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Core courses for counselors

NCAA schools require college-bound student-athletes to build a foundation of high school courses to prepare them for college coursework. Students who plan to compete in NCAA sports at Division I or II schools must pass a certain number of NCAA core courses.

Find your high school’s list of NCAA core courses

Don’t have a list? Learn more about the school review process

What are core courses?

For a high school class to be used in the initial-eligibility process as an NCAA-approved core course, it must meet these conditions:

  • Be an academic, four-year college preparatory course receiving high school graduation credit in one or more of these areas:
    • English
    • Math (Algebra I or higher)
    • Natural/physical science
    • Social science
    • Foreign language
    • Comparative religion or philosophy
  • Be at or above your high school’s regular academic level
  • Be taught by a qualified instructor

Not all high school classes are NCAA core courses. Some examples of courses that are not NCAA core courses include:

  • Courses in non-core areas, such as driver education, typing, art, music, physical education or welding.
  • Courses that prepare students for the world of work or life, or for a two-year college or technical school, such as personal finance, consumer education or tech prep.
  • Courses taught below grade level, at a slower pace or with less rigor or depth, such as basic, essential, fundamental or foundational courses.
  • Courses which are not academic in nature such as film appreciation, video editing or greenhouse management.

Updating your course list

You should update your school's list of core courses every year after your school determines new course offerings. If your school determines new course offerings in January and you update your NCAA core course list right away, course decisions will be made by the NCAA Eligibility Center in time for you to schedule students for the next academic year. If you wait too long to update your list, course decisions may be made after students have scheduled or taken courses. You may update your school's list of NCAA core courses through the high school portal.

Courses submitted through the high school portal will be reviewed within 24-48 hours. Your high school's contacts will be notified by email of the status of the submitted course.

Learn more about updating your core course list and how to check the status of a course

Changing course titles

You should update your list if the title of a course is substantively changing. If it is simply a matter of word order, there is no need to submit the change. For example, Honors Biology, Biology Honors, H/Biology, HBio, BioH, Bio-H are all titles used to represent the same honors course in biology.

The following course title changes should be updated:

  • Freshman Composition to English 1
  • Biology to Living Environment
  • Ancient Cultures to World History I

The following course title changes do not need to be updated:

  • Algebra 1 to Algebra I
  • H Chem to Chem/H
  • Econ to Economics

Removing course titles

You may remove from your list courses which are no longer taught without fearing they will be eliminated forever. The NCAA Eligibility Center archives old course titles for future use, leaving them visible on your school’s list. For example, if your school stopped teaching a class on Shakespeare at the end of the 2013-2014 school year, you may remove it from your list even though students who took the class may still be working through the NCAA eligibility process.

Some schools prefer to keep courses on their active list until the last students who could have taken the course graduate. Other schools prefer to archive their courses once they are no longer taught. What difference does it make? A leaner list can help students, parents and coaches find active courses more easily.

Audited courses

There may be times when a course appears on a high school’s list of NCAA courses in error. This may be due to changes in NCAA legislation or a course may have been mistakenly submitted or approved.

When it becomes necessary to remove a course from a list, the NCAA Eligibility Center staff works to ensure students who have taken such a course in the past are not negatively impacted by the removal. For example, if “Health” appeared on a high school’s list of NCAA courses and was subsequently audited, it would appear as not approved beginning the next academic year. However, students who took the course before it was audited would still be able to use the course in their NCAA eligibility certification.

Course time limitations

Student-athletes who plan to attend a Division I school have four years or eight semesters after starting grade nine to finish the required 16 core courses. Students who enroll full-time at a Division I school after Aug. 1, 2016, must complete 10 core courses, including seven in English, math or natural/physical science, before their seventh semester. Once they begin your seventh semester, they may not repeat or replace any of those 10 courses to improve their core-course GPA.

If a student graduates on time, they may complete one additional core-course unit after graduating high school. The additional core-course unit must be completed within one year after high school graduation and must be completed before the student’s first full-time college enrollment. The additional core course unit may be taken at a different school than the high school from which the student graduated as long as the class is on the new school's list of approved NCAA core courses. If the student takes the additional core course at a school other than the school from which they graduated, the NCAA Eligibility Center must receive an official transcript from the new school showing the additional core-course grade and credit. If the student takes the additional core course through a program that does not award credit, the course must be awarded credit by a credit-awarding high school.

Student-athletes who plan to attend a Division II school must finish the required 16 core courses before their first full-time college enrollment.

Learn more about Division I academic requirements

Learn more about Division II academic requirements