2023 Best Colleges for Student Athletes (2024)

Best Colleges for Athletes

NCSA Power Rankings recognize the best colleges for student athletes. What makes a school “best” for student athletes? Size, location, academics, and cost, just to name a few. NCSA analyzes schools by what matters most to athletes and families to offer a comprehensive list of the top sports colleges in the U.S.Choose your sport and division level below to view the college rankings.

Best Athletic Colleges in 2023

Best College Athletic Programs

Best Division 1 Colleges

Best Division 2 Colleges

Best Division 3 Colleges

Best NAIA Colleges

Best Baseball Colleges

Best Cheerleading Colleges

Best Field Hockey Colleges

Best Football Colleges

Best Men’s Basketball Colleges

Best Men’s Golf Colleges

Best Men’s Hockey Colleges

Best Men’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best Men’s Rowing Colleges

Best Men’s Soccer Colleges

Best Men’s Swimming Colleges

Best Men’s Tennis Colleges

Best Men’s Track And Field Colleges

Best Men’s Volleyball Colleges

Best Men’s Water Polo Colleges

Best Men’s Wrestling Colleges

Best Softball Colleges

Best Women’s Basketball Colleges

Best Women’s Golf Colleges

Best Women’s Gymnastics Colleges

Best Women’s Hockey Colleges

Best Women’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best Women’s Rowing Colleges

Best Women’s Soccer Colleges

Best Women’s Swimming Colleges

Best Women’s Tennis Colleges

Best Women’s Track and Field Colleges

Best Volleyball Colleges

Best Water Polo Colleges

Best Women’s Wrestling Colleges

NCSA Power Rankings are based on proprietary analysis using 2022-23 “NCSA Favorites” which identify the most desirable schools according to the millions of current high school student athletes on the NCSA platform, 2023 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard‘s 2021 graduation rates and 2021 institutional net cost from the average cost after aid.

How to choose a college that’s right for you

Choosing a college that’s right for you can be a difficult process. But if you take the proper approach, things will go a lot more smoothly and you’ll be more likely to be satisfied with the results. Stick to these steps when choosing a college:

  • Identify colleges that offer the right fit, academically
  • Identify colleges that offer the right fit, athletically
  • Identify colleges that offer the right fit, financially
  • Identify colleges that offer the right fit, socially

If you want to know how to find the best college, identifying colleges which offer the right fit will surely increase your chances of having a successful college career. In the following section, we cover each fit in more depth and offer some tips for what to look for.

Finding the right college (what to look for)

  1. Academic fit: Athletic scholarships don’t guarantee school acceptance; academic qualifications matter. Consider your desired major and academic commitment alongside sports. Seek advice on managing course loads from coaches and potential teammates. Former D1 coach stresses academics in recruiting.
  1. Athletic fit: Focus on the right division level for you, as less than 2% reach D1. Aim for schools where you contribute significantly, like D2, D3, NAIA, or junior colleges, all with great opportunities and scholarships. Understand division differences to find your fit. Watch a video on how coaches select recruits based on athletic fit.
  1. Financial fit: Assess affordability and potential aid at each school, considering athletic scholarships and other aid types. Investigate aid options at every school you consider. Explore tips on finding the right financial fit for your family.
  1. Social fit: Choose a comfortable school as it’s your home for four years. Evaluate campus environment, location, size, dorms, and social atmosphere during visits. Seek feedback from current students. Also, consider distance from home and climate. Maintain a checklist of personal preferences. Get advice from NCSA recruiting experts on choosing a socially fitting school.

College search tips

Student athletes typically have a couple dream schools in mind when they begin their recruiting journey. But the chances of coaches at those schools recruiting their position and offering a scholarship might be slim. That is why we tell every student athlete to keep their options open, research several programs and build a school list to maximize opportunities and find their best college fit.

Insider Tip: When you sign up to join NCSA you get access to a College Search feature where you can easily filter through schools based on your specific athletic, academic and college fit criteria. Get started with a free recruiting profile today!

Starting early in high school, student athletes should begin to build a list of potential colleges. This list should include five safety schools, ten target schools and five dream schools.

  • Target schools: These are the schools where you have the most realistic chance of getting in and will be the right fit not only athletically, but academically, financially and socially.
  • Dream schools: Maybe these schools are a stretch academically, where you will need to improve significantly to qualify athletically or maybe too expensive without significant financial aid. You should have these dream schools on your list but recognize they might be a stretch.
  • Safety schools: These are the schools you have on your list as your back-up plan. Keep your options open and consider schools that you otherwise might not have before starting your research. While these schools may not be your first choice, they’re still a good fit.

One of the most difficult aspects of finding the right college is simply knowing where to look. There are thousands of viable schools in the country across the Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, and junior college levels where student athletes can potentially find a great fit for their college experience.

That’s why NCSA provides student athletes and families with powerful college search tools that simplify this complicated process.

Over 82% of college programs have had an NCSA athlete on their roster and the impressive range of our athlete placement is partly due to our college search features. College Search allows users to easily filter through thousands of schools based on specific athletic, academic and college fit criteria.

Additionally, NCSA Match equips users with the most sophisticated college-matching algorithm in the industry, able to suggest colleges that offer athletic scholarships while also focusing colleges to match preferences, skill level, academics and recruiting evaluation results.

