D1 vs. D2 vs. D3 Schools: What’s the Difference?

Ever enquired as to the many school sports divisions? Learn why this matters to you by reading our comparison of D1 vs. D2 vs. D3 schools.


  • NCAA divisions control college athletics and advance equality.
  • Student-athletes may get full or partial scholarships based on their school’s division; however, the division should not be the only factor taken into account by non-athletes when choosing where to apply. Division 1 institutions are often seen to have the greatest sports programs.
  • Have you ever heard someone advise choosing a D1 institution over a D2 or D3 one for college? D1 institutions are notable since they are the biggest universities with the highest funding for their sports departments.


Schools are classified as D1, D2, or D3 by the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), which oversees 24 collegiate sports at the moment. According to the NCAA, colleges currently enroll between 25 and 39% of their student body as athletes. Therefore it’s critical to understand how the NCAA classifies D1, D2, and D3 institutions and how that classification may affect your college experience.


How Many NCAA Divisions Exist? Why Are There Different Divisions?


The NCAA is a nonprofit organization that oversees both men’s and women’s college sports on an administrative and legislative level. The NCAA created the Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3 divisions for institutions to unite campuses with similar ideologies.


The NCAA division of a school is determined by its size and the resources allocated to its sports department.


Larger schools participate in Divisions 1 and 2, while smaller schools play in Division 3 to guarantee fair competition. Athletic scholarships are available to Division 1 and 2 colleges but not to Division 3 institutions.


Which NCAA Division Is Considered the Best?


The biggest institutions in Division 1 have several of the greatest sports programs in the country. At least six men’s or eight women’s sports must be sponsored by Division 1 institutions, or at least seven men’s and seven women’s sports.


These institutions often have the biggest student populations due to their widespread appeal. They prefer to attract the top athletes since they provide the highest sports scholarships among the three divisions.


What Are the Differences Between D1, D2, and D3?


If you are a fan of college athletics, whether or not you are a student-athlete, you should be aware of the significant distinctions between D1, D2, and D3 colleges.


Division 1 Schools


The top collegiate athletes are often found in Division 1 schools, particularly in popular sports like football & basketball. 350 D1 colleges have around 6,000 teams competing in various sports, including football, volleyball, and golf.


Schools in Division 1 have substantial resources and opulent athletic facilities. Additionally, they provide complete athletic scholarships. Division 1 institutions make up every one of the well-known sports leagues, including the Big 10, Pac 12, Southeastern Conference, and Atlantic Coast Conference.


Division 2 Schools


D2 institutions are often smaller than D1 universities. D2 contains the fewest schools, with just approximately 300 institutions, compared to D1 and D3. However, they still provide a range of sports, and D2 schools face up against local opponents rather than international adversaries.


Most student-athletes in this tier are only awarded partial athletic scholarships, unlike Division 1 students who get full athletic scholarships. Like those in Division 1, scholarship winners must be eligible for the NCAA.


Division 3 Schools


With 440 schools, Division 3 is the biggest. D2 schools provide competitions for over 195,000 student-athletes in a range of sports.


D3 student-athletes cannot get athletic scholarships, unlike Division 1 and Division 2. But most of these student-athletes often qualify for need-based assistance and academic awards.


Should Sports Impact Your College Decision?


It’s not a good idea to select a college based on its sports program if you are not a student-athlete. It might be something to consider if you enjoy sports, but it shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in your college choice.


It would help if you gave more weight to a school’s academic standing and degree offerings than its athletic offerings.


Frequently Asked Questions About NCAA Divisions


Are D1 schools more expensive to attend than D2 or D3 schools?


For some students, a Division 1 school’s tuition may be more expensive than a Division 2 or Division 3 school. Even though student-athletes at D1 institutions frequently receive full scholarships, the overall cost of attendance may increase due to unstated fees in each student’s tuition bill.


Can a D2 school become a D1 school?


Yes, a Division 2 institution can move up to Division 1. It must fulfill the standards of Division 1 to achieve that. This entails expanding the variety of available sports and funding at least seven sports for men, seven for women, six for men and eight for women.


Additionally, the university must provide student-athletes with full scholarships.


How many NCAA D1 football and basketball teams are there?


The Football Bowl Subdivision has 131 D1 college football teams (FBS). There are ten conferences in the FBS, each with an average of six teams. Currently, there are 358 Division 1 college basketball teams. With an average of 11 clubs in each conference, the teams are divided into 32 conferences.

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