Best Softball Colleges for Student-Athletes



Playing college softball is more than just a four-year commitment. It’s a 40-year decision that shapes your future both on and off the field. The search for the right fit in a college softball program is a long process that requires research and patience—making a list early in the recruiting process can give you an edge over other recruits. Start by identifying your most important qualities in a school: location from home, campus life, academics and athletic fit and more.

There are over 1,100 four-year college softball programs across four division levels (D1, D2, D3, and NAIA). With so many different choices, crafting a realistic and manageable list can feel like a daunting task. Fortunately, prospective athletes and their families don’t have to face this process alone. NCSA’s annual Power Rankings include a list of the best college softball programs across the country for each of the division levels. These rankings are based off NCSA’s unique methodology, taking into consideration the search activity of over 142,000 softball recruits on the NCSA recruiting network, a school’s academic excellence and its graduation rate.

The NCSA Power Rankings provide a database to help softball recruits research and determine the schools where they have the most interested in attending. While every student-athlete has a unique set of preferences and requirements, these schools earned the highest ranking:

Division 1

Harvard University (Cambridge, MA): It comes as no surprise to see the prestigious Ivy League college softball program ranked as the best in the country on NCSA’s Power Rankings. Located just across the river from the bustling city of Boston, Harvard continues to be the gold standard in American academics. Founded in 1636, the university boasts the highest graduation rate of all college softball programs in the NCSA Power Rankings and is the second-highest ranked school in terms of academic excellence.

On the field, Harvard regularly finishes with a winning record while competing in the Ivy League. Head Coach Jenny Allard leads the program and has earned seven conference titles and five NCAA Championship berths.

Division 2

University of California-San Diego (La Jolla, CA): Topping the charts and backed by the highest NCSA Favorites rating for D2 softball colleges, the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) cracks the top 20 of all programs across the nation. A general academic excellence rating inside the top 100 (68th) and an impressive graduation rate that nearly breaks the top 50 (54th) puts UCSD in the upper echelon of California public universities.

Longtime Head Coach Patti Gerckens regularly leads the Tritons to a record well above .500. In fact, the team made the jump from D3 to D2 18 years ago with Gerckens at the helm. Since moving up to the next level, the Tritons have made 10 NCAA postseason appearances and won the D2 Softball Championship in 2011. The team competes in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), widely considered the best D2 conference in the country.

A short drive from the Pacific Ocean, UCSD’s campus—located in the La Jolla community of San Diego—is home to 27,386 full-time undergraduate students. Hop in the car or grab an Uber into downtown San Diego to catch a Padres game or visit the largest zoo in the world. It’s no wonder former NCSA recruits give UCSD a stellar ranking as the best college softball program in all of D2.

Division 3

University of Chicago (Chicago, IL): The University of Chicago is #18 on NCSA’s list of top softball colleges for student-athletes, highlighting the institution’s elite academic and athletic standing. In fact, UChicago is the lone D3 representative in the NCSA’s top 30 college softball programs. Featuring rigorous academic requirements, the private university earned the third-best rating for academic excellence on NCSA’s list. With the #32 graduation rate and an NCSA Favorites ranking of over 500, UChicago stands in a class of its own.

Ruth Kmak has been running the show as UChicago’s head coach for the past 20 years. She led the Phoenix to the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship in her first year with the program. In her time at UChicago, Kmak’s teams have made the NCAA Regionals 10 times. Located eight miles south of Downtown Chicago, UChicago offers a small school environment with the advantages of a major city just minutes away. The student body of just under 6,000 full-time undergraduates ensures manageable class sizes and plenty of hands-on instruction from professors.

What’s the best fit for you?

That’s up to you! You know your preferences best when it comes to the qualities you’re looking for in a school and a softball program. Take the time to sit down, research and evaluate schools that meet your criteria.

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