Terms & Definitions

National Letter of Intent

What is a National Letter of Intent (NLI)?

When a student-athlete officially commits to attend a NCAA Division I or II college, he or she signs a National Letter of Intent (NLI), agreeing to attend that school for one academic year.

What does a National Letter of Intent do?

A National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a legally binding contract that holds both the academic institution and the student-athlete accountable for one academic year. When the student-athlete and/or parent sign a NLI, the student-athlete must fulfill the contract. Failure to fulfill the contract will result in a wasted eligibility year. A student-athlete should not be signed until there is a full understanding of what the terms are.

What is included in a National Letter of Intent?

A National Letter of Intent will be sent to a student-athlete by the academic institution recruiting them. The NLI should include materials about the school and it’s educational programs, and the offer of athletics financial aid being given. The NLI should be sent to the student-athlete within the appropriate signing period.

When are National Letter of Intent sent?

Signing dates for the National Letter of Intent are as follows:

  • Prospective Student-Athletes Signing 2022-23 and Enrolling 2023-24
Sport (s) Initial Signing Date Final Signing Date
Division I Basketball (Early Period) November 9, 2022 November 16, 2022
Division I Basketball (Regular Period) April 12, 2023 May 17, 2023
Division I Football (Early Period) December 21, 2022 December 23, 2022
Division I and II Football (Midyear JC Transfer) December 21, 2022 January 15, 2023
Division I and II Football (Regular Period) February 1, 2023 Division I: April 1, 2023

Division II: August 1, 2023

All Other Division I and II Sports November 9, 2022 August 1, 2023

What is a signing period?

A signing period is a designated period of time during which a National Letter of Intent may be signed. The NLI must be signed within this time period in order to be valid. NLI’s not signed within the appropriate signing period are considered to be null and void.

Does a National Letter of Intent mean the same thing as scholarship?

A National Letter of Intent is distinct from a scholarship in that it merely establishes the conditions by which athletic aid is administered. The National Letter of Intent is not in itself an offer of aid, however it must be accompanied by a specific offer of athletic aid when provided to a prospective student athlete.

Do all NCAA Divisions have signing days?

Only Divisions I and II have an NLI signing period. Division III institutions do not offer athletic financial aid, thus the National Letter of Intent program has not been adopted by Division III.

What happens after signing a NLI?

By signing a National Letter of Intent a student-athlete is agreeing to attend the institution for one year in exchange for the institution’s promise to provide financial aid for the entire academic year. Once signed, a recruiting ban goes into effect and no other NCAA school can recruit the student-athlete.

Can a student-athlete change their mind or decommit after signing a letter of intent?

Yes, a student-athlete can change their mind after signing a letter of intent, however, it may risk losing one year of eligibility at your new school. In such cases, however, the prospective student-athlete may request a release from the conditions of the National Letter of Intent. If granted, the student is free to compete at a different institution without penalty.

Lyle Adams


Lyle was a member of the 2007 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship team at Wake Forest. After embarking on a professional soccer career, Lyle transitioned to the tech industry, where he was one of the first 100 employees at Uber, designing platforms and tools for data consumers. Lyle also holds a Master’s in Sports Management from Columbia University.