With over 1,000 four-year track and field colleges across the country, prospective student-athletes who are interested in competing at the collegiate level have many options to choose from. To narrow down their college list, recruits need to know the differences in college division levels, explore scholarship standards and check out the best women’s track and field colleges, according to the NCSA Power Rankings.
But what are the best colleges for track and field? Our women’s track and field colleges guide provides an overview of NCAA Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 colleges, as well as the NAIA and junior colleges.
There are over 300 NCAA Division 1 women’s track and field colleges across the U.S. This includes schools that offer indoor-only, outdoor-only and indoor and outdoor programs. Colleges with track teams also occasionally recruit distance runners to participate in cross country programs, so it’s not uncommon for the best track and field colleges to require elite athletes to practice, train and compete year-round.
Division 1 is typically compared to a full-time job: they require the upmost commitment of all the division levels. Division 1 track and field colleges are known for their athleticism and competitiveness, and roster athletes who are among the best in the world for their sprinting, hurdling or field events. Only 2.7 percent of high school athletes go on to compete at the Division 1 level. Coaches at this level can award athletic scholarships (a maximum of 18 per team) and typically offer partial scholarships, depending on their funding.
For a complete list of Division 1 colleges, check out NCSA’s Division 1 women’s track and field colleges list.
If you’re interested in exploring the best track and field colleges, including the best colleges for track and field scholarships, check out the NCSA Power Rankings for the best women’s Division 1 track and field colleges.
Recruits who have strong times and marks, and a desire to compete in races and events for the entirety of their college years often find that NCAA Division 2 women’s track and field colleges are a great fit. There are nearly 250 Division 2 programs across the country that offer indoor, outdoor and cross-country programs.
Don’t be mistaken—there’s nothing second best about D2 track and field colleges. In fact, top programs compare to the D1 level, and it’s not uncommon to see athletes who qualify for D1 track teams to choose D2 for larger scholarship packages, a chance to compete in multiple events starting freshman year and the opportunity to have a slightly less demanding schedule, with more time devoted to academics. About 1.5 percent of high school athletes go on to compete at the Division 2 level. Plus, these coaches can offer athletic scholarships (a maximum of 12.6 per team) and usually divide their aid into partial scholarships among their top performers.
What are the best colleges for track and field? Check out NCSA’s best women’s track and field colleges at the D2 level according to the NCSA Power Rankings. Then, explore a full list of all Division 2 women’s track and field colleges.
For prospective recruits interested in a sports-life balance, Division 3 women’s track and field colleges provide the opportunity to pursue track and field at the collegiate level while also leaving time to explore other interests, such as study abroad, internships or part-time jobs. With over 300 colleges, many student-athletes at this level appreciate the well-rounded college experience combined with an academic focus. The competition is tough with only 1.9 percent of high school athletes going on to compete at this level.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Division 3 track and field colleges is that they do not provide scholarships. While these coaches can’t provide athletic aid, they do offer competitive financial aid packages made up of academic scholarships, grants and need-based aid. Student-athletes who excel academically will benefit from Division 3 scholarships the most.
Check out a complete list of Division 3 women’s track and field colleges here. Then, explore the best Division 3 women’s track and field colleges.
The NCAA is not the only college athletics governing body. The National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) offers 173 track and field colleges across the U.S. Unlike D1 or D2, NAIA colleges with track and field tend to be comprised of smaller, private colleges. The NAIA collegiate experience is most similar to NCAA Division 3 track and field colleges, promoting a flexible sports-life balance. But top NAIA teams are often compared to athletes at the D2 level. Even more, NAIA coaches can award athletic scholarships (a maximum of 12 per team).
Prospective recruits searching for the best colleges for track and field scholarships should keep their options open and check out the best women’s track and field colleges at the NAIA level. Then, explore a full list of NAIA women’s track and field colleges.
Student-athletes looking to grow athletically and academically, while competing in a post high school setting, often find JUCO to be a worthwhile steppingstone. There are three division levels within the NJCAA, and among those, Division 1 and Division 2 track and field programs can offer athletic scholarships (there are 73 D1 and D2 JUCO college teams total). But even without aid, junior colleges tend to be the most cost-effective option for recruits who want to save money on core courses before transferring and finishing their degree at a four-year track and field college.
For more information on junior colleges with track and field programs, check out NCSA’s complete list of junior colleges with track and field teams.
The NCSA Power Rankings take into account which women’s track and field colleges are the most searched and favorited by track and field athletes, colleges that regularly appear on U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, and IPEDS graduation rate and cost after admissions data. Here are the top ten best women’s track and field colleges according to the NCSA Power Rankings:
View a complete list of the best women’s track and field colleges.
For women’s track and field athletes interested in college track and field rankings according to times, scores and individual and team performance, the Track & Field Results Reporting System (TFRRS) and the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) offer college track and field rankings for both indoor and outdoor programs at each division level: