College recruiters play a big role in determining which high school athletes get to continue playing their sport of choice at the next level. The recruitment process in the Ivy League can be especially difficult, since the eight schools in this league don’t give scholarships for achievements in sports, and instead recruit only athletes who meet a minimum standard of academic excellence. This standard is known as the Ivy League Academic Index, or AI.

Most colleges, including the schools that dominate football and other major sports, have the ability to award athletic scholarships. Often, they emphasize athletic skills rather than academic prowess when issuing these scholarships. Generally speaking, if they maintain grades that will allow them to graduate, athletically talented high school students interested in attending these schools can expect to see recruiters at their games once they reach varsity level in their junior or senior year.

However, schools such as Harvard, Yale and Columbia view themselves primarily as top-rank academic institutions and don’t award high school athletic achievements directly. Instead, they look for talented high school athletes who attain a minimally acceptable score on the Ivy League Academic Index. While the process used to calculate this acceptable minimum is too complicated to explain easily, known important factors in this process include a student’s grade-point average throughout high school and his or her scores on the standardized SAT I and SAT II tests (or, alternatively, the ACT test). To generate a sufficient AI score, a student athlete typically needs to maintain roughly a 3.5 grade-point average or better, and score at least a 1200 on both the math and critical reading portions of the SAT (or at least a 26 on the ACT).

While many people think of the AI only in terms of Ivy League football recruiting, recruiters in the league use the same basic standard when making their plans for baseball recruiting, or recruiting in college soccer and 32 additional sports. To maintain integrity and avoid any abuse of academic standards by a school or sports program, all eight members of the league calculate the AI for all high school students in the same way, and then share the results of their calculations amongst themselves. When all 35 collegiate sports are taken into account, each school recruits roughly 200 high school athletes each year.

Talented athletes who want to go to Ivy League schools, and also meet the minimum standards of the Academic Index, should start looking for recruiters from these schools to appear at roughly the same time as recruiters from other colleges. However, as reputable recruiting websites clearly explain, not all students who meet the minimum AI requirements will receive an offer from their school of choice. For reasons that include limited budgets and the physical impossibility of visiting all potential recruits, many qualified athletes fail to gain placement. In fact, when both athletes and non-athletes are considered, only about 12.5 percent of applicants to these eight elite schools are accepted. Still, as in other areas of life, opportunity typically favors those who prepare themselves and make every effort to reach their goals.