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Can Canadians play college sports in America? NCAA Eligibility guide for international athletes

ByOVA Team Ontario

6 min read

Can Canadians play college sports in America? NCAA Eligibility guide for international athletes

Are you a high school volleyball player dreaming of playing college volleyball in the United States? You're not alone. Many international athletes have successfully gone on to play at the NCAA level, and you can too.

Let's take a look at a few examples of Canadian natives who have made the jump to NCAA volleyball.

First, there's Autumn Bailey. Bailey, a native of Burlington, Ontario, played for Marquette and Michigan State from 2013-2017. She was a three-time All-American and was named the Big East Player of the Year in 2014 and to the All-Big Ten team in 2017.

Another successful Canadian NCAA volleyball player is Alexa Gray from Calgary, Alberta. Gray played for the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars in Utah, where she had an impressive collegiate career.

She earned All-American honors three times and helped lead the Cougars to the NCAA Final Four in 2014. Alexa played with an athlete who was discovered by USA Bobsled this past year. Gray also played for the Canadian National Team and was a member of the team that won bronze at the 2016 Pan American Cup.

To follow in the footsteps of players like Bailey and Gray, it's important to understand the eligibility requirements and start planning early. If you're serious about playing college volleyball in the United States, start planning early and make sure you meet the eligibility requirements. Below are a few frequently-asked questions and a 10-step guide to ensuring your eligibility.










Is the college volleyball recruiting process similar for Canadian colleges?

The college volleyball recruiting process in Canada is generally similar to the process in the United States, but there may be some differences in terms of rules and regulations, timelines, and resources available to student-athletes.

In Canada, the governing body for university athletics is U Sports, and they have their own set of rules and regulations for recruiting and eligibility. U Sports allows coaches to contact prospective student-athletes once they have completed their junior year of high school, which is slightly earlier than the NCAA.

Additionally, the number of scholarships available for volleyball may differ between Canada and the US, as well as the competition level of different universities and colleges.

Overall, while the recruiting process for college volleyball in Canada may have some differences from the US, many of the tips and strategies for student-athletes looking to get recruited are likely to be similar.












Are Canadian athletes able to play college sports in America?

Yes, Canadian athletes are able to play college sports in America, but they must go through the same eligibility process as American student-athletes. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has specific rules and regulations regarding eligibility for international student-athletes.

According to one source, there were around 60 Canadian athletes competing in NCAA women's college volleyball in 2022. Bowling Green State University in Ohio actually had 4 athletes from Ontario on their 2022 Women's volleyball roster.












How do Canadian athletes gain NCAA eligibility?

Canadian student-athletes who want to play college sports in the US must first register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, which evaluates their academic and athletic qualifications to determine if they are eligible to play at the collegiate level in the US. The Eligibility Center will evaluate the student-athlete's academic credentials to determine if they meet the NCAA's eligibility requirements, which include minimum GPA and standardized test scores. Additionally, Canadian student-athletes must also comply with NCAA rules regarding amateurism, which includes restrictions on receiving compensation for their athletic abilities.


Do Canadian athletes need special permission to attend college in the United States?

Canadian student-athletes who are interested in playing college sports in the US may also need to obtain a student visa and fulfill any other requirements for international students attending college in the United States.


How do Canadian high school students obtain a student visa to attend college in America?

Canadian high school students who plan to attend college in the US do not need to obtain a student visa, as Canadian citizens are eligible to enter the US as non-immigrant visitors without a visa for stays of up to six months. However, Canadian students who plan to study in the US for longer than six months or who plan to work while studying may need to apply for an F-1 student visa. To obtain an F-1 visa, the student must first be accepted by a US institution that is authorized by the US government to enroll international students. After being accepted, the student will need to obtain a Form I-20 from the institution, which is a document that verifies their enrollment and provides information about their program of study, expected completion date, and estimated costs.

The student will then need to apply for an F-1 visa at a US consulate or embassy in Canada and provide documentation to demonstrate their financial resources, intent to return to Canada after completing their studies, and other required information.












10-Step Guide To NCAA Eligibility For International Athletes:



  1. Start early: It's important for International student-athletes to start planning early, ideally in their sophomore or junior year of high school. This allows them to stay on track with their academic requirements and gives them plenty of time to prepare for standardized tests.
  2. Research NCAA eligibility requirements: International student-athletes should research the NCAA eligibility requirements and make sure they are on track to meet them. This includes meeting the minimum GPA and standardized test score requirements.
  3. Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center: International student-athletes must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center and have their academic credentials evaluated to determine their eligibility to play at the collegiate level in the US.
  4. Meet with a guidance counselor: International student-athletes should meet with their high school guidance counselor to make sure they are on track with their academic requirements and to get help with the NCAA eligibility process.
  5. Take standardized tests: International student-athletes should take the SAT or ACT, which are standardized tests required for NCAA eligibility.
  6. Choose the right courses: International student-athletes should choose the right courses in high school to meet the NCAA eligibility requirements. They should work with their guidance counselor to make sure they are taking the right courses.
  7. Apply to colleges: International student-athletes should apply to colleges in the US that are authorized by the US government to enroll international students. They should also apply to colleges that have strong athletic programs and are a good fit academically.
  8. Obtain a Form I-20: After being accepted by a US institution, international student-athletes must obtain a Form I-20, which verifies their enrollment and provides information about their program of study, expected completion date, and estimated costs.
  9. Apply for an F-1 visa: International student-athletes who plan to study in the US for longer than six months or who plan to work while studying must apply for an F-1 visa at a US consulate or embassy in Canada.
  10. Fulfill NCAA amateurism requirements: Canadian student-athletes must also comply with NCAA rules regarding amateurism, which include restrictions on receiving compensation for their athletic abilities. They should work with their college athletic department to make sure they are in compliance with these rules.












Overall, Canadian student-athletes who plan to play sports at a university in the US should start planning early, research NCAA eligibility requirements, and work closely with their guidance counselor and college athletic department to ensure they meet all the necessary requirements.








OVA Team Ontario is a development program for the province's top volleyball talent, helping train national team and club athletes. OVA hosts multiple talent identification programs on GMTM that beach and indoor volleyball athletes from Ontario can participate in.
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