There are several different types of college sports associations that you will want to know about when researching the right fit for you, NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, NWAC and CCCAA.
NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association)
The NCAA consists of 3 different divisions that help define the level of school and athletics their teams belong to, Division I schools have the most students in attendance and have the biggest budgets whereas Division III schools have lower attendance and fewer budgets for athletes.
DI (350 schools) will be the most competitive of all divisions and the athletic life is front and center playing a major role in the athletes education. 1 in 23 students that go to these colleges will be enrolled in athletic activities and the budget for scholarships and grants for athletes will be greater than the other divisions (Excluding the IVY league schools which only offer need-based scholarships).
DII (310 schools) will have a good balance of competitive sports and education. 1 in 10 students are athletes and there are good scholarships available for these athletes as well.
DIII (438 schools) are the smallest schools in this association and present the most well-rounded studies to athletic life balance. Athletes are expected to spend more time on their studies and all scholarships available are academic-based.
NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Association)
The NAIA does not have any divisions, but sports are divided by conferences. While it’s a smaller association (96 schools), it offers a good student-athlete program and most experts compare it to NCAA II and III division teams. Just because it’s a smaller association it does not mean your athletic career will not be valued, Dennis Rodman and Scotty Pippen both went to NAIA schools!
Junior Colleges (Also known as JUCO)
With a similar III division structure to the NCAA, these programs offer an intermediate step for athletes who wish to develop their skills before going into a 4 year program and finding a good spot to play. These 2 year programs offer scholarships to Division I and II for athletic purposes and Division III on academic basis only.
Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC)
With 36 schools associated in this conference, there are 7 men's and 8 women's sports available across several states.
California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA)
This association consists of 108 community colleges within California that have specific recruiting rules that are area dependent. This conference has 12 men's sports and 12 women's sports.
Suggested Next Article: Understanding which Division and School is right for you
Suggested Guidance: More information on the Associations and Divisions