College Levels and Divisions: What’s the Difference?

You have heard of the NCAA Division I College World Series, right?  But, do you know what it means for a school to be called Division I? Did you know there are more divisions? Did you know that the NCAA is not the only association of colleges? As you start to narrow your college choices, it is important for you to understand the differences and the requirements for each type of college you might play for. IMPORTANT: The requirements may CHANGE, so be sure to check with your counselor for any changes at least once a year.

NCAA Division I

What This Means: Division I schools have to offer 14 sports. They must sponsor at least two team sports for men and two for women. They must have men’s and women’s teams participating in the fall, winter, and spring seasons. They also have to play a minimum number of games against other DI programs. This is the most challenging level of college baseball, and each school is allowed offer a total of 11.7 full baseball scholarships, but the money can be divided up among more than 12 students.

What They Require: Division I schools require that you complete 16 “core courses” within 8 semesters (4 years of English, 3 years of math, 2 years of science, and 2 years of social science; 1 more year of either English, math, or science; and additional courses each year from any of the categories, foreign language, or comparative religion or philosophy). These 16 classes have to be approved by NCAA. Don’t guess which classes are ok. Ask your counselor to make sure that the classes you have chosen are on the NCAA approved list. Ten of the courses have to be done before you start your senior year, and you won’t be able to retake them for better grades.

Grade and test score requirements have changed for Division I for those who will be enrolling in college after August 2015. NCAA has a sliding scale table on their website that can help you see what your test scores must be based on your expected GPA. See the NCAA eligibility website for specifics. The minimum 2.3 GPA (based on your core courses) to be eligible is higher than it is for students who graduated before 2015. But keep in mind that meeting these minimums may NOT qualify you to play at your top choice schools: their requirements might be higher. Check early, check often with NCAA, your counselor, and your top choice schools to make sure you are on track.

NCAA Division II

What This Means: Division II schools have to offer 10 sports, and coed schools have to have 4 sports for men and 4 for women. Division schools play most often against schools in their regions, and they offer 9 full baseball scholarships, but these can be divided up among more than 9 players.

What They Require: Division II schools are changing their core course requirements for students who will be enrolling in college in 2013 or later (right now, they require 14 courses). They will be requiring 3 years of English, 2 years of math, and 2 years of science: 3 years of additional courses from English, math, or science; 2 years of social science; and 4 years of additional courses from any of the areas, foreign language, or comparative religion/philosophy. These 16 classes must be approved by the NCAA. Don’t guess about whether your classes are approved or not, ask your counselor to make sure!

Division II requires a minimum GPA of 2.00 and a minimum SAT score (critical reading and math scores only) of 820 and an ACT score (sum of English, math, reading, and science scores) of 68. Don’t forget that these minimums may not be enough to get into your top choice school. You’ll have to check the requirements of each school that you want to apply to.

NCAA Division III

What This Means: Division III is the largest division in NCAA. The focus for all students attending Division III schools is academics. They do not provide any athletic scholarships.

What They Require: Division III schools have no standard minimum requirements, either for grades or classes. BUT, that does not mean that getting into a Division III school is easy! It means that the requirements are set individually by the schools, and some of these requirements can be tough. Check the websites of the schools that interest you to find out what you need to do to get in.

 Other College Organizations


What This Means: The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics was founded in 1937 and has nearly 300 member colleges and 60,000 athletes. NAIA schools offer 12 baseball scholarships that can be divided up among more than 12 players.

What They Require: The NAIA has its own eligibility center ( to help you find out if you have met the minimum academic requirements to play. You must graduate from high school and meet two out of three of the following requirements: a minimum of 18 on the ACT or an 860 on the SAT (reading plus math scores only) and either be a graduate in the top half of your high school class or have a minimum of 2.0 GPA in high school.


What This Means: National Junior College Athletic Association. There are three divisions in the NJCAA: Division I and II offer up to 24 scholarships and Division III junior colleges do not offer athletic scholarships. Most (but not all) junior colleges have other scholarship and financial aid options for students. Be sure to find out what kind of support is available in your area.

What They Require: Most junior colleges allow any students who have graduated from high school or passed the GED to enroll in classes.