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Academic Requirements – Canadian Institutions Vs American

  • 29 July 2021

When it comes to the recruitment process, your academic standing could be argued to be the most important aspect of your portfolio. Making sure your academics are on schedule to meet the requirements of the institution you are looking to attend and commit to is one of the first hurdles you will cross along your journey. Different leagues have different base guidelines that student athletes must meet to be eligible to play and enroll in their institutions; so what are they exactly?

In North America, there are five major athletic governing bodies that regulate athletics, the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA in the United States, and the USPORTS and CCAA in Canada. Within each of these governing bodies there are different levels as well (i.e. NCAA Div. 1, 2, 3). It is important for you as an athlete to understand which body and level you plan on playing in and what their academic requirements are. There are distinct differences from each governing body in terms of academic requirements, let’s take a look at them.



In the governing body of USPORTS in Canada, which is responsible for all universities in Canada, the academic requirements vary from institution to institution. There are a few constants that are mandatory across all institutions that incoming athletes must have to be eligible.

  1. The incoming athlete must have a grade 12 academic average of at least 60%
  2. You must have completed a minimum of 6 U/M level courses in your grade 12 year
  3. You must have fully graduated from high school

If you meet all the requirements above, you then have to look at the specific requirements that the program you will be applying to at the given institution has. Some programs may require you to have completed certain courses in high school and have obtained a minimum grade, some programs may request specific documentation such as portfolios, each institution is different and so is each program so make sure to read the program requirements carefully!


In the Canadian College governing body known as the CCAA the academic requirements are very similar to the USPORTS governing body. You will need to meet the specific academic requirements that the respected program you apply to has, however you do not have to meet the requirements six U/M level course minimum as well as have a minimum 60% average, you simply need to be accepted and enrolled at the specific institution based on their admission guidelines.

United States

Unlike in Canada, the United States institutions take into account all your grades from your first day of high school in grade 9. On top of this, unlike Canadian institutions, you are applying to the school directly in the United States, not a specific program.


The NCAA is the largest governing body in terms of collegiate athletics in North America. The NCAA is composed of three divisions, Division 1 and Division 2 have very similar academic requirements while Division 3 have their own set of requirements. This is a tricky process to navigate so let’s go through each level individually.

Division 1

The guidelines to be eligible to be a student athlete at the division 1 level are very specific. It is important to make sure you are on track with the specific core courses from very on in your high school education.

  1. Graduate from high school.
  2. Complete a minimum of 16 core courses for Division I or II.
  3. Earn at least a 2.3 grade-point average in core courses.
  4. Earn a minimum required grade-point average in core courses.
  5. Earn a qualifying test score on either the ACT or SAT.
  6. Meet an increased sliding-scale standard (for example, an SAT score of 820 requires a 2.5 high school core course GPA)
  7. Successfully complete 10 of the 16 total required core courses before the start of their seventh semester in high school. Seven of the 10 courses must be successfully completed in English, math and science.

Division 2

Division 2 institutions only require student athletes to follow steps 1-5 listed above. There are no additional NCAA mandated requirements, there may however be school specific requirements!

Division 3

This division of the NCAA allows the specific institutions to set their own specific academic requirements. Each school will have different requirements, so it is vital that you take a look at the requirements that are unique to each school!


The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is a separate governing body from the NCAA that has two divisions and contains roughly 250 institutions! There are specific academic requirements that students must have to be eligible to play in either division.

  1. Achieve a minimum of 18 on the ACT or 970 on the SAT
  2. Achieve a minimum overall high school grade point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale
  3. Graduate in the top half of your high school class
  1. International students must provide their academic records in both



The National Junior College Athletic Association is the last of the major governing bodies in the United States. With roughly 525 institutions across the nation the NJCAA provides a unique pathway for both academics and athletics. Each institution in the NJCAA requires a high school diploma as well as the meeting of specific guidelines put forth by their institution.

As you can see there are a lot of specifics that go into the academic side of recruiting. The most important takeaway from this post is to ask when you are not sure. There are lots of resources out there (including us here at NLU Sports!) that can help you navigate this part of your recruitment process and make sure you are on the right path to success whether it be here in Canada or in the US.


Written By: Ethan Andrew