by Catharine Aradi

With recent graduates eagerly awaiting the new school year, and soon-to-be seniors and juniors looking ahead to fall, it’s a good time to tidy up academic loose ends. 


It’s exciting being a college freshman, and attending class may be way down on your list of priorities.  But you need to keep it foremost in your mind for two reasons: first, that's why you're there; and second, no matter how phenomenal an athlete you may be, if you don't go to class and don't pass the required number of units, you won't be eligible to play each year. 

Most softball players starting college will find lots of academic guidance and support is available to you.  As athletes, you may get advance registration to assure you get all your classes; you may also be advised what classes to take and what not to take.  Study hall attendance may be required in the same way weight training and conditioning are part of your athletic regimen.  Some colleges even have special orientation programs just for freshman athletes to help these students adjust to college and stay focused.

But what if you’re at a school where no particular attention is paid to athletes?  How do you know what to take, when to study, etc.?  Here are some suggestions for things you can do to ensure you stay on the right academic track.

1. Be willing to ask for help!  Choose an advisor in your major—as opposed to just opening a catalogue and blindly pointing to the classes you'll take.  Be sure to let him or her know you plan to play a spring sport.  Your advisor can help you plan your classes so you take a heavier load in the fall and help make sure you're completing the necessary units of coursework with a 2.0 average or better.

2. Try to find out if there are particular classes that are better not to take in the fall.  For example, at some universities, many freshmen pre-med majors take chemistry in the fall.  If you're an English whiz who struggles with math and science, you may not want to take a chemistry class full of pre-med students because if the class is graded on the curve, you could find yourself fighting to get a passing grade.  (This is not a judgment on English or pre-med majors, just an observation learned from talking to students and coaches!)

3. If your college requires placement tests, try to take them early; you'll want to know if you need to take any remedial classes.  If you do, ask your advisor to help you ensure you get credit for them.  For example, at some colleges, you get credit for remedial classes taken as a freshman, but you won't get credit if you take the same classes later on.  The one thing you want to avoid is taking too many classes you don't need that won't count toward either your General Ed or major requirements.

4. If you can't see an advisor before you register, I suggest talking to your softball coach, other students on the team and anyone else who can tell you from experience what academic mistakes to avoid as a freshman.

You have to be your own baby-sitter.  If you study best alone, set up a calendar with regular time set aside each day for studying in a place where you won't be distracted.  If you need support or occasional help, see if there's an athletes' study group or a study group in your dorm.  

Finally, if you get into your first semester and find that you're in trouble or in danger of failing a class, get help immediately.  Don't wait until after finals or you may end watching games from the bleachers.  College is at least partly about growing up and learning to make your own choices, and if you understand that going into it, you can take the necessary steps to ensure you reach your goal of playing softball while getting an education.


If you've decided to attend a JC rather than going off to a four-year school, it is critical you meet with a counselor to work out a schedule that will keep you on track to transfer to a four-year school in two years.  To do this you need to know whether or not you were a qualifier as well as the type of school you're likely to transfer to--Div. I, II, III or NAIA--as this will determine whether you need to get an A.A. degree or just complete a certain number of transferable units. 

In addition, the JC will have its own requirements for eligibility if you plan to play softball there.  A community college should be viewed as college not as an extension of high school.  Your goal should be to transfer as soon as possible prepared both academically and athletically to easily adjust to the demands of a four-year college.


With the complex guidelines the NCAA establishes for eligibility, high school students may be confused about just what they have to do and when.  You've heard you have to be a qualifier, and you think you're taking the right courses, but you're not quite sure.  What do you do?  Most high school counselors know what you need to take to graduate or can set up college prep guidelines, but some are only vaguely familiar with NCAA or NAIA requirements.

I encourage players to get the current NCAA handbook for student-athletes so you can go over it with your high school counselor to ensure you're academically on track.  The NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete explains the requirements and describes the courses you need and the test scores you must achieve to be an NCAA qualifier.  (You can find this information at 

High school students need to know about the NCAA's required 16 core courses (D-I/D-II), and you should check to see if your GPA is on-line to meet the current eligibility standards.  Make sure your counselor and parents are aware of these guidelines as well.  Try to get the best grades you can now, because the stronger your GPA, the less likely you are to have to depend on a high SAT or ACT score to make you eligible.  (Note: SAT/ACT requirements were waived for 2023 grads, but as of fall 2022, they are still required for future eligibility. Watch this website for a convention report on any changes in January of 2023.)

If you're starting your senior year, schedule your next (or first) SAT or ACT right away. (You never want to take the test just once unless you score a 1600 or 33+!)  Also be sure you the NCAA Eligibility Center has all of your current information, including June transcript and test scores sent from the testing agency. 

If you're entering your junior year, be sure you schedule your first SAT or ACT for fall or winter.  That way, you have time to address any areas that need improvement and to take the test again as a senior. This also a good time to check on your NCAA core class status and GPA.

New sophomores just need to do a class and GPA check to confirm that you're taking the right NCAA core courses and that you don't have any grades that need to be made up such as a D in freshman Geometry! By doing this now, you avoid any unpleasant academic surprises when you enter your junior or senior year.

Freshman can ensure they never run into trouble by planning out a 4-year pathway with your counselor that includes the 16 required NCAA core courses. Make a commitment from Day One to get the best grades you can. This will expand your college options and possibly help you earn academic-based financial aid when you apply!

NAIA eligibility rules expanded a bit this year. If you have a 2.3 GPA or higher when you graduate you are automatically eligible to play as a freshman. If your cumulative high school GPA is between a 2.0 and 2.29, you’ll need an 18 ACT or a 970 SAT or you’ll have to graduate in the top half of your class.

As fall begins, now is the best time to take stock of where you are, identify where you need to be, and chart a course to get you there.  While you're working hard to improve your softball skills, giving up weekends to travel to tournaments and spending much of your summer getting a farmer tan, it would be a real shame to have it all go to waste over the school year because you struck out looking--or not looking--at the books!