes are surprised to learn that they regularly compete with Division 1 and 2 schools. Therefore, when it comes to skill level, there is some overlap among the athletes’ abilities. Beyond learning new skills, many student-athletes pick Division 3 gymnastics colleges because it offers a chance to compete in more than one event.
NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 gymnastics colleges can offer athletic scholarships. There are only five Division 1 sports that offer head count scholarships, and women’s gymnastics is one of them. Division 1 gymnastics coaches can award up to 12 head count scholarships, which are full ride scholarships. In other words, coaches at this level provide full ride scholarships to 12 athletes on their team each academic year.
Division 2, on the other hand, can offer up to six equivalency scholarships. This means that coaches are given a pool of athletic funds and they can distribute that aid to as many athletes as they want, however they want. Typically, coaches divide these scholarships into partial scholarships and allocate aid to several team members.
Even though Division 3 schools can’t technically offer athletic scholarships, they can provide financial packages made up of academic scholarships, need-based aid and grants. Student-athletes who have excellent grades and solid test scores may find that Division 3 schools offer competitive scholarship packages compared to other schools.
When it comes to colleges with gymnastics, student-athletes have slightly limited options—there are only 89 total gymnastics programs in the country, and 62 of them are Division 1 schools, making the competition even tougher. Most recruits turn to these top-rated programs as they begin their search for colleges. But the truth is that there are several factors to consider when deciding which is the best gymnastics college to attend.
Of course, athletics plays a major role, but there’s also academics, location, cost and several other aspects to consider. Remember, college recruiting is a two-way street, and to truly fit in, athletes should love the school just as much as the athletic program.
View NCSA’s list of the best gymnastics colleges for student athletes.
The College Gymnastics Association provides college gymnastics rankings for all NCAA teams, as well as individuals. Here are the top 10 college gymnastics teams based on national qualifying scores:
These rankings provide a snapshot of the most competitive gymnastics colleges, but the reality is that these college coaches recruit the top 3% of high school gymnasts in the country. While athletics is one important factor to consider when making the college decision, every family’s preferences are going to be different.
Plus, if a recruit puts all of their time and effort into being recruited at a program that isn’t a good fit for them athletically or academically, they’re missing out on real opportunities to connect with coaches at other programs. We recommend researching different schools to figure out the best fit—and a great place to start is the gymnastics skill guidelines, which give a baseline for what coaches are looking for at each division level.
There are currently 89 total gymnastics programs in the country. View the complete list of gymnastics colleges below.