Interested in Playing College Tennis? Start Here!
There are several ways to enjoy tennis while in college:
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
- National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
- National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
- California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA)
- Tennis on Campus (Club Tennis)
Learn more about the NCAA process with the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete.
How do I know if I should be playing college tennis or professional tennis?
This decision is actually not as difficult as it seems. If a player has dominated his or her age groups coming up through the juniors and has already had solid pro results then he or she may need to weigh the benefits of each option for their development.
Without significant play (and wins) in USTA Pro Circuit and tour-level events, a player is probably not ready to turn pro.
College tennis is a huge time for player development and growth – 99.9 percent of our junior players will progress to college. ADVERTISEMENT From there, a small percentage will embark upon a pro tennis career.
How many colleges have tennis programs?
There are more than 1,100 women's programs and almost 950 men's programs in five different divisions:
- NCAA Division I
250+ Men’s Programs
310+ Women’s Programs
- NCAA Division II
160+ Men’s Programs
225+ Women’s Programs
- NCAA Division III
325+ Men’s Programs
370+ Women’s Programs
110+ Men’s Programs
130+ Women’s Programs
- Junior College (NJCAA)*
80+ Men’s Programs
85+ Women’s Programs
*This does not include California (CCCAA) programs
Where can I get a list of which colleges have teams?
For a list of college tennis programs, visit the NCAA's Search for a School page. The Tennis Recruiting Network also has information pages for college that have varsity programs: www.TennisRecruiting.net.
For a fee, junior players and their families can gain access to the ITA online directory, where they can access contact information for every college coach in the country.
How many players are usually on a tennis team?
On average, most college tennis teams carry 8-12 members. This may vary by conference, Division and school.
When/how do I know if I have a shot at an athletic scholarship? When and what do I do to find out?
The first thing to find out is if the school at which you are looking offers athletic scholarships.
College coaches utilize a number of tools to figure out the level of recruits early in the process; these include USTA rankings (both section and national) (http://www.playerdevelopment.usta.com/Top500/), International Tennis Federation (ITF) (www.ITFTennis.com) rankings, Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR) (www.MyUTR.com) and The Tennis Recruiting Network’s star ratings (www.tennisrecruiting.net).
To determine what college might be right for you based on UTR levels, visit the UTR College page and click on UTR Fit.
The Tennis Recruiting Network continues to be the most popular site utilized by college coaches as a coach can look up a player’s USTA and ITF results along with other pertinent information through that site. You too can utilize these to help you figure out if you are at the correct level for a particular program.
As you start to narrow the schools you are interested in, take a look at their “starters” (i.e., top 6 singles players). Are your rankings/ratings similar to the rankings/ratings of those players? If the answer is yes, you could be a candidate for a roster spot and an athletic scholarship at a program that offers them. It is also important to keep in mind the number of graduating players – and what positions they play. If a coach is graduating his or her No. 1 and No. 2 in your recruiting year, he or she is probably looking for two recruits who can play that high right away.
Once you’ve done your homework, and you know you are probably in the correct “range” for that program, it’s best to ask the coach straight out. Most coaches will be more than willing to be honest with you. It also is not a bad idea to start placing your schools of interest into categories based on your tennis fit. (e.g., definite, probably, possible, long shot) just like you would for your academic fit.
What is the NCAA Eligibility Center?
The evaluation and determination of academic and amateurism eligibility are handled differently by the three NCAA Divisions:
- In NCAA Divisions I and II, the NCAA Eligibility Center analyzes and determines both academic and amateurism eligibility for athletic participation in their colleges and universities.
- In NCAA Division III, certification of academic and amateurism eligibility is determined by each NCAA Division III college or university, not by the Eligibility Center.
For Divisions I and II, the NCAA Eligibility Center determines a student’s eligibility for athletics participation. It analyzes and processes a student’s high school academic records, ACT or SAT score, and key information about amateurism participation to determine the student’s initial eligibility. Students who want to participate in sports during their first year of enrollment at an NCAA Division I or II college or university must register with the Eligibility Center after their junior year in high school. Register at www.eligibilitycenter.org.
What is a National Letter of Intent?
The National Letter of Intent (NLI) program is a voluntary program administered by the NCAA Eligibility Center. The NLI is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and a NLI member institution.
A prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the institution full-time for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters). The institution agrees to provide financial aid for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters).
If a student-athlete does not fulfill the NLI agreement, he/she has to serve one year in residence (full time, two semesters or three quarters) at the next NLI member institution and lose one season of competition in all sports.
It is very important that the prospective student-athlete register with the NCAA Eligibility Center if he or she wants to participate in the National Letter of Intent program, because a school cannot offer a student an NLI until the student is registered.
There are two signing periods for the National Letter of Intent, an early one in November, which lasts for one week, and another that starts in early April and ends on August 1 of each year.
If I don’t get an athletic scholarship, can I still play in college?
The simple answer is yes, absolutely!
At institutions that offer athletic scholarships, some college coaches actually recruit walk-ons while others hold tryouts in the fall. This is something you can discuss with coaches on the front end of the recruiting process if you aren’t a candidate for a scholarship.
Division III institutions do not offer athletic scholarships, so all players at those schools either pay their own way, have financial aid or academic scholarships, or utilize student loans – or a combination of the above – to pay for their education. Division III tennis is a great opportunity for players of many ability levels.
If Varsity tennis isn’t for you, Tennis On Campus provides an opportunity for the top non-varsity players on a campus to compete both sectionally and nationally through USTA sponsored events.
The USTA Tennis On Campus website has a directory of all Tennis On Campus programs nationwide.
If your school does not have one, you can find information on how to start a club team through the Tennis One Campus website as well.
What are my financial aid options? How do I apply for it?
There are three primary sources of financial aid:
- Scholarships, which can be awarded on the basis of need, ethnicity, merit (academic or athletic) or any number of other criteria
- Merit-based aid, which is generally given to students in recognition of special skills, talent (tennis) and/or academic ability
- Need-based aid, which includes grants that do not have to be repaid and do not require a service commitment and loans, which do require repayment and at times a service commitment
Athletic scholarships are awarded by member schools of the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA. As noted above DIII colleges do not offer athletic scholarships by have other financial aid options available.
Athletic scholarships are awarded in a variety of amounts ranging from “full-ride” (tuition, fees, room, board and books) to small scholarships (e.g., books only).
The total amount of financial aid a student-athlete may receive and the total amount of athletic aid a team may provide can be limited.
The USTA Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic organization of the USTA. Each year it awards scholarships to high school seniors who have excelled both academically and in tennis. Visit its website: www.USTAFoundation.com.
Several of the 17 USTA Sections provide financial support toward college expenses to deserving students from within their section. Each section that offers scholarships establishes its own criteria and timetable. See Appendix for USTA Section contact information.
Financial Aid/Scholarship resources for need-based aid and scholarships include:
You can also enter “college scholarships” into your search engine. The College Board is also a valuable resource: www.collegeboard.com. The College Board has a Scholarship Guide and also information on how to spot a scholarship scam.
- Complete the application for your chosen school and/or the Common Application (including any necessary supplements)
- Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): www.fafsa.ed.gov
- Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center: www.eligibilitycenter.org
More Useful Information: