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What Are The Required Courses for NCAA Eligibility? An Overview

For student-athletes, especially internationals, the NCAA Eligibility requirement can be complex. With different education systems and additional requirements, it’s confusing as to what the NCAA means by ‘core courses’. In this article, I’ll take a deeper look.

Written by

Lars Blenckers

What Are NCAA Core Courses?

Core courses are specific high school classes that the NCAA requires student-athletes to complete for college preparation. These include:

  • English
  • Math
  • Natural or Physical Science
  • Social Science

Classes like driver's education, art, music, and physical education are not considered core courses.

Core courses are the academic backbone for NCAA eligibility. While the core courses are standardized for U.S. high schools, international students must ensure that their curriculum aligns with these requirements.

required courses for ncaa eligibility
The NCAA Core Courses

16 Core Course Requirement

To qualify and become eligible to play in the NCAA, you must complete the following 16 core courses:

  • Four years of English (or native language)
  • Three years of math (Algebra 1 or higher).
  • Two years of science (biology, chemistry, physics)
  • One additional year of English, native language, math, or science.
  • Two years of social science (geography, history, civics)
  • Four additional years of English, math, science, social science, world language, or non-doctrinal religion/philosophy.

Keep in mind that for international students, the NCAA does not have a list of approved core courses. Based on the guidelines above, student counselors should be able to identify the right courses for their students.

16 Core Courses Required For NCAA Eligibility
16 Core Courses Required For NCAA Eligibility

Transcripts and Academic Records for International Students

For international student-athletes, transcripts are vital for NCAA eligibility assessment. They must be in English and align with NCAA academic requirements.

If your transcripts are not in English, they must be professionally translated. The NCAA will then convert your grades to the U.S. GPA system, which is crucial for determining your eligibility.


  • What are NCAA-eligible courses?
    Core courses in English, Math, Science, Social Science, and some additional subjects.
  • How many classes do you have to pass to be NCAA eligible?
    A minimum of 16 core courses is required.
  • Do international high schools have a list of NCAA-approved core courses?
    Generally, no. You'll need to ensure your courses align with NCAA requirements.
  • How is the GPA calculated for international students?
    The NCAA will convert your grades to the U.S. GPA system.

Need Guidance Navigating NCAA Eligibility?

We understand that the path to NCAA eligibility can be a labyrinth of rules and requirements, especially for international students. That's where we can help.

Here at Plus31 Sports, we specialize in guiding student-athletes through the complexities of college sports recruiting. 

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