Users can dig even deeper into their search results with Match Analysis, which provides a visual snapshot of how they fit athletically and academically at a specific college. Get started for free!

A list of Best colleges by sport and division level

Use the links below to find the best colleges for each sport and division level:

Best college sports programs

View the top 100 college athletic programs for student athletes for all sports in all divisions or view the top 100 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA colleges below:

Best NCAA Division 1 colleges

Best NCAA Division 2 colleges

Best NCAA Division 3 colleges

Best NAIA colleges

Best baseball colleges

View the top 100 colleges for baseball overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA baseball colleges below:

Best Division 1 Baseball Colleges

Best Division 2 Baseball Colleges

Best Division 3 Baseball Colleges

Best NAIA Baseball Colleges

Best men’s basketball colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s basketball overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s basketball colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Basketball Colleges

Best Division 2 Men’s Basketball Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Basketball Colleges

Best NAIA Men’s Basketball Colleges

Best women’s basketball colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s basketball overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s basketball colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Basketball Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Basketball Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Basketball Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Basketball Colleges

Best beach volleyball colleges

View the top 50 colleges for women’s beach volleyball overall.

Best cheerleading colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s cheerleading overall.

Best field hockey colleges

View the top 100 colleges for field hockey overall or view the top D1, D2, and D3 field hockey colleges below:

Best Division 1 Field Hockey Colleges

Best Division 2 Field Hockey Colleges

Best Division 3 Field Hockey Colleges

Best football colleges

View the top 100 colleges for football overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA football colleges below:

Best Division 1 Football Colleges

Best Division 2 Football Colleges

Best Division 3 Football Colleges

Best NAIA Football Colleges

Best men’s golf colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s golf overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s golf colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Golf Colleges

Best Division 2 Men’s Golf Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Golf Colleges

Best NAIA Men’s Golf Colleges

Best women’s golf colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s golf overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s golf colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Golf Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Golf Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Golf Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Golf Colleges

Best women’s gymnastics colleges

View the top 74 colleges for women’s gymnastics overall.

Best men’s hockey colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s hockey overall or view the top 50 D1 and D3 men’s ice hockey colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Hockey Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Hockey Colleges

Best women’s hockey colleges

View the top 50 colleges for women’s hockey overall or view the top D1 and D3 women’s ice hockey colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Hockey Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Hockey Colleges

Best men’s lacrosse colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s lacrosse overall or view the top D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s lacrosse colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best Division 2 Men’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best NAIA Men’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best women’s lacrosse colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s lacrosse overall or view the top D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s lacrosse colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Lacrosse Colleges

Best men’s rowing colleges

View the top 50 colleges for men’s rowing overall.

Best women’s rowing colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s rowing overall.

Best men’s soccer colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s soccer overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s soccer colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Soccer Colleges

Best Division 2 Men’s Soccer Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Soccer Colleges

Best NAIA Men’s Soccer Colleges

Best women’s soccer colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s soccer overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s soccer colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Soccer Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Soccer Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Soccer Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Soccer Colleges

Best softball colleges

View the top 100 colleges for softball overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA softball colleges below:

Best Division 1 Softball Colleges

Best Division 2 Softball Colleges

Best Division 3 Softball Colleges

Best NAIA Softball Colleges

Best men’s swimming colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s swimming overall or view the top D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s swimming colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Swimming Colleges

Best Division 2 Men’s Swimming Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Swimming Colleges

Best NAIA Men’s Swimming Colleges

Best women’s swimming colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s swimming overall or view the top D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s swimming colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Swimming Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Swimming Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Swimming Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Swimming Colleges

Best men’s tennis colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s tennis overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s tennis colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Tennis Colleges

Best Division 2 Men’s Tennis Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Tennis Colleges

Best NAIA Men’s Tennis Colleges

Best women’s tennis colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s tennis overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s tennis colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Tennis Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Tennis Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Tennis Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Tennis Colleges

Best men’s track and field colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s track and field overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s track and field colleges below:

Best Division 1 Men’s Track and Field Colleges

Best Division 2 Men’s Track and Field Colleges

Best Division 3 Men’s Track and Field Colleges

Best NAIA Men’s Track and Field Colleges

Best women’s track and field colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s track and field overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s track and field colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Track and Field Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Track and Field Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Track and Field Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Track and Field Colleges

Best women’s volleyball colleges

View the top 100 colleges for women’s volleyball overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA women’s volleyball colleges below:

Best Division 1 Women’s Volleyball Colleges

Best Division 2 Women’s Volleyball Colleges

Best Division 3 Women’s Volleyball Colleges

Best NAIA Women’s Volleyball Colleges

Best men’s volleyball colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s volleyball overall.

Best men’s water polo colleges

View the top 45 colleges for men’s water polo overall.

Best women’s water polo colleges

View the top 50 colleges for women’s water polo overall.

Best men’s wrestling colleges

View the top 100 colleges for men’s wrestling overall or view the top 50 D1, D2, D3, and NAIA men’s wrestling colleges below.

Best Division 1 Wrestling Colleges

Best Division 2 Wrestling Colleges

Best Division 3 Wrestling Colleges

Best NAIA Wrestling Colleges

Best women’s wrestling colleges

View the top 50 colleges for women’s wrestling overall.

For more information on the NCSA Power Rankings, visit our press kit or email us.

2023 Best Colleges for Student Athletes (2024)
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