Odds of a High School Athlete playing in College

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Here are the odds of a male US high school athlete playing at the next level for 4 popular sports:
 
Boys playing high School:  Basketball  Baseball  Football  Soccer
Playing in any Division in College 18 : 1 8 : 1 11 : 1 14 : 1
Playing in NCAA Division I 116 : 1 47 : 1 36 : 1 119 : 1

Odds of a US High School Athlete Playing in College 2020:

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  to the number of US college student athletes. Overall a little over 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 13) went on to play a varsity sport in college and less than 2% of high school athletes (1 in 57) went on to play at  NCAA Division I schools. The largest percentage of both male and female college athletes competed at  NCAA Division III schools.

  High School College % of US Athletes playing Odds of  Playing Foreign %
Varsity Sport          US Boys              US Men         In College NCAA I In College in NCAA I NCAA I *
Baseball 507,883 60,696 12.0% 2.1%               8:1            47:1 2%
Basketball 547,271 31,255 5.7% 0.9%              18:1         116:1 15%
Cross Country 273,355 17,873 6.5% 1.7%              15:1            60:1 8%
Football 1,042,420 93,442 9.0% 2.8%              11:1            36:1 < 1%
Golf 162,508 10,200 6.3% 1.4%              16:1            70:1 21%
Ice Hockey 45,687 3,609 7.9% 2.4%              13:1            41:1 36%
Lacrosse 120,883 16,304 13.5% 2.8%                7:1            36:1 7%
Soccer 473,130 34,786 7.4% 0.8%              14:1         119:1 34%
Swimming & Diving 146,813 10,174 6.9% 2.2%              14:1            46:1 16%
Tennis 164,191 6,101 3.7% 0.6%              27:1         174:1 63%
Track & Field  617,583 34,769 5.6% 1.7%              18:1            60:1 9%
Volleyball 69,704 3,679 5.3% 0.6%              19:1         172:1 15%
Water Polo 22,929 1,527 6.7% 2.3%              15:1            44:1 20%
Wrestling 252,440 11,329 4.5% 1.0%              22:1            97:1 < 1%
Totals 4,446,797 335,744 7.6% 1.8%              13:1            57:1 10%



 
Here are the odds of a female US high school athlete playing at the next level for 4 popular  sports:
 
Girls  playing high School:  Basketball Softball Soccer Volleyball
Playing in any Division in College 15 : 1 11 : 1 10 : 1 17 : 1
Playing in NCAA Division I 91 : 1 59 : 1 48 : 1 91 : 1

  High School: College: % of  US HS Athletes playing Odds of  Playing Foreign %
Varsity Sport          US Girls                    US Women         In College NCAA I Any Division NCAA I NCAA I *
Basketball 409,185 26,765 6.5% 1.1%         15:1            91:1 12%
Bowling 30,111 1,816 6.0% 1.0%         17:1            96:1 6%
Cross Country 222,652 18,538 8.3% 2.5%         12:1            41:1 9%
Field Hockey 61,741 5,463 8.8% 2.0%         11:1            49:1 30%
Golf 92,666 6,019 6.5% 1.7%         15:1            61:1 31%
Ice Hockey 12,496 2,107 16.9% 4.1%           6:1            24:1 42%
Lacrosse 106,050 13,745 13.0% 3.5%           8:1            29:1 2%
Soccer 406,169 39,384 9.7% 2.1%         10:1            48:1 11%
Softball 379,925 33,219 8.7% 1.7%         11:1            59:1 < 1%
Swimming & Diving 185,978 13,272 7.1% 2.7%         14:1            37:1 14%
Tennis 195,235 7,082 3.6% 0.6%         28:1         181:1 62%
Track & Field  498,131 34,080 6.8% 2.5%         15:1            40:1 9%
Volleyball 461,956 27,708 6.0% 1.1%         17:1            91:1 9%
Water Polo 22,174 1,755 7.9% 2.9%         13:1            34:1 16%
Totals 3,084,469 230,953 7.5% 1.8%         13:1            55:1 13%

 

* The percentage of international athletes playing in a specific sport has a major impact on the odds of a US High school athlete competing at the college level. For example the odds of a US high school tennis player making an NCAA I roster are the steepest of any sport primarily due to over 60% of available  roster spots being filled by international athletes. Conversely, sports with low international participation such as football, baseball and softball have better odds for US high schools athletes to make a roster.

Here are the international participation percentages per the NCAA October 2019 Trends report:

% of International Athletes  NCAA Division I    NCAA Division II
by NCAA Sport 2019: Men  Women   Men  Women
Tennis 63% 62% 58% 38%
Ice Hockey 36% 42% 6% n/a
Soccer 34% 11% 26% 7%
Golf 21% 31% 20% 13%
Water Polo 20% 16% n/a 3%
Swimming & Diving 16% 14% 18% 11%
Basketball 15% 12% 7% 4%
Volleyball 15% 9% 12% 2%
Track & Field  9% 9% 4% 5%
Cross Country 8% 9% 4% 5%
Lacrosse 7% 2% 5% 2%
Baseball 2% < 1%
Softball < 1% 2%
Football < 1% < 1%
Wrestling < 1% < 1%
           


NCAA international participation data was only compiled for Division I and II schools. The international participation percentage is significantly lower for Division III schools, from our estimates the D3 percentage is around 1/6 of the combined D1/D2 international percentages. Consequently, US athletes generally have the best odds of making a D3 roster as 1)  NCAA III has the most teams and 2) NCAA III teams have a  higher percentage of US athletes on their rosters.

High school data is from the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Statistics for both High School and College athletes above report participation on school sponsored varsity,  JV and freshman teams. We have adjusted this number for estimated high school aged athletes who did not participate on a high school team and participated exclusively on a  club or travel program.

We did not compute odds for a number of sports
as the resulting percentages would not be meaningful due to an insufficient number of high school participants to make a valid comparison of high school to college athletes  and/or a disproportionately high percentage of club and/or travel team participants that do not appear in the high school data for that particular sport.

In certain 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, our data shows that good grades can potentially double the  chances of a high school athlete playing in College.

 

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Statistics edited by Patrick O'Rourke, CPA   Washington, DC