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What Are The Differences Between NCAA Divisions?

The key differences between NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III universities.

College Sports Divisions

There can be a lot of confusion around the different “divisions” of NCAA institutions. Parents and student-athletes from all around the world often have their own preconceived ideas or definitions in their own mind, and many times this is largely based on half-truths, myths or complete falsehoods they may have picked up from unreliable sources.

As a team of former college coaches and athletes, here’s a truthful and honest breakdown to help make sense of these different divisions and shed some light on the realities of those differences.

First of all, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the main governing body over university/college sports in the USA and is divided into three divisions: Division I (DI), Division II (DII) and Division III (DIII). They’re separated by a complex algorithm that can be too difficult for even rocket scientists and Nobel Peace Prize winners to understand at times!

The simplest way to understand and make sense of it is this:

Division I

Division I schools tend to be larger schools with more students, typically 10,000-40,000 students, and therefore have more student-athletes and the athletic department is able to offer more sports. This also means there’s typically more athletic scholarship money available.

Division II

Division II schools tend to be smaller schools with less students, and therefore have less student-athletes and the athletic department has less sports to offer. Because of fewer sports and fewer students, there’s typically less athletic scholarship money available.

Division III

Division III schools tend to be even smaller with less students, less student-athletes, and the athletic department typically has even fewer sports to offer. The big difference with Division III schools is they do not offer any athletic scholarship money.

The differences in these divisions have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of education. Just because a school is bigger does not mean it’s academically better. There are fantastic academic institutions in every geographic region of the country regardless of how the NCAA may classify them into Division I, Division II or Division III for athletic purposes.

That being said, Division I and Division II schools have different academic minimum requirements you must complete in high school to be eligible to compete as a freshman. They require you to complete “x” amount of core courses in high school that are not required for Division III schools. This is simply because the Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships.

Also, don’t think that just because a school is classified as Division I that the level of play or competition will always be better than a Division II or Division III school. In many sports there are quality Division II or Division III teams that can beat Division I teams on any given day.

Remember, when selecting the right school for you, understanding the what’s different between NCAA divisions can help guide what size of school might be the best fit for you. If you need help navigating the application process, the recruiting process, or anything else relating to playing sports at an American university connect with one of CCR’s Recruiting Specialists today.

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