In recent years, there have been several initiatives within sports federations that have both created new opportunities and increased competition for the coveted sports scholarships. At NSSA, we feel it is our duty to educate our current and potential athletes, and perhaps even our competitors, to ensure that as many people as possible understand the system and their options.

NCAA Transfer Portal: Help for college transfers

Let’s start back in 2019, when the NCAA introduced the transfer portal. The transfer portal is a platform that enables athletes to switch schools. When you request your release, you become visible to all NCAA schools. Naturally, this has led to coaches in the US being exposed to significantly more college athletes, including those who already have experience in the system. In some cases, this can make it harder for classic first-year athletes as they are now competing with those who already have experience.

Nikolaj Røjel joined the transfer portal in December 2023 and transferred to UCLA

Covid-Year: An extra season in college

The next interesting move came during Covid-19 in 2020, when all athletes across the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA were given an extra year to play their sport due to worldwide lockdowns. This has led to an additional cohort of college athletes on the market until 2024. Many college coaches have chosen to focus on fifth-year students who have 4 years of college experience and offer them a master’s degree in their fifth year. This has significantly increased the number of college athletes and made it harder for freshmen. It takes something special to convince a coach that it’s better to recruit a young freshman instead of a college athlete with 4 years of experience.

Sebastian Mourier will transfer after summer 2024 to the University of South Carolina after completing his bachelor’s degree at ETSU. Sebastian makes use of his extra covid year.

Extended Timeline: Multiple gap year options

Now let’s fast forward to 2024. This year, the NCAA has introduced a new initiative that has already benefited some of the athletes we work with. Traditionally, the rule in the NCAA has been that you can have a maximum of one gap year. If you played sports in your second gap year, you would have to sit out a full year (redshirt year) in the NCAA or go to a junior college in the NJCAA or in the NAIA, where there are no rules on the amount of gap years or age. This, of course, made it close to impossible to make it to the NCAA because what coach would bother investing their limited amount of scholarships in an athlete they couldn’t use right away.

BUT! Now the NCAA wants in too. The NCAA now allows one or more additional gap years if specific requirements are met (see Figure 12.2):

Screenshot 2024-05-16 at 12.06.08

Figure 12.2

  1. If you are in your second sabbatical year, you are now allowed to play 1-4 official matches after October 1st. If you fall within this range, you are eligible for all 4 years of college, but lose the number of games you played at the start of the college season. This can be seen as a kind of quarantine.
  2. If you have played 5-10 games after October 1st in your second gap year, you can play immediately without any suspension, but will lose one of your 4 years in the end. This means you need to complete your bachelor’s degree in 3 years, which can be done with summer and winter courses. However, it’s important to mention that this obviously makes college life a bit busier than if you had 4 years to finish your bachelor’s degree.

This move in turn allows college coaches in the NCAA to look towards older and more experienced athletes, which can also increase competition. However, these cases are likely to be more rare and should not have a major impact on recruitment for 2025.

Olympic Waiver: Have you been considered for national team/youth national team

Another initiative is the NCAA’s “Olympic waiver”, which also allows for an extra gap year. You must be able to document that you have been considered for the senior/youth national team in your country. This can be done by getting a letter from e.g. DBU, Danish Athletics or Danish Swimming Union. If you can get this letter and argue your case, you can also take an extra sabbatical without penalty.


The NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA annually create new rules and initiatives to open up opportunities for young talented athletes. Of course, some measures increase the competition in getting a scholarship, but it is important to emphasize that there are still plenty of colleges in the US and there is almost always a suitable college for you. level and economy.

All these new measures can be complicated, which is why we at NSSA are always available for a no-obligation conversation to see if we can help you, your friend or others to the US, whatever your specific situation.

Source: NCAA Proposal 2019-100