Many seniors graduating from high school choose to attend a prep school to help with their academic and athletic college preparation. As the fall eligibility season approaches, it is important for institutions and prospective student-athletes to understand the impact prep school attendance and competition has on a student’s eligibility.
Prep schools are formally known in the NAIA as “non-collegiate postsecondary educational institutions.” Across the country, these schools vary in mission, structure and methods for educational instruction. The first key in determining a prep school’s impact on eligibility is to understand whether the prep school is a qualifying educational institution.
Qualifying a Non-collegiate Postsecondary Educational Institutions
The National Eligibility Committee (NEC) interpreted that NAIA bylaws involving prep school attendance or competition will only be applied when a student has attended a non-collegiate postsecondary educational institution that meets NAIA qualification standards. The Council of Faculty Athletics Representatives (CFAR) developed the following operational policy to establish whether a prep school is a qualifying institution or simply a prep school in name only.
A prep school will be considered in the application of freshman eligibility requirements and the competitive experience rule if:
- The institution offers academic coursework equivalent to or above high school grade 12 curriculum in three or more subjects (e.g. math, science, social science, language, art, music, etc.), excluding physical education/sports and standardized testing preparation courses;
- Students admitted to the institution must have earned a secondary school diploma; and
- Academic coursework must be administered directly on campus or through an officially designated academic partner (locally or online).
To determine if a preparatory school has met the required academic standards, the NAIA Eligibility Center will use information available via the preparatory school’s public website and official printed materials. The NAIA Eligibility Center may use accreditation as a factor in determining the legitimacy of coursework from a postsecondary institution.
Prep School Attendance and Freshman Eligibility Requirements
The GPA earned at the prep school is combined with the cumulative high school GPA in the application of freshman eligibility requirements when a student is identified with a legitimate prep school for one full academic year. If the student identifies at the prep school for less than one full academic year, the prep school GPA will not be considered and the student’s cumulative high school GPA will be used for NAIA eligibility purposes.
Once a student graduates from high school, class ranking will not change. Attendance at a prep school does not have any effect on class rank.
Prep School Participation and Seasons of Competition
Entering freshmen will not be charged a season of competition for participating in athletics at a prep school within the first twelve months following high school graduation. This participation falls under the post-secondary amateur competition year exception adopted by membership (Q & A: Post-Secondary Amateur Competition Year).
Should a student represent a preparatory school in athletics after the post-secondary amateur competition year ends, the student will not be charged a season of competition for this participation if the student is attending a qualifying preparatory school. NAIA Bylaws Article V, Section B, Item 18, Exception 1 specifically exempts preparatory school competition from the competitive experience rule.
Note that the determination of whether a post-secondary institution satisfies NAIA policy is very important here. If the institution is deemed not to satisfy these requirements or is considered to be a preparatory school in name only, the exception will not apply. Any participation after the post-secondary amateur competition year would result in a season of competition charged.