What Percentage of High School Athletes Play Sports in College?

ByLogan Furey

Published on Fri Jan 08 2021

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4 min read

What Percentage of High School Athletes Play Sports in College?

This is a common question among high school students who are looking to better understand their chances of making it at the next level. There are a variety of resources available to assess the chances of advancing to the next level and, no matter how you slice it, it is difficult. Let's take a look at the overall numbers for both men and women, then we will dive into a few sports specifically, and round it out with tips to increase your chances.


What Percentage of Athletes Play in College?

The answer to this question is rather straightforward for both men and women, as just over 7% of athletes play sports in college. When considering the difference between playing Division 1, that number moves to 1.8% for both men and women. In other words, 1 out of every 13 high school athletes will play at the next level, while only 1 out of every 57 (55 for women) will play at the Division 1 level.

Let's take a look at a few different sports in particular to determine the likelihood of making it to the next level. Most sports have an equivalent for both men and women, with the one notable exception being football.


What Percentage of High School Athletes Play College Football?

Good news for the football players, as the odds of getting to the next level as a football player are slightly more favorable than the general athlete. In football, 9% of high school athletes will play at the next level, with 2.8% of them playing at the Division 1 level.

This breaks down to 1 out of every 11 players making it to the next level, with 1 out of every 36 getting to the Division 1 level.


What Percentage of High School Athletes Play College Basketball?

When we get to basketball, the odds get a bit longer for playing at the collegiate level. For men, 5.7% (17:1) of high school athletes play at the next level with only 0.9% (116:1) playing in Division 1. With women, the odds look a bit better as 6.5% (15:1) play in college with 1.1% (91:1) playing at the Division 1 level.

Why is this?

There are multiple reasons at play here, one of which being smaller rosters for basketball teams compared to those of football. Another factor impacting these numbers is the global presence of basketball. Basketball is one of the biggest sports worldwide, with the NBA being the pinnacle of competition on the globe.

As a result of this, there are more and more international athletes coming to the USA to play in the NCAA in hopes of playing professionally in the NBA or a league overseas. This same effect occurs in other global sports such as soccer and tennis.


What Sports Have the Best Chance of Playing in College?

Lacrosse is the one sport that is among the easiest for both men and women. For men, you have a 1 in 7 (13.5%) chance to play in college and a 1 in 36 (2.8%) chance to play Division 1. This holds similarly with women, as 1 in 8 (13%) will play in college and 1 in 29 (3.5%) will play Division 1.

However, the sport that offers the best chance of playing at the next level for women is ice hockey, as 1 in 6 (16.9%) of high school women's hockey players will play in college with 1 in 24 (4.1%) playing Division 1.

Lacrosse may offer the best chance for men, but baseball is not far behind as 1 in 8 (12%) high school baseball players will play in college but 1 in 47 (2.1%) will play Division 1. One big reason for these numbers for all of these sports again comes down to larger rosters, offering more opportunities for athletes to get to that next level.


How Can I Maximize My Chances?

If you are a high school athlete looking to make it to the next level, these numbers may seem bleak. There are a lot of factors that are out of your control in determining whether or not you will make it to the next level, but there are certainly things that you can do which will maximize your chances.

First things first, crush it in the classroom. Not only do certain schools maintain higher requirements for academic eligibility, this will also demonstrate to coaches that you possess time management skills as well as the work ethic necessary to succeed. If given the choice between two players of equal talent, coaches will always elect to go with the player who has proven to be as elite off the field as they are on it. Demonstrating an ability to excel in school at the high school level is predictive of scholarly success at the collegiate level as well. Plus, even if this does not lead to more offers to play at the collegiate level, it will still open much more doors for you in college.

Another tip for aspiring collegiate athletes is to avoid specialization in a certain sport. As we illustrated above, it is difficult to make it to the next level in each of the individual sports. Not only does playing multiple sports open up more opportunities at the next level, each sport will add more to your tool box as an overall athlete. Footwork, hand-eye coordination, and athleticism are prerequisites for success in just about every single sport, so honing your craft in one will make you better in the other as well. There is a reason that there are so many stories of professional athletes who had opportunities to go pro in another sport than what they chose.

Lastly, compete and showcase your abilities as often as you can. Whether this means going to compete in showcase events or posting highlights to social media and online forums, the more exposure that you can get for yourself the better. In this current world of social distancing, recruiting has largely gone digital. Taking advantage of the resources and competitions available on GMTM.com will get your name and game in front of the right people at the next level, thus increasing your chances of getting an opportunity. Be an active and engaged part of your recruitment process and make sure that you do not leave anything on the field.


Logan Furey is a contributing writer to GMTM and a long-suffering DC sports fan. He has never experienced joy as a football fan like he did during RG3's rookie year and is still chasing that feeling 8 years later.


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