The time has arrived, and you need to start deciding which college you would like to attend based on your academic and athletic needs. When evaluating a college, many factors come into play one of which is the big question that troubles athletes all over the globe…. What athletic association or even what division do I play in? Below are a few factors that you should be considering when deciding what university is best for you before you look at the conference or division.

  1. Is the environment and location right for you?
  2. Have you been able to build a good understanding with the coach?
  3. Is your field of study available at your preferred university or college?
  4. Will you be getting enough game time throughout the season, or duration of your program?

Once those have all been answered and you have a particularly good idea then look at the following for the association and division question:

There are plenty facts and stats about the different associations and their divisions, but they only tell part of the story, or may give the wrong impression of what each one is actually about. When looking at the different ranking orders, we will automatically presume that anything below The NCAA Division I program is somehow settling for second best within the college world. While it’s true that Division I programs offer a higher level of competition most of the time and is home to some of the largest and most prestigious institutions across the United States of America, your search should not end there. Out of the NCAA Division 1 programs you can find your perfect home, where you will not only enjoy your sport but also thrive and succeed to your greatest potential.

There are incredible opportunities available for you to compete at NCAA Divisions II and III, or even The NAIA who has only one Division, with the exception of Basketball which has two and the NJCAA which consists of three Divisions. All of these has their pro’s and con’s which is where you should make your decision as to what suits you as a person and athlete.

How does a College decide on which Athletic Association to join?

A variety of criteria is looked at including finance, geographical situation of the school (Size, Area etc.) when determining which association to compete in as a college or university. Furthermore, to determine the association and division we have to ask ourselves how many sports the university has on offer whether these sports are above the required threshold and whether these sports are even offered as an association sport (Research men’s rugby, squash, Equestrian and many other). Below are a few key points to remember;

  1. Most of the times NCAA Division I teams have more sports and offer a larger/more lucrative American football or Basketball program. In accordance with their income from these two sports the Divisional ranking will most likely be decided.
  2. Universities with fewer sporting teams or without American football, and Basketball tend to be NCAA Division II or NAIA schools.
  3. Some of the strongest college golf teams are actually in the NCAA Division II or NAIA. Due to more tournaments and much more access to play personal national tournaments.
  4. The best NAIA tennis teams can have stronger players than a lower placed NCAA Division I team. * Based on UTR ratings and international rankings
  5. A soccer team which competes in the NCAA Division I, will not automatically mean it is better than all other teams in NCAA Division II and III, or NAIA. The status of a university is normally decided in the boardroom and on the income sheets rather than on the sports field for most of the “smaller American sports”.
  6. Many high school athletes who have the physical size, athleticism, and academics to compete at the Division I level prefer to go to a Division II or Division III, NAIA or even NJCAA schools for a variety of reasons. Deciding factors could include; A smaller school, staying closer to home, private or public schools and for some, they just didn’t want their college experience defined by the demanding lifestyle of a Division I student-athlete. The other factor which is important to some athletes is the opportunity to compete and show off their abilities to the right people to further their careers. We see this a lot in the baseball world with players opting for the junior college route rather than the NCAA route.

Our focus point has been on the NCAA and NAIA, but that doesn’t mean these are your only options. There is a wide misconception when it comes to Junior Colleges (NJCAA) and what these schools can offer a student-athlete. Junior Colleges have a lot to offer when it comes to scholarships and other cost-savings opportunities for some student-athletes, junior college is the best path to getting to your dream four-year college roster. For others, it’s a chance to stay close to home, earn college credit, and continue on with their athletic career.

While nearly everyone starts out thinking Division I is the ultimate goal, it really comes down to what type of college experience will be right for you as a student-athlete. The good news is that with three NCAA divisions, NAIA schools and junior colleges, there’s something for every type of student-athlete.