Added Time: Our Monthly College Search Newsletter

January Update: Critical Transfer Info!


This month, we are talking about every ESPN pundit’s favorite villain, the transfer portal, and managing the transfer process. There is a tendency to talk about transfers as one thing, but there are three broad categories, and each has its idiosyncrasies. If you are in this boat or plan to be… here are some things to be aware of!

Let’s start with two concepts that apply to everybody!

The key to having maximum transfer options is academic progress and transferrable credits. If you are taking college level (generally 100 level or higher) credits at a regionally accredited college or university, every other college is bound to accept those credits. The game that gets played on the back end is how your receiving school counts those credits toward your degree. They can count them as fulfilling general education requirements, in lieu of classes they offer within your intended major, or as “electives.” Usually, you can only use so many electives to meet graduation requirements, so these can become “dead” credits – they don’t help you graduate. At a minimum, you are going to need credits equivalent to full-time enrollment each term to show progress towards your degree.

The other key is terms and seasons. Basically, if you stepped on the field in competition, you have played a season (there are lots of exceptions, but this is the general rule). In parallel, if you were enrolled full-time on the first day of class, you have attended a term (a semester or quarter) that counts towards your “5 years to play 4.” So, it is usually best practice to make the most of the season/semester you are in. Do NOT withdraw mid-semester and drop your classes if you can avoid it! One key eligibility test is your academic progress during your previous two terms, so passing 0 credits in a term is a BIG problem. It’s better to hang in and at least pass SOME credits. Plus, you already paid for them!

Now let’s talk about the different transfer scenarios:

Transferring from a 2-year (NJCAA/CCCAA/NWAC) to a 4-year school:

The big consideration in this scenario is how happy you are at your 2-year program and your status as an NCAA (or NAIA) “qualifier.” If you satisfied the NCAA’s initial eligibility requirements out of high school, the process is straight forward. You can transfer any time, you need a 2.5 (2.2 for D2) transferrable credit GPA (this is for the NCAA, admissions standards are up to each school) and have passed 6 (semester) credits of English and 3 (semester) credits each in Math and Science. If you were NOT a qualifier out of high school, you will need to earn your AA degree with at least 48 transferrable credits to compete immediately in D1. As a non-qualifier in D2, you will need to successfully complete a year with a 2.2 transferrable credit GPA for D2, and make sure you satisfied the specific course requirements (English, Math, Science) as well. For Division 3, it is up to the individual college or university. If they admit you, you are immediately eligible, and your NCAA qualifier status is irrelevant.

In the NAIA, it is strictly about how many college credits you have passed. If you pass an average of 12 per term, you are immediately eligible. The issue many JUCO transfers in the NAIA have is that AFTER that first term, continuing eligibility is based on how many credits your current school has credited towards your degree. So, if you have non-transferrable credits, you might be able to play in the fall, but become ineligible in the winter/spring without being intentional about earning enough credits. Make sure your target school evaluates your transcript and you transfer knowing how many credits you will need each term to stay eligible! This is especially critical for basketball and other sports that compete over multiple terms.

Transferring between NCAA schools. Or “Welcome to the Portal!”

Based on media coverage, you might think the transfer rules have changed for everybody in the past year or two! Nope. The rules for everyone except football and basketball have been this way for decades. The mechanics have changed. It used to be you really HAD to go to your coach to transfer (or to an administrator who would immediately go to the coach), which was no fun, but made sure the entire process was above board. It also allowed unscrupulous coaches to intimidate student-athletes, so the NCAA changed the process.

The problem is that filling out an online form late at night in your dorm room is not the best way to make a major life decision or make sure you have gamed out the consequences. The truth is the transfer portal gives student-athletes who advocate for themselves an EVEN BIGGER leg up than usual. DO NOT JUMP IN THE TRANSFER PORTAL WITHOUT TALKING TO YOUR COACH. Whatever reaction you get, being up front is going to help you in both the short and long term:  wherever you look to transfer, the coach there is likely to start by reaching out to your current coach. DON’T give them an easy thing to criticize you with.

Also, do not enter the transfer portal without a plan. Obviously, you can’t talk to coaches at other schools before entering the portal, but you CAN talk to your peers. You can also talk to your former coaches if they have relationships with different colleges or College Athletic Advisor! Ask around and get feedback on your fit in other programs. If you get encouraged to transfer, ask why! Knowing what the grass really looks like on the other side is important!

