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NAIA Eligibility Requirements: How to Be Academically Eligible to Compete at an NAIA Institution

The NAIA is tasked with ensuring student-athletes are academically eligible to compete in their sport at an NAIA member institution. Athletes must also provide the correct documentation to the NAIA to show that they meet these requirements. We’ve listed out the requirements and records students need to provide to the NAIA in order to be academically eligible.

NAIA eligibility requirements for U.S. freshman

Incoming U.S. freshmen need to fulfill and provide documentation for two of the following three criteria:

  • Athletes who take their standardized tests between March 1, 2016 and May 1, 2019 need to achieve a minimum of a 16 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT. After May 1, 2019, athletes must get either an 18 on the ACT or a 970 on the SAT. Athletes must have the testing centers send their scores directly to the NAIA using the code 9876.
  • Achieve a minimum overall high school grade point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale. Athletes need to send their official transcript to the NAIA, either via the High School Portal or as a hard copy in the mail.
  • Graduate in the top half of their high school class. If this information isn’t included on the athlete’s official transcript, the athlete needs to provide a class rank letter.

For more information about how to submit documentation for each of these criteria, visit our NAIA registration page.

The academic requirements for GED students are the same as incoming freshmen, except they cannot use class rank. They must meet both the GPA and test score requirements instead, and the successful completion of the GED immediately fulfills the GPA requirements. GED students should have their ACT or SAT scores sent to the eligibility center directly from the testing service using the NAIA's code: 9876. They also need to have their official GED information sent to the eligibility center."

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NAIA eligibility requirements for international freshman

Students who finished high school outside of the U.S. or its territories must meet two of the following three requirements and provide the correct documentation:

  • Achieve a minimum of 16 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT
  • Achieve a minimum overall high school grade point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Graduate in the top half of their high school class

While the requirements are the same as incoming U.S. freshmen, how the NAIA calculates them is different and the documentation requirements will vary from country to country. The NAIA has compiled the full list of records for each country in their International Documents Required by Country guide. For more information about the eligibility process for international student-athletes, review the NAIA’s Guide for International Student-Athletes.

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NAIA eligibility requirements for transfer students

Transfer students from both two-year and four-year universities who have never played on an NAIA team must register with the NAIA Eligibility Center. To be eligible, they must:

  • Have a minimum of a 2.0 GPA from all previous colleges combined. The athlete will need to have all official transcripts from each college or university they have attended sent to the NAIA.
  • Meet all conference-specific requirements for transfers. This will vary from conference to conference and the athlete should check their To Do List in their profile to determine the additional steps they should take.
  • Provide proof of graduation from high school. The athlete can have an official high school transcript sent to the NAIA via the High School Portal or they can send a hard copy in the mail.
  • Provide a list of all their competitive experiences—both collegiate and non-collegiate—since high school graduation. Athletes simply need to add this list in their online NAIA Profile.

Transfers who are still in their first year of college must also provide the NAIA with their ACT or SAT scores, which must be sent directly from the testing centers using code 9876. For more information about transfer student eligibility, visit the NAIA’s page about college transfers.

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NAIA eligibility requirements for homeschooled students

Home schooled students only need to meet the test score requirements and provide the NAIA with their home school transcript. The transcript must include a graduation date and a signature by the home school administrator. Students who take their standardized tests between March 1, 2016 and May 1, 2019 need to get a score of an 18 ACT or a 950 SAT. If they do not meet the test score requirement, they can request a home school waiver from the NAIA Home School Committee.

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Why does the NAIA require athletes to fulfill two of three criteria?

Some students aren’t great test takers, some have extremely demanding coursework and other students attend highly competitive high schools, making it difficult to rank in the top 50% of their graduating class. The NAIA created the “two of three” rule to account for student-athletes’ various circumstances and to create a fairer environment for athletes who aren’t strong in one of the three areas.

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How long does it take to be eligible for NAIA?

Once athletes have submitted all the appropriate documents, they are scanned and placed under review. It takes about three to four days for a decision to be made at this point. When an athlete’s documents have been reviewed, they will get an update in their To Do List in their profile.

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