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College Tennis, The different types of Universities.


College Tennis in the United States offers a wide variety of possibilities for tennis players who want to continue playing tennis after 18 years old at the same time as studying for a degree. It is an option that is becoming more popular over time, that is why it is important to understand the different types of universities according to their sports and academic level.

According to their athletics programs, there are 5 different types. NCAA Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, and NJCAA. As you can see there are 3 different organisms NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA. Most of the universities belong to one of the Divisions of the NCAA but also exists NAIA and NJCAA which are different organizations and have some different rules which makes them also a very interesting option.


In this category belong the biggest universities and normally better athletics programs. The big and famous universities are normally part of Division I, and these schools have big budgets to support their athletic programs. In order to be a Division I school, they need to fulfill certain requirements such as sponsoring a minimum of six sports for men and eight for women. All of the seasons must be represented by each gender. They also must play 100% of all of their minimum matches or competitions against other Division 1 schools. So as you can see it is really how big the school can be in order to belong to Division 1.

There are 263 Division 1 schools with men's tennis programs in the United States and 320 Division 1 women's tennis programs. Division 1 has 4.5 scholarships to offer for men and 8 scholarships for women. Division 1 is quite strict with its eligibility rules which means that in order to be eligible to play D1 a player needs to have a high school certificate with a minimum GPA of 2.3 or his conversion to each country. Not having signed any type of professional contract, nor having any sponsorship contract or being the image of publicity campaigns. Players can only compete for 6 months after their high school graduation date and need to enroll in university over the next year.

For instance, a player who graduates at the end of May will only be able to compete until the end of December of that same year without getting any type of penalty. If a player competes after these 6 months normally they have a year of residence, that is, they can be on the team, train with the team, and even receive a scholarship, but the coach will not be able to count on the player for the team’s official competition.

Also, a player can not have earned after expenses more than $10,000 in prize money per year. Obviously, within Division 1 tennis programs, there is a very different type of teams and levels, but as a generalization, we would say that Division 1 men's tennis players need to have a UTR 12 or above to receive scholarships and women need to have UTR 8.5 or above to receive scholarships. (In another post, we explain what is UTR and how college coaches are using it as their main tool to recruit players).


These are smaller universities than Division 1 schools, they have fewer sports and normally smaller athletic budgets. But, some Division 2 schools have very good tennis programs and some of the best tennis programs in Division 2 have better levels than Division 1 programs. They are a little more flexible on their eligibility and academic rules which makes them more attractive for certain profiles of players. GPA requirement is 2.2 and SAT scores are more flexible.

There are 160 Division 2 schools with men´s tennis programs in the United States and 212 Division 2 women´s tennis programs. Division 2 has 4.5 scholarships to offer for men and 6 scholarships for women. The level of Division 2 tennis programs tends to be lower than Division 1 even though the top 10 programs are very competitive, we would say that players need to have a UTR 10 or above for men and UTR 7 or above for women in order to receive scholarship offers.


Division 3 universities are generally more focused on academics and do not put as much emphasis on their athletic programs, they are smaller universities with good academic levels.

Their main characteristic is that they do not offer athletic scholarships but they offer academic scholarships and other financial awards. Normally small private schools with small budgets and a special focus on the quality of their studies. There are some tennis programs that maintain a good tennis level and could be competitive in any of the other divisions.

There are 341 Division 3 schools with men´s tennis programs in the United States and 360 Division 3 women´s tennis programs. As mentioned above they do not offer athletic scholarships but players can benefit from financial aid awards and academic scholarships. Since there are no athletic scholarships, there is not really a minimum level that players need to have in order to receive scholarships, the level must be enough to be part of a team, and there are players of all levels within Division 3.


NAIA does not belong to the NCAA which is the main sports college association and it has its own rules. NAIA universities are typically small universities with small athletic budgets, similar to Division 3 universities but NAIA does offer athletic scholarships, and the possibility to compete within the NAIA organization.

Since NAIA has different rules and it is not as strict as NCAA rules, some tennis teams have very good teams, because players who are older or because their academics do not allow them to go to NCAA programs choose NAIA schools and that is one of the reasons there are some very good players playing in NAIA programs.


NCJAA or National Junior College Athletics Association is another organization that compromises between two-year colleges or junior colleges. These colleges cover the first 2 years of university and in many cases allow players to compete and study for two years and after transfer to another university to complete their bachelor's.

They do offer athletic scholarships and the same way it happens with NAIA schools, thanks to less strict academic and admissions regulations many players and some very good players end up going to these schools and after two years have the option to transfer to another university. They cover many general elective courses and normally it is much easier to gain access to the colleges.

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