Finally, no one goes off to a four-year college planning on transferring. Make sure that the reasons you are leaving transcend short term issues (playing time, breaking up with a romantic partner, etc). At College Athletic Advisor, I start every transfer discussion with a reminder that I talk about 90% of people OUT of transferring. Wherever you go, you will be competing for playing time and dealing with the reality of life and athletics in the 21st century. Before you decide things look better someplace else, make sure you have done what you can to make it work where you are!

Grad transfers… the fun one!

Increasingly, we are seeing students graduate from their current schools and take advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule – basically, if you graduate and still have eligibility, you can go anywhere and play right away! Makes sense, right – you succeeded where you are, the future is up to you! You can use that athletic money to fund a graduate or professional degree, or play one more year and then take a graduate assistantship in your new program… There are a lot of opportunities, and coaches are generally happy to add a great fit student-athlete who has already succeeded at their level! The transfer moment is the time to leverage your achievements to get the best fit for you in your final year of competition and the following year as a graduate assistant or intern!

As always, if you are looking for the individualized or institutional consulting help that puts you ahead in our new post-pandemic world, check out our services here! You can make an initial appointment through the link on our homepage! School administrators and counselors access our free resources, appointments and programs for school collaboration here.

For more information, contact Dave Morris, College Counselor & CEO, College Athletic Advisor, or phone: (719) 248-7994

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December Update

The national signing period is open in most sports… with basketball and football early singing periods coming up fast and it seems like a good time to talk about the question a lot of families want to ask at the beginning of the recruiting process: what level can I play at in college? Then there is the reverse: the “D1 or bust” mentality.

“What’s my level?” is a great question, and having a firm, clear answer would make the rest of the process easier. The problem is, there is NEVER a firm, clear answer. At all. Every coach, every program, at every level essentially has a selection committee of one. The head coach of that program is building a community and it’s up to that person to decide whether a particular prospect fits their program’s needs at that moment. Students get offered by various programs at various levels because those programs are looking for what THAT prospective student brings to the table, and as a student or family, you will often never know why a coach passed or offered. Sometimes it is a straight talent evaluation – which depending on the sport is often incredibly superficial. Always, it is based on how the coach sees their program developing and trying to “complete the puzzle” building a community (even if they do not or cannot articulate that).

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Another problem with focusing on “level” is that students may miss really considering the type of school that is best for them academically, socially, and culturally. For many students, anonymous, large lectures are not their best settings for learning or building the relationships and connections that can help them be successful in life beyond the classroom. As I tell clients, if you don’t want to be in a big lecture class, then maybe that big state university is not the right fit for you.

Okay. But if I’m not going to the school I see on TV every day, what options are out there?

Glad you asked. There are about 2,000 colleges in the United States and Canada that sponsor intercollegiate athletics programs. Most prospective students, high school coaches and even high school counselors can only name a small fraction of them, let alone provide real insight into the depth and breadth of options. Luckily, we have you covered! Our ever-growing list of “Programs That Inspire” highlights athletic programs at NCAA Division 2, Division 3, and NAIA institutions where students are getting incredible experiences athletically, academically, and socially. Even if you don’t see your sport, these schools are great places to start expanding your search and the list is continually updated.

What makes these programs potentially great options?

It starts with leadership. In the athletic program and in terms of the overall educational experience. Students in these programs not only compete at an elite level in their sport, they also benefit from outstanding academic and social environments, developing real relationships with faculty and peers that can bend the arc of their lives in a more positive direction. These programs are not a perfect fit for everyone, but they could be the right place for YOU.

Okay, so how do I figure out which of these programs fits me?

Well, one way is to reach out to College Athletic Advisor. We help clients determine which programs are great matches for them and our 5A College Search Model outlines how we advise prospective student-athletes to demonstrate to these coaches that they will be the best fit for THE PROGRAM. If you are doing this on your own, the best place to start is to reach out to the coaches at the programs that interest you. If you want support developing the tools to support your outreach, our Ultimate Toolkit course is an online, on demand, affordable program that you can use as a guidebook. The videos and resources can help you effectively communicate with coaches and guide you in creating your own video channel, highlight videos that really impact your recruiting process and an academic/athletic resume that lets a coach easily evaluate your fit for their program.

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I would like deeper insights into all this... can we talk?

Of course!! Schedule an initial consult, email; or call (719) 248-7994 and let's discuss how we can collaborate!