Chances of a High School Athlete playing College Sports Scholarship
Stats.com

What are the chances of a high school athlete making the transition to the college level?  We compared the  number of athletes participating in varsity sports at US high schools  during the 2013-14 school year to the number of college student athletes and arrived at the following percentages. Overall a little over 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 14) went on to play a varsity sport in college, and about 2% of high school athletes (1 in 50) went on to play at the NCAA Division I level:

  High School College % competing % of foreign                           % of high school athletes competing in                    
Varsity Sport                               Boys *               Men               in College         Athletes **   NCAA I  NCAA II  NCAA III  NAIA  NJCAA  Other 
Archery 2,705 39 1.4% -- - - - 0.4% 0.2% 0.9%
Badminton 4,436 - - -- - - - - - -
Baseball 482,629 54,376 11.3% Low 2.1% 2.0% 2.6% 1.4% 2.3% 0.9%
Basketball 541,054 32,020 5.9% Average 1.0% 0.9% 1.4% 0.8% 1.2% 0.7%
Bowling 28,121 736 2.6% -- - 0.1% - 1.7% 0.6% 0.1%
Cross Country 252,547 18,101 7.2% Average 1.9% 1.3% 2.3% 0.8% 0.4% 0.4%
Cycling & MTB 466 128 n/m -- n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Equestrian 177 49 n/m -- n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Fencing 2,189 651 29.7% Average 16.9% 1.3% 11.2% - - 0.2%
Field Hockey 159 - - -- - - - - - -
Football 1,122,024 88,649 7.9% Low 2.4% 1.6% 2.2% 0.7% 0.5% 0.5%
Golf 152,647 12,193 8.0% High 2.0% 1.6% 2.0% 1.1% 0.9% 0.4%
Gymnastics 1,995 371 18.6% Low 16.1% - 1.3% - - 1.2%
Ice Hockey 35,393 4,326 12.2% High 3.3% 1.7% 6.4% 0.3% 0.6% -
Lacrosse 106,720 12,810 12.0% Low 2.6% 1.9% 6.5% 0.3% 0.7% -
Rifle 2,668 199 7.5% Low 4.5% 1.3% 1.3% - 0.3% -
Rodeo 123 1,372 n/m -- n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Rowing 2,544 3,031 n/m Average n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Rugby 1,440 256 n/m -- n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Sailing 145 507 n/m Low n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Skiing - Alpine 5,593 495 8.9% High 2.9% 1.4% 3.7% 0.5% - 0.4%
Skiing - Nordic/XC 4,406 41 0.9% -- - - 0.8% - - 0.2%
Snowboarding 696 14 2.0% -- - - - - - 2.0%
Soccer 417,419 37,372 9.0% High 1.4% 1.4% 2.8% 1.3% 1.2% 0.9%
Softball 1,436 - - -- - - - - -
Squash - 471 n/m High n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Swimming & Diving 138,373 10,887 7.9% Average 2.8% 1.0% 3.1% 0.2% 0.2% 0.7%
Tennis 191,004 10,065 5.3% High 1.4% 0.9% 1.9% 0.5% 0.3% 0.3%
Track & Field  653,971 27,772 4.2% Average 1.3% 0.7% 1.3% 0.5% 0.2% 0.3%
Volleyball 52,149 2,203 4.2% Average 0.8% 0.6% 1.7% 0.6% - 0.5%
Water Polo 21,451 1,627 7.6% Average 2.7% 0.6% 1.3% 0.1% - 2.8%
Wrestling 269,514 9,613 3.6% Low 0.9% 0.7% 0.9% 0.4% 0.3% 0.3%
Totals 4,496,194 330,374 7.3% 1.8% 1.3% 2.1% 0.8% 0.8% 0.5%

 
The following are the chances of high school girls competing  at the college level by sport:

  High School College % competing % of foreign                           % of high school athletes competing in                    
Varsity Sport                               Girls *              Women             in College         Athletes **   NCAA I  NCAA II  NCAA III  NAIA  NJCAA  Other 
Archery 2,162 46 2.1% -- 0.5% - - 0.5% 0.1% 1.0%
Badminton 12,152 150 1.2% -- - - 0.2% 1.1% - -
Baseball 1,066 - - -- - - - - - -
Basketball 433,344 28,305 6.5% Average 1.3% 1.1% 1.5% 0.9% 1.1% 0.6%
Beach Volleyball - 436 n/m Average n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Bowling 25,751 1,124 4.4% Low 1.1% 0.9% 0.3% 1.5% 0.4% 0.1%
Cross Country 218,121 19,090 8.8% Average 2.6% 1.6% 2.8% 0.9% 0.4% 0.4%
Cycling & MTB 130 57 n/m -- n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Equestrian 1,306 2,295 n/m Low n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Fencing 1,774 677 38.2% Average 23.2% 2.0% 12.6% - - 0.4%
Field Hockey 61,471 5,794 9.4% High 2.9% 1.1% 5.5% - - -
Football 1,828 - - -- - - - - - -
Golf 72,172 6,399 8.9% High 3.1% 1.8% 1.9% 1.4% 0.4% 0.3%
Gymnastics 19,231 1,682 8.7% 6.2% 1.1% 1.3% - - 0.1%
Ice Hockey 9,150 2,104 23.0% High 7.6% 2.4% 12.8% - 0.2% -
Lacrosse 81,969 10,020 12.2% Low 3.4% 2.1% 6.0% 0.3% 0.3% -
Rifle 1,587 189 11.9% Average 8.7% 1.3% 1.5% - 0.4% -
Rodeo 143 850 n/m -- n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Rowing 4,242 7,638 n/m Low n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Rugby 322 156 48.4% Low 11.8% 13.7% 23.0% - - -
Sailing 122 648 n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Skiing 4,541 496 10.9% High 4.1% 1.8% 4.2% 0.6% - 0.3%
Skiing - Nordic/XC 4,863 44 0.9% -- - - 0.9% - - -
Snowboarding 290 11 3.8% -- - - - - - 3.8%
Soccer 374,564 37,027 9.9% Average 2.4% 1.8% 2.8% 1.3% 0.9% 0.8%
Softball 371,891 30,469 8.2% Low 1.6% 1.5% 2.0% 1.0% 1.6% 0.6%
Squash - 449 n/m High n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m n/m
Swimming & Diving 165,779 13,550 8.2% Average 3.3% 0.9% 3.1% 0.2% 0.1% 0.5%
Synchronized Swimming 603 74 12.3% Low 10.9% - 1.3% - - -
Tennis 215,737 10,825 5.0% High 1.4% 0.9% 1.8% 0.4% 0.3% 0.2%
Track & Field  545,011 26,059 4.8% Average 1.8% 0.8% 1.3% 0.5% 0.2% 0.2%
Volleyball 429,634 26,006 6.1% Average 1.2% 1.0% 1.5% 0.9% 0.9% 0.6%
Water Polo 18,899 1,803 9.5% Average 3.7% 1.2% 1.3% 0.1% - 3.3%
Wrestling 9,904 254 2.6% -- - 0.4% 0.1% 1.8% 0.2% 0.1%
Totals 3,089,759 234,727 7.6% 2.2% 1.2% 2.2% 0.8% 0.7% 0.5%
                     
