Chances of a High School Athlete playing College Sports Scholarship

What are the chances of a high school athlete making the transition to the college level?  We compared the total number of athletes participating in sports at US high schools nationwide  to the number participating in college and arrived at the following percentages:

High School College % competing
School Sponsored Sport Boys Men     in College *
Archery 812 22 2.7%
Badminton 4,573 - -
Baseball 474,219 53,241 11.2%
Basketball 535,569 31,473 5.9%
Bowling 28,292 595 2.1%
Cycling n/a 76 n/m
Cross Country   248,494   17,691   7.1%  
Cycling n/a 124 n/m
Equestrian 188 45 n/m
Fencing 1,925 622 32.3%
Football 1,121,744 87,256 7.8%
Golf 152,725 12,147 8.0%
Gymnastics 2,353 346 14.7%
Ice Hockey 35,732 4,181 11.7%
Lacrosse 100,641 11,748 11.7%
Rifle 2,561 237 9.3%
Rodeo 110 1,364 n/m
Rowing 2,464 2,994 n/m
Rugby n/a 310 n/m
Sailing n/a 547 n/m
Skiing 10,072 560 5.6%
Snowboarding 711 21 3.0%  
Soccer 412,351 36,741 8.9%
Sprint Football   n/a 385 n/m  
Squash n/a 463 n/m
Swimming & Diving 133,823 10,304 7.7%
Tennis 195,960 10,122 5.2%
Track & Field (excl x-country) 645,513 45,218 7.0%
Volleyball 49,467 2,004 4.1%
Water Polo 20,721 1,610 7.8%
Wrestling   272,149 8,969 3.3%  
Total Athletes Participating 4,476,156 341,383 7.6%

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

High School College % competing
School Sponsored Sport  Girls Women in College *
Archery 677 29 4.3%
Badminton 12,150 128 1.1%
Basketball 436,100 27,566 6.3%
Beach / Sand Volleyball n/a 245 n/m
Bowling 25,980 1,056 4.1%
Cross Country   212,262   18,245   8.6%  
Cycling n/a 52 n/m
Equestrian 1,430 2,124 n/m
Fencing 1,771 674 38.1%
Field Hockey 60,607 5,632 9.3%
Golf 71,086 6,135 8.6%
Gymnastics 19,119 1,561 8.2%
Ice Hockey 8,833 2,007 22.7%
Lacrosse 74,993 8,784 11.7%
Rifle 1,418 189 13.3%
Rodeo 118 840 n/m
Rowing 6,261 7,192 n/m
Rugby n/a 147 n/m
Sailing n/a 644 n/m
Sand Volleyball n/a 63 n/m
Skiing 9,314 509 5.5%
Snowboarding   310   19   6.1%  
Soccer 371,393 35,490 9.6%
Softball 381,116 29,670 7.8%
Squash n/a 397 n/m
Swimming & Diving 160,456 13,078 8.2%
Synchronized Swimming 575 65 11.3%
Tennis 218,093 10,737 4.9%
Track & Field (excl x-country) 529,200 45,529 8.6%
Volleyball 418,903 25,165 6.0%
Water Polo 18,749 1,829 9.8%
Wrestling 8,235 243 3.0%
Total Athletes Participating 3,067,100 245,981 8.0%


* Participants are from school years beginning in 2011 and ending in 2012. 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. For sports with limited high school participation (rowing, fencing, etc.) the numbers are likely not very meaningful at all.  Additionally, these numbers are from participation at the U.S. high school level only; many foreign student athletes compete on U.S. college varsity teams and may not be reflected as high school participants. 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.



              Statistical information on college athletic scholarships 
              and student athlete participation at the collegiate level.

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