Athletic associations govern college sports and set rules regarding scholarships and athletic recruitment and are a must to go through during the process of obtaining your soccer scholarship. There are a number of associations that colleges or universities can join, most notably:
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) – There are over 900 member universities and 250+ provisional members classified within three NCAA divisions (Division I being the most competitive). Athletic standards are high and the level of competition is intense. Only students with the very highest standard of ability tend to be recruited.
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) – There are around 350, mostly smaller colleges in the NAIA, organised by districts. The level of athletic ability is still high, and can be a good route into professional soccer.
National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) – Member colleges are accredited two-year institutions. The NJCAA is also comprised of three divisions, with scholarships offered only at the Division I and II levels. Division I colleges may offer full scholarships, and Division II may offer partial scholarships (tuition or fees and books).
Students hoping to be considered for a sports scholarship must meet normal university/college admissions requirements and continue to obtain satisfactory grades at university in order to receive and retain their scholarships. The athletic associations set their own minimum academic requirements, including minimum admissions test scores, for competing students:
Five or more different academic subject passes at GCSE grades A-E or Scottish Standard grades 1-7 including maths, English, science and social studies (history, geography etc.) with an overall average of grade C or 3.
The NCAA applies a sliding scale for the minimum SAT scores that are required for acceptance to NCAA Division I colleges. This will depend on your average academic grade. The higher your average academic grade is, the lower the minimum SAT score required.
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
C or 3 grade average overall in GCSE subjects, Scottish Standards, or an alternative qualification such as GNVQ or GSVQ if the school authorities can confirm that his/her marks were in the “Top Half” of the class.
A student must have a minimum score of 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT (if you take the SAT more than once, combining scores is NOT acceptable) to compete at a NAIA institution.
National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
Talented individuals who do not qualify for either of the above may be able to gain admission to a junior college. Each college will set its own entrance requirements. Only 25% of scholarships at a junior college can be given to international students.
NJCAA colleges in general do not have a minimum passing score for the SAT although individual colleges may set one.
Once you have been accepted to the University of your choice and been through all the eligibility procedures above you will receive a legal document from the University admissions department called am I-20. This is a legal document with your scholarship details and proof you will be attending the University outlined within this. Once received it is time to make an appointment with the US Embassy – London or the US Embassy – Belfast