Varsity Odds


Odds of a US High School Male Athlete playing College:
Boys playing High School:BaseballBasketballFootballSoccerTennis
Odds of making any College roster:8:117:111:112:125:1
Odds of making an NCAA I Roster: 43:1110:133:1108:1155:1

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 college student athletes. Overall a little over 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 13) go on to play a varsity sport in college and less than 2% of high school athletes (1 in 57) go on to play at  NCAA Division I schools. For additional information,  see our page on the Odds of going Pro.

Odds of a US Male High School Athlete Playing in College 2022-23:

Participation by Sport:
Male Athletes
High School
US Boys
US Men
US Men
% Playing
in College
% Playing
Cross Country241,92218,9064,8067.8%2.0%13:150:1
Ice Hockey45,0754,5941,11910.2%2.5%10:140:1
Swimming & Diving139,00210,5863,4687.6%2.5%13:140:1
Track & Field 580,76236,61810,8676.3%1.9%16:153:1
Water Polo20,5291,6306117.9%3.0%13:134:1

Odds of a US High School Female Athlete playing College:
Girls playing High School:SoftballBasketballVolleyballSoccerTennis
Odds of making any College roster:10:114:116:110:128:1
Odds of making an NCAA I Roster: 51:181:183:141:1182:1

Odds of a Female US High School Athlete Playing in College 2022-23:

Participation by Sport:
Female Athletes
High School
US Girls
US Women
US Women
% Playing
in College
% Playing
Cross Country200,03318,3155,4449.2%2.7%11:137:1
Field Hockey56,6715,8211,43710.3%2.5%10:139:1
Ice Hockey12,1542,61453321.5%4.4%5:123:1
Swimming & Diving168,94813,7675,3298.1%3.2%12:132:1
Track & Field 465,92334,90712,5637.5%2.7%13:137:1
Water Polo19,5121,7676759.1%3.5%11:129:1

* 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 school athletes to make a roster. International participation percentages are as compiled in the NCAA December 2022 Trends report:

International Athlete Participation – NCAA Sports:
% of International Athletes
by NCAA Sport 2022:
Ice Hockey39%47%4%n/a
Field Hockey- 29% - 9%
Water Polo21%21%n/a3%
Swimming & Diving14%14%15%12%
Track & Field 9%11%4%4%
Cross Country8%11%2%<1%
Softball-< 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, most notably 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:

Effect of grades on your Odds of Playing in College:

Having good grades may help you double your chances for playing at the College level. Take a look at these stats from the US Dept of Education for 2019 High School graduates:

% of 2019 High School Graduates enrolling at:
4 Year Colleges42%
2 Year Colleges24%

About 1/3 of the 2 year college attendees transfer to 4 year colleges within two years, so the result is that about 50% of high school graduates ultimately enroll at a 4 year college – and half do not. What does this mean for the prospective college athlete? Well if you can get into a 4 year school, your odds may be effectively doubled for making a college team. Let’s use Baseball as an example:

Baseball Odds - 2020:All High School
Baseball Players
Players attending
a 4-Year College
High School Players512,213256,106
4 Year College Players44,22444,224
% playing at 4 Year Schools8.5%17%
Odds of playing at a 4-year School12:16:1

There are many reasons high school graduates do not go on to 4-year colleges and unfortunately financial remains the biggest obstacle for many families. But academics is another significant factor, and if you’re an aspiring college athlete this is an area you have control over. Even if you are a highly recruited athlete you have to gain admission to the school first – a coach can’t get you a roster spot on the team unless you can meet the school’s academic standards.

Here are some other reasons why good grades can be a big boost to your odds of playing collegiate sports:

  • Good grades in High School is the best predictor of getting good grades in College, and college coaches want to avoid recruiting athletes who end up being ineligible to play or wash out for academic purposes.
  • Good grades in high school is a good indicator that the athlete has developed the time management skills that will be essential in college where both the academic and athletic workloads are more challenging than most high schools.
  • Good grades in high school is an indicator that the athlete works hard and applies him or herself. Don’t underestimate this factor – the perception that an athlete is “lazy” will immediately kill their chances with many if not most college coaches.
  • College coaches want their players to succeed in school and graduate, and it’s part of the effectiveness factor of many coaches’ ratings.
  • Excellent grades might qualify the athlete for an academic scholarship and free up athletic based awards for other players – coaches really love this situation.
  • Good grades are an indicator of smarts, and coaches want smart players on their teams!

The importance of getting good grades starts early in high school. Too many talented high school athletes neglect their grades during their freshmen & sophomore years and try to catch up in their junior and senior years. Unfortunately, it’s often too much ground lost early to make up. Most college coaches are confident they can develop a talented high school athlete into a good college player. But they are also keenly aware they have little control off the field, and cannot force an athlete to hit the books and study. The High School athlete who is academically self-motivated will move up the recruiting ladder.

Recruiting is a very intensive process and coaches have a limited amount of time and resources. Bottom line is coaches will only recruit those athletes they feel confident will be able to make a successful academic transition from High School to College. Enhance your recruiting profile – get the grades!