The Reality Behind NCAA Divisions
Division makes a difference, but not in the way you think. There are extremely talented athletes in every single division. The things that are different about the divisions is how they prioritize your life. If you go D1, you will do nothing but your sport and likely miss the majority of your classes. D2 will still be sport focused, but you will miss less school. However, you will probably not be involved in much outside of school and your sport. In D3, school comes first and you are only allowed to miss a few days of school (for me it’s 6 days per semester). You will also be able to be involved in more extra-curricular activities. I was recruited by every single level and I chose D3 because of the flexibility to be more than just an athlete. I am a student athlete with a major and double minor. I am also involved in multiple clubs and president of one. I am in a sorority and sit as a committee chair. I do at least 15 hours of community service a semester. I am prouder and have learned more from the second half of that list than playing golf for my school. For me D3 offered a balanced life style that appealed to me and has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I often hear D1 players say that they can’t wait to be done with their sport because for four years, the sport you used to love is now your job. I can say that I will graduate college a better golfer and athlete than when I started and guess what? I still love my sport. Granted I am looking forward to being able to play golf and drink a beer like the rest of the world, but I still love the game and will continue to play after I graduate.
Want to know another secret? D2, D3, and NAIA athletes are just as successful as D1 athletes and sit the bench less. I had some friends from high school that bragged and bragged about going D1, but are on a 500 team (at best) and have not had a second of playing time. I went D3, but have traveled since freshman year, won a Conference Championship (the rings are big in D3 too), and played in the NCAA National Championships. Find an athletic program that will push you to become better, but also one where you are going to play. Doing all that work, to just sit bench is mentally and emotionally exhausting and is often the reason athletes retire after their sophomore year.
There are also the scholarship differences between the divisions. D1, D2, and NAIA can offer athletic scholarships to student athletes, while D3 cannot. This can get confusing and tricky as well. You may come across a coach that will offer a try out opportunity with no scholarship and what they are nicely saying is that you are a walk on. A problem some athletes on scholarship face is that they cannot quit or retire because if they do they lose their scholarship. On the flip side, many athletes write off D3 schools because of the lack of scholarship, but scholarships are available you just have to get them academically. Academic scholarships are also less likely to change value compared to athletic ones. If your GPA stays above the required level, you will have that money regardless of how you play.
- Don’t fall for the illusion of D1. They will show you expensive and fancy locker rooms or practice facilities, but that will not be the reality of your life. You can be just as talented and successful in any division.
- Become extremely self-aware. Yes, you may have been recruited by D1 schools (as I was), but look at your skill level with scrutiny and decide if D1 is really where you belong.
- Negotiate. Schools do not want you to know this, but the tuition price is never set in stone. Anyone can negotiate price, but sometimes athletes have more leverage, especially if the coach really likes you.
Allison Goodwin is a senior at Hanover College in IN, studying communication and minoring in art and business. She plays golf for Hanover and spent her summer as the marketing and editorial intern for Hilton Head Monthly.