There are more than 1,500 college softball teams spanning five different division levels: NCAA Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and NJCAA. Each division level—and school—provides student-athletes with its own unique experience. We’ve broken down some of the main features of each division level to give you a better understanding of what they have to offer.
Use this information to help you create your target list of schools. We always advise that student-athletes include a mix of schools in their target list, as you never know which division level might be right for you athletically, academically and socially until you do your research. Every day, we hear from athletes who signed with a school they never would have thought of until they broadened their school search.
D1 college softball teams are known for their competitiveness and athletic rigor. If you’ve ever watched the Women’s College World Series or any D1 game, you know that the athletes play hard and practice harder. Here are a few distinguishing factors of D1 softball colleges:
On D1 college softball teams, you’ll find serious competitors who were likely the best athletes on their club and high school teams. You’ll be in the spotlight, competing and practicing year-round. If you’re ready to really commit to your sport and be a college athlete, D1 might the right division level for you.
D2 is an interesting division, as you’ll find much of the athletic talent seen at the D1 level with a little more balance between athletics, academics and a social life. Here are a few key reasons to play on a D2 college softball team:
D2 college softball teams are competitive in every sense of the word. If you’re looking for a highly athletically skilled softball program, yet a slightly more relaxed environment that still allows time for you to pursue other interests, D2 might be the right level for you.
Did you know that D3 is the NCAA’s largest division? With 418 D3 college softball teams, it has about one-third more softball programs than D1 or D2. Of all the NCAA divisions, D3 provides the most flexibility for their student-athletes.
For well-rounded student-athletes who want to make the most of the full college experience, D3 might be your best bet.
For many student-athletes, the charm of NAIA softball schools comes from its smaller class sizes and overall flexibility between athletics, academics and a social life. Here are a few key points that make NAIA softball colleges unique:
NAIA college softball teams schools offer student-athletes the opportunity to be just that: students and athletes. While you’ll be expected to train hard and play harder, you can take advantage of the other activities college has to offer. Plus, you’ll be surrounded by a close-knit community of students, professors, administrative staff and athletes.
Oftentimes, softball players opt to compete on a junior college softball team after their senior year in high school. In fact, many junior colleges are feeder programs for D1 college softball teams. Here are some of the main reasons to consider playing at a junior college:
By playing on a junior college softball team, you show coaches at other division levels that you’re dedicated to playing your sport and you’re able to maintain the tough schedule of a college athlete.
There are more than 1,100 NCAA and NAIA institutions that offer women’s college softball.
Using data on college desirability among current student-athletes, academics and affordability, NCSA has ranked the top 50 schools for women’s softball across all NCAA divisions and the NAIA. Below are the top 10 colleges for softball.
View the full list of top college softball programs on our Power Rankings page.
View the full list of softball colleges by state, conference, and division level below.