For additional information  see our page on the chances of a high school athlete getting a college athletic scholarship.
                     
* High school data is from the 2013-14 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations. This data is based on competition at the High School Level during the 2013-14 School Year.
 
** Many foreign student athletes compete on U.S. college varsity teams and may not be reflected as US high school participants. This factor may result in computed participation percentages for many sports that are artificially high. Here is a summary of foreign student (non-resident alien) participation on NCAA I varsity teams per the NCAA 2013-14 Race & Gender Demographics Database:
    % of foreign athletes
Sport - NCAA I Member Schools        Men     Women  
Tennis 32.3% 30.4%
Ice Hockey 21.0% 26.9%
Skiing 17.9% 17.8%
Squash 14.7% 15.2%
Golf 12.2% 15.8%
Field Hockey                  - 10.2%
Soccer 12.1% 4.9%
Water Polo 6.8% 6.9%
Basketball 6.1% 4.4%
Swimming 5.9% 5.8%
Fencing 4.7% 6.5%
NCAA I Average   4.5% 5.6%
Sand Volleyball                  - 5.2%
Rowing 4.3% 2.8%
Volleyball 4.1% 4.5%
Cross Country 4.0% 3.3%
Track & Field 3.6% 3.4%
Lacrosse 3.0% 0.9%
Gymnastics 1.4% 4.3%
Rifle                  - 3.3%
Bowling                  - 2.5%
Synchronized Swimming                  - 2.4%
Equestrian                  - 1.1%
Softball                  - 0.9%
Baseball 0.8%                        -
Sailing 0.4% 2.2%
Football 0.4%                        -
Wrestling 0.2%                        -
Rugby                  -                        -
       
These percentages contain numerous caveats: the number of participants at the high school level does not include high school age athletes who don't play on a high school team, but compete on club, travel and similar teams. So for sports such as high school football that have a large number of high school participants and a relatively small number of travel teams, these percentages are a pretty good indication of a high school athlete's chances of playing at the college level.

However for  sports with numerous travel teams (soccer, basketball, etc.) the numbers become more of a challenge.  These factors may result in computed odds for many sports that are artificially high. For example, the chances of a female being able to participate on a college rowing team looks like an absolute lock in that there are more college athletes participating than at the high school level. However the competition to get on a college varsity team is much tougher than indicated above; most high schools don't sponsor rowing teams, and many teenage rowers compete on local clubs that are not reflected in the high school data. Additionally,  talented high school athletes who end up not being recruited in their primary sport (say basketball or volleyball) may instead focus on competing in another sport such as rowing. So for many if not most sports, the chances are likely more difficult than presented above.

However in certain other sports, the chances might actually be better than presented above. For example, a  high school baseball player may also be a talented multi sport athlete who receives a full scholarship for playing football and opts to forego college baseball.  The percentage of multi-sport athletes is significantly higher at the high school level than in college. Additionally, a very talented high school  baseball player may elect to forego college entirely and go directly into professional baseball. Other factors may  improve the chances as well, including the fact that a significant number of high school athletes simply do not continue on to college.

These chances are based on participating at a college sport at any level - the chances of a high school athlete competing at the NCAA Division I level are much lower than the same athlete's chances of playing at the NCAA Division III or NAIA level - see our page on the chances of playing college sports by division for more information.

Competitive cheer teams are not included in the collegiate participants above, although many advocates of these programs believe that at some point competitive cheer will attain the legal status of a varsity college sport. However,  a 2010 federal court decision gave this movement at least a temporary set back in holding that participation in collegiate competitive cheer programs cannot count towards fulfilling a school's compliance with Title IX. Some colleges do sponsor varsity level competitive cheer/dance programs, however we have not currently compiled this data.

Statistics for both High School and College athletes above report participation on school sponsored varsity,  JV and freshman teams,  and do not reflect club, travel and/or intramural sports teams.
2014

 

          
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