The Complete Checklist for International High School Athletes

by | 12/05/2020

(4min read)

With all the information out there about the recruiting process, how do you know what to concentrate on? Especially, since being an international high school athlete makes the recruiting process a bit more complicated. To reduce any guessing, we made a checklist of the most important points to focus on during each year of secondary school.

Freshman (1st Year): Learn the basics

1.    Tell your parents: It’s important to include them in your life decisions. Parents are your biggest fans

2.    Learn the basics of the American university system: What are the main differences between NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA?

3.    Get acquainted with the International Student Guides: These are valuable resources to refer back to time to time.

a.    NCAA Guide to International Academic Standards for Athletic Eligibility

b.    NAIA Guide for the International Student-Athlete

c.     NJCAA Prospective Student Guide

Learn about Academic Eligibility:

a.    How does eligibility differ between NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA?

b.    Know the 4 main factors which affect student eligibility – Core Courses, Grade Point Average, SAT/ACT/TOEFL test scores, & Amateurism

5.    Grade Point Average:

a.    What’s the difference between core GPA vs cumulative GPA?

b.    How do you calculate each one?

c.     What two NCAA divisions calculate your core GPA for eligibility?

6.    Learn the Specific Academic Requirements for your Country: Both the NCAA and NAIA set slightly different academic requirements for each country. Find your country in the NCAA Guide to International Academic Standards for Athletic Eligibility and the NAIA International Documents Required By Country guide, and make a note of the specific academic documents needed from you.

7.    Core Courses:

a.    If you want to play at a NCAA division I or II university, make sure to plan your core courses for the next four years; ask a counselor or your parents for help

b.    Focus on completing at least 4 core course credits each year of secondary school (4×4=16 core courses total)

c.     Use the NCAA International Initial Eligibility Flyer to help you plan ahead, it’s a great resource.

8.    Videotape your games and begin editing them:

a.    If you play a team sport, this is especially important for you

b.    Since coaches can’t travel the world to every competition, the majority make their initial student evaluation based on video & statistics

9.    Research universities:

a.    Search through schools in all organizations and divisions, don’t limit your research to only “big name” colleges in the NCAA

b.    Make a list of at least 20-30 schools that interest you academically & athletically

10. Email coaches of universities that interest you:

a.    Start introducing yourself to university coaches, that you’ve researched

b.    NCAA Division III, NAIA & NJCAA coaches can all contact or reply to you at any time. NCAA Division I & II coaches can only call & email after July 15 of your sophomore year

11. Make academic & sports goals for the season: Work on your weaknesses & improve on your strengths

Sophomore (2nd Year): Start Registering

1.    Register at the NCAA eligibility center & NAIA eligibility center: The eligibility clearing process takes time, don’t wait to start.

2.    Familiarize yourself with the SAT/ACT and TOEFL tests: is a great place to find free practice tests and other test resources.

3.    Consider taking the PSAT test if your country offers it: The PSAT has a similar test format as the SAT.

4.    Core Courses:

a.    Follow your academic ‘core course’ plan closely

b.    Make certain you are working towards 16 core course credits by graduation

c.     Don’t forget, your core GPA plays a big factor in your admission and scholarship potential

5.    Understand the differences between Amateurs vs Professionals:

a.    Learn the NCAA amateurism rules and pay close attention to make sure you are adhering to them, otherwise, your eligibility is in danger.

b.    Accurately fill out the Amateurism Questionnaire on your NCAA eligibility center profile and monitor your account regularly

6.    Financial Aid: Educate yourself on the various types of scholarships & grants available to international students within the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA. As an athlete, it’s important to know which divisions offer sports scholarships and which don’t.

7.    Learn about Contact Periods and when coaches can/can’t contact you: Contact periods differ based on the type of sport and university division.

a.    Basic rule 1: NCAA Division I & II coaches can call/email you after July 15th of your sophomore (summer between Sophomore & Junior)

b.    Basic rule 2: NCAA Division III, NAIA, & NJCAA coaches can call/email you at anytime

8.    Research more universities: Keeping researching new schools that interest you academically & athletically. Make quick notes for each school, which you can refer back to later on.

9.    Email and introduce yourself to new coaches you researched: Though NCAA Division I & II coaches can call & email you only after July 15 of your sophomore year, coaches are allowed to send you questionnaires and school brochures. It’s never too early to introduce yourself to coaches.

10. Videotape your games & send highlight videos to coaches you are in contact with. Make a habit of filming your games, that way you’ll never miss moments when you shine.

