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 17 : 1 9 : 1 12 : 1 13 : 1
Playing in NCAA Division I 107 : 1 47 : 1 39 : 1 87 : 1
Going Pro 1,860 : 1 764 : 1 603 : 1 835 : 1

Odds of a US High School Athlete Playing in College:

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 2016-17 school year to the number of college student athletes. Overall a little over 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 14) went on to play a varsity sport in college and less than 2% of high school athletes (1 in 54) 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 % playing                             % of high school athletes competing in                       Non-US
Varsity Sport          US Boys              US Men               in College     NCAA I  NCAA II  NCAA III  NAIA  JUCO   Players 
Baseball 491,790 56,423 11.5% 2.1% 2.1% 2.7% 1.4% 3.2% 0.8%
Basketball 550,305 30,738 5.6% 0.9% 0.9% 1.3% 0.8% 1.7% 6.1%
Bowling 30,054 827 2.8% - 0.1% 0.0% 1.9% 0.7% -
Cross Country 266,271 17,578 6.6% 1.7% 1.3% 2.1% 0.7% 0.8% 4.0%
Football 1,086,720 91,684 8.4% 2.5% 1.7% 2.3% 0.8% 1.0% 0.4%
Golf 141,466 10,678 7.5% 1.9% 1.5% 2.0% 1.1% 1.2% 12.2%
Ice Hockey 35,210 3,687 10.5% 3.7% 0.5% 5.2% 0.8% 0.4% 21.0%
Lacrosse 111,842 14,202 12.7% 2.7% 2.1% 6.8% 0.4% 0.7% 3.0%
Soccer 450,234 34,145 7.6% 1.1% 1.3% 2.3% 1.0% 1.8% 12.1%
Swimming & Diving 138,364 10,345 7.5% 2.6% 1.0% 3.0% 0.2% 0.6% 5.9%
Tennis 158,171 6,894 4.4% 1.2% 0.7% 1.6% 0.4% 0.4% 32.3%
Track & Field  600,136 33,644 5.6% 1.8% 1.1% 1.7% 0.6% 0.5% 3.6%
Volleyball 57,209 2,409 4.2% 0.7% 0.6% 1.8% 0.7% 0.4% 4.1%
Water Polo 21,286 1,543 7.3% 2.5% 0.8% 1.4% 0.1% 2.5% 6.8%
Wrestling 244,804 10,001 4.1% 1.0% 0.7% 1.1% 0.6% 0.7% 0.2%
Totals 4,383,862 324,797 7.4%   1.8% 1.3% 2.2% 0.8% 1.3%   4.5%
% Of College Athletes competing by Division: 25% 18% 29% 11% 17%
Average Athletic Scholarship by Division: $  16,186 $   6,012 - $   6,786 $   1,438



 
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 16 : 1 12 : 1 10 : 1 16 : 1
Playing in NCAA Division I 88 : 1 62 : 1 45 : 1 88 : 1
Going Pro 3,416 : 1   1,756 : 1  

  High School College % playing                           % of high school athletes competing in                     Non-US
Varsity Sport                              US Girls             US  Women             in College  NCAA I  NCAA II  NCAA III  NAIA  JUCO Players 
Basketball 430,368 26,721 6.2% 1.1% 1.1% 1.5% 0.8% 1.7% 4.4%
Bowling 26,588 1,237 4.7% 1.1% 0.9% 0.4% 1.8% 0.5% 2.5%
Cross Country 226,039 18,951 8.4% 2.5% 1.6% 2.7% 0.8% 0.8% 3.3%
Field Hockey 60,549 5,380 8.9% 2.6% 1.1% 5.1% 0.0% - 10.2%
Golf 75,605 5,665 7.5% 2.5% 1.7% 1.7% 1.2% 0.6% 15.8%
Ice Hockey 9,599 1,736 18.1% 6.6% 0.7% 10.2% 0.4% 0.1% 26.9%
Lacrosse 93,473 11,780 12.6% 3.5% 2.4% 6.0% 0.5% 0.3% 0.9%
Soccer 388,339 36,251 9.3% 2.2% 1.7% 2.6% 1.1% 1.6% 4.9%
Softball 374,528 31,123 8.3% 1.6% 1.6% 2.0% 1.0% 2.1% 0.9%
Swimming & Diving 170,797 12,961 7.6% 3.1% 1.0% 2.9% 0.2% 0.5% 5.8%
Tennis 187,519 7,504 4.0% 1.1% 0.7% 1.4% 0.3% 0.4% 30.4%
Track & Field  494,477 33,142 6.7% 2.5% 1.3% 1.8% 0.7% 0.4% 3.4%
Volleyball 444,779 25,704 5.8% 1.1% 1.1% 1.5% 0.8% 1.3% 4.5%
Water Polo 20,826 1,644 7.9% 3.1% 0.8% 1.2% 0.0% 2.7% 6.9%
Wrestling 14,587 416 2.9% - 0.5% 0.1% 2.0% 0.2% -
Totals 3,018,073 220,217 7.3% 1.9% 1.3% 2.1% 0.8% 1.1% 5.6%
% Of College Athletes competing by Division: 27% 18% 29% 11% 16%
Average Athletic Scholarship by Division: $   16,931 $   7,363 - $   7,163 $   2,018

 

High school data is from the 2016-17 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,  and do not reflect club, travel and/or intramural sports teams.

We did not compute odds for the following 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.

  High School College   High School College
Varsity Sport                              Girls             Women                  Boys              Men          2017 
Archery 5,179 62 4,588 79
Badminton 4,527 - 12,657 140
Beach Volleyball 670 - 1,769 1,100
Equestrian 228 68 1,465 2,396
Fencing 2,156 659 1,944 701
Gymnastics 1,894 317 17,915 1,493
Rifle 1,934 204 1,261 191
Rowing 2,745 3,001 2,434 6,043
Rugby 2,168 602 493 463
Skiing 1,769 478 670 464
Squash 67 471 40 428

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 very few travel teams, these percentages are a very good indication of a high school athlete's chances of playing at the college level.

However for  sports with numerous travel teams (soccer, lacrosse, etc.) the numbers become more of a challenge, while some participate on both travel and high school teams, others do not and these factors may result in computed odds for many sports that are artificially high.  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.

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%
Beach 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                  -                        -
 

 

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