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NCAA Eligibility

When my high school English heard that I not only earned a degree in English, but also a minor in professional writing her jaw dropped.

How does a guy with a ‘C’ average in high school get into university? Better yet, how does that same player get multiple CIS and NCAA teams chasing after him (and still have the smarts to actually pass classes in the CIS and NCAA)?

Not hard actually.

ncaa hockey

Before I give you all of the secrets of how a less academically inclined guy can get into school, I have to hit you with two simple truths:

1) Most players that play CIS or NCAA are, indeed, smart people. To be perfectly honest, it is tough to play varsity hockey and balance classes, if you really don’t want to do the school part in the first place. Fortunately, moving away for junior gets you more ready for university than the regular student. You have life skills, at 21, believe it. Junior players are ahead of the maturity curve in college.

2) Hockey players are also some of the hardest working people, so they can make the scheduling conflicts work. High school is a different world from college since you’re more your own boss. It’s nice.

The REAL Academic Requirements

I used to lose sleep over my grades–poor grades meant no scholarship chances–until I learned that grades are only half of the equation.

High school marks (book smarts) are crossed with you SAT marks (born-with smarts) when measuring if you’re fit for NCAA hockey.

This means a player with a ‘C’ average can get into most NCAA hockey schools. (The ones you can’t are the ECAC division’s Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Cornell, etc.)

If you’re a guy like me who gets great marks on his SAT—in my book, The Junior Hockey Truth, I recommend you write it the first time in grade 11—you only need minimal marks in class. Good enough is good enough.

So how does a guy like me, with a ‘C’ average, get offered a scholarship? (You’ll love this…)

Canadian kids have it tougher in high school than Americans.

Seriously. Our schools pack more in. We count for more.


When your marks are taken into account they get converted to a grade point average (or “GPA”). GPA is a scale used to weigh grades of students from different schools fairly.

For hockey players in Canada, most of use going to provincially funded public schools, the NCAA Eligibility Center uses an estimate  of GPA on a provincial scale. You will need at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for a scholarship. Here is what that translates to on your report card based on where you graduate from:


Letter Grade Numeric Grade % Converted GPA
British Columbia A 86 – 100 4
B 73 – 85 3
C 50 – 72 2
Alberta A 80 – 100 4
B 65 – 79 3
C 50 – 64 2
Saskatchewan A 80 – 100 4
B 70 – 79 3
C 60 – 69 2
Manitoba A 80 – 100 4
B 70 – 79 3
C 56 – 69 2
Ontario A 80 – 100 4
B 70 – 79 3
C 60 – 69 2
Quebec A 80 – 100 4
B 70 – 79 3
C 60 – 69 2
New Brunswick A 86 – 100 4
B 73 – 85 3
C 60 – 72 2
Prince Edward Island A 80 – 100 4
B 70 – 79 3
C 60 – 69 2
Nova Scotia A 85 – 100 4
B 70 – 84 3
C 60 – 69 2
Newfoundland A 80 – 100 4
B 70 – 79 3
C 60 – 69 2

Take your GPA from your province’s chart and now scale it against these SAT scores:


SAT Score Needed

(Math + Verbal)

2.0 1010
2.25 920
2.50 820
2.75 720
3.0 620
3.25 520
3.50 420
3.75 400
4.0 400

Note: Those SAT scores, taken from the NCAA website, are for the combination of Verbal and Math scores only, not the third “written” portion likely won’t figure into your score unless you go Ivy League. The whole SAT is out of 2400, each section worth 800.

To give you an idea of scores, in 2011 the average math score was 515, verbal (or “critical reading”) was 502, and written was 494. That means a combined average score for the scale above would be 1017.

If your combined scores meet the grade you can likely get some form of a scholarship and have NCAA eligibility. If you want an Ivy League degree, you’ll want to have a 3.5 GPA and a verbal/math score of at least 1300. Harvard ain’t no mess-around school.

These requirements are for Division I NCAA elibility. Division III is slightly different, but chances are if you make the grade for div I you will for div III.

CIS Academic Requirements

cis hockey

The CIS is both stricter and more lax than what’s needed for NCAA Eligibility.

Since we don’t do SATs in Canada, you NEED a 65 per cent average in grade 12 to get into school (or a coach with a lot of pull). That’s the “strict” part.

What if you don’t have that though?

No big deal. Enter school as a “mature” student. That’s the lax part.

A mature student can be anybody from the earnest 70 year-old Grandma at the front of your computing 101 class to a 21 year-old hockey player slipping in back the door.

Universities, by definition, provide a universal education. All subjects to all people. That means adult students get a shot too, and they want that mix (not to mention there is an abundance of universities in Canada fighting for enrollments to receive grants, etc). As a guy who just finished junior turning 21, by the university’s books, you’ve been out of high school so long that your high school marks are no longer relevant.

You’ll likely have to fill out a mature student application, maybe write an essay or resume, and provide proof that you have the credits needed to graduate and enter your program. You can’t get a mathematics degree without having your math, for instance. The fact that you’ve undertaken a junior hockey career is usually exemplary enough to merit mature acceptance.

Other ways around this are to enroll in a community college while your still in junior. I recommend this strategy in my book, The Junior Hockey Truth, because it can really lighten your load when you hit CIS. Your junior team will pay for these classes too, and your CIS school will accept these grades over your high school ones. A reference letter from a community college professor never hurts either.

Like I said off the top, having good grades in high school will save you a lot of headaches, but if you’re in a tight spot you still have NCAA Eligibility and options.

Dec. 5, 2012


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About Nick Olynyknick olynyk

Nick Olynyk is a Canadian junior hockey expert and author of the Junior Hockey Truth, a book series for parents of bantam and midget hockey players approaching junior hockey.