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Spring Signing Week '12: Can I Take Time Off Before College?
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There are many reasons why prospective college tennis players, in partnership with their parents, might consider taking an extra year before starting college. Poor grades early in high school might make a student inadmissible at a top choice school. Taking a post-graduate year will allow them to improve upon their grades and standardized testing - increasing their likelihood of admission. Some younger players may feel that an extra year of maturity will allow them to get more out of their college experience. Other reasons might include a late growth spurt - or a late commitment to tennis after playing multiple sports. However the vast majority of those considering a "gap" year do it simply because they feel the extra year will help them become a better player and give them more and better college options.

Prior to this year there was no rule preventing a player from taking a gap year, regardless of their reason for doing so. In April of 2010, the NCAA voted to reduce the grace period from one year to six months for Division I schools. Here is the exact wording of the Bylaw that is effective August 1, 2012:
 

14.2.3.2.2 Tennis

In tennis, a student-athlete who does not enroll in a collegiate institution as a fulltime student in a regular academic term within six months (or the first opportunity to enroll after six months have elapsed) after his or her high school graduation date or the graduation date of his or her class (as determined by the first year of high school enrollment or the international equivalent as specified in the NCAA Guide to International Academic Standards for Athletics Eligibility and based on the prescribed educational path in the student-athlete's country), whichever occurs earlier, shall be subject to the following:

(a) The student-athlete shall be charged with a season of intercollegiate eligibility for each calendar year after the six-month period has elapsed (or the next opportunity to enroll) and prior to full-time collegiate enrollment during which the student-athlete has participated in organized competition per Bylaw 14.02.9.

(b) After the six-month period, if the student-athlete has engaged in organized competition per Bylaw 14.02.9, on matriculation at the certifying institution, the student-athlete must fulfill an academic year in residence for each calendar year after the six-month period has elapsed (or the next opportunity to enroll) and prior to full-time collegiate enrollment during which the student-athlete has participated in such competition before being eligible to represent the institution in intercollegiate competition.

 

The goal of this legislation is to encourage continuity in the educational process and to level the playing field in college tennis based on age and experience. Some years back it was not uncommon in the higher levels of Division I tennis for a 24-year-old player to be competing against an 18-year-old player.

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