11. Update coaches on your progress: Coaches often don’t have time to keep track of all new results from prospective student-athletes. Make it easier for them to find you, by updating coaches whenever you make progress in sports or academics.

12. Make new sport & academic goals every time your old goals are achieved. Short-term goals (daily, weekly) and long-term goals (monthly, semester, season, year) are great tools to use to keep you motivated and dedicated.

Junior (3rd Year): Test Yourself

1.    Have your academic transcripts officially translated and your secondary school email/mail them to the NCAA & NAIA eligibility centers

2.    Send your translated academic transcripts to interested university coaches: Starting junior year, coaches from all divisions can be in regular contact with potential international student-athletes

3.    SAT/ACT tests: Choose one test, register early and take the test at least once this year

a.    Write 9999 on the top corner of the test to have the testing agency send your results directly to the NCAA Eligibility Center

b.    Write 9876 to have the results directly sent to the NAIA Eligibility Center

4.    Core Courses: Keep following your academic plan closely. Since the completion of your sophomore year, you should have approximately 8 core course credits already completed.

5.    core GPA & cumulative GPA: Pay close attention to keep your core GPA & cumulative GPA as high as possible.

6.    Search and research universities that interest you while introducing yourself to new coaches from the NCAA and NAIA

7.    Contact Periods: If coaches aren’t replying to your emails, check to see if it’s not a Quiet period. Quiet periods are different for every sport.

8.    Film and edit your games and practice skills videos: If you play a team sport, your highlight videos will be vital to your recruiting success

9.    Update coaches on your progress by emailing them your SAT/ACT/TOEFL tests scores, competition results, & highlight videos

10. Make a Top 10 list of your favorite universities

a.    These schools should interest you both academically & athletically

b.    You should be in contact with a coach from each of these colleges

11. Official/Unofficial Visits:

a.    Take Official visits to schools whose coaches have invited you and the colleges are on your top 10 list.

b.    If you can afford it, take Unofficial visits to universities that interest you, but haven’t extended an offer for an official visit.

12. Make new goals for the season: Always aim high and challenge yourself

Senior (4th Year): Go Hard

1.    Immediately register at the NCAA eligibility center & NAIA eligibility center if you haven’t done so yet!

2.    Follow the NAIA & NCAA International Student-Athlete Academic Guides to know which specific documents from your country, need to be officially translated and sent to the NCAA and NAIA eligibility centers.

3.    Send updated translated academic transcripts to coaches of universities you are in regular contact with

4.    Core Courses: Work hard to maintain good grades & a high core GPA

5.    NCAA Sliding scale: Use the sliding scale to check what SAT/ACT score you need, in order to be initially eligible for an NCAA Division I & II university

a.    In general, the higher your core GPA score is, the lower your test scores need to be for initial eligibility

6.    SAT/ACT test: Register early & retake the test at least once. Don’t forget, tests can be retaken and results combined for a Super Score

7.    Scholarship Potential: Ask coaches you are in regular contact with, where you are on their recruiting list and what is your scholarship potential for their team

8.    Request your Final Amateurism Certification:

a.    Make sure you have completed all academic and amateurism questions on your NCAA Eligibility Center profile

b.    Request Final Amateurism from within your NCAA profile

9.    Reduce your list of favorite universities down to the top 3-5: Your personal Top 3-5 university list, should be based on your research information, communication with the coaches, visits to universities, your scholarship potential, and advice from your parents and mentors.

10. Institutional Request List (IRL): Once the NCAA eligibility center has received all your required information, your eligibility needs to be finalized.

a.    Ask a university coach to place you on their IRL

b.    The university athletics department will then request your academic and amateur status finalized by the NCAA Eligibility Center

c.     Once cleared by the NCAA, you are eligible to play at any NCAA Division I or II university

11. Important Documents: Learn about the National Letter of Intent, I-20 form, SEVIS, and the Financial Declaration Form. All these documents are needed when applying for an F1 student visa.

12. Apply to your top 3 universities if you haven’t decided on a school yet

13. Choose the best-fit university: If you’re stuck, making a list of pluses & minuses will help. Always focus on your priorities when making a final decision.

14.  Apply for a Student Visa: Once accepted by a university, you will need to take a few steps.

a.    Register online in the SEVIS system and pay the SEVIS fee (I-901)

b.    Fill out the F1 Visa form (DS-160) and pay the application fee

c.     Schedule an interview at the US embassy

d.    Don’t forget to take all the required documents, photos, and confirmation of fee payments with you to the interview

15.  Pack your bags.


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