9 Best Cheerleading Colleges in the U.S: Division I or Division III?

Cheerleading is a long-standing tradition in American colleges. It can be traced back to the late 1800s at Princeton.  Since then, the popularity of collegiate cheerleading has only grown.

It’s so ingrained in the culture that it’s considered a spot. Cheerleading consists of a team of people who lead chants and cheers to support the sports team. The point of cheerleading is to get the crowd excited and to pump up the team. It is a great way to get involved in school spirit and show your support for your team.

As usual, when talking about such a widespread and diverse activity, there are a lot of different opinions on what the best cheerleading colleges are.

If cheerleading is something you’ve been interested in, then this article is for you. In this article, we are going to see what colleges have the best cheerleading teams, and how you can get into them.

Types of Cheerleaders

Cheerleading can be divided into 4 categories:  school, all-star, competitive, and exhibition.

  • Scholastic cheerleaders—This is the most famous type of cheerleading, and the one most people think of when they hear the word “cheerleader”. It’s what you usually see on TV depicted in all sorts of high-school and college movies. These cheerleading squads are associated with a school, and their job is to cheer for their school’s sports teams. Due to their nature, these are usually the least professional teams since, while they undergo training, their job is to cheer for their teams, not participate in competitions.
  • All-star cheerleaders—This type of cheering is done by athletes who are not associated with any school. They usually travel to compete in different events. These are elite athletes who partake in cheerleading to win competitions. They are among the best cheerleaders in the world, because their livelihood depends on it.
  • Recreational cheerleaders—These are the most casual types of cheerleaders. They are people who do it for fun and to stay in shape. There is no competitive element to their cheering, and they’re not as skilled as all-star or school cheerleaders. They do it to support their local institutions like churches or communities.
  • Exhibition cheerleaders—Also called pro cheerleaders, they are the ones you see at huge events. They are usually very skilled and perform stunts that most people wouldn’t even think of doing. They don’t have a school or all-star team to cheer for, so they work as independent contractors.

Editor’s note: Cheerleading is a cultural phenomenon. People will get competitive about it even if you’re just doing it for fun at local events.

What to Look for in a Cheerleading Program

There are over 200 hundred cheerleading courses spread across America. So, how do you know which one is the best for you?

First and foremost, the school you choose should have a reputable program. The staff should be highly qualified and have a lot of experience in coaching cheerleading.

The school’s facilities are also important. They should have a large gym with enough space for everyone to practice. There should also be a place where the team can store their equipment.

Another important factor is the size of the school. You don’t want to go to a school that’s too small, because you’ll have a hard time finding people to cheer with. On the other hand, you don’t want to go to a school that’s too big, because the team will be too large and you’ll have a hard time making friends.

Also, depending on your gender, you might look for different programs. Some schools focus on all-girls programs, others on coed (both male and female) programs, and others again offer both types.

The school’s location is also something to consider. Some people are ok with living alone or commuting, others aren’t.

Cost is also an important factor to consider. Some schools are more expensive than others.

Once you’ve considered all these factors, it’s time to start touring schools.

The best way to tour a school is to attend one of their sporting events and watch the cheerleaders in action. Talk to the coach and see if they’re open to giving you a try-out. If everything looks good, then go ahead and apply.

Let’s look a little more in-depth into programs’ competitiveness.

NCAA Divisions — And Why They Matter

There are three divisions in the NCAA: Division I, II, and III.

Cheerleading is offered as a sport in all three divisions, but the level of competition is different.

In Division I, schools offer scholarships to their cheerleaders. This means that if you’re accepted into a Division I school’s cheerleading program, the school will pay for your tuition, room and board, and other expenses.

In Division II and III, there are no scholarships available. However, that doesn’t mean that the level of competition is any less. In fact, many people argue that the level of competition is higher in Divisions II and III because schools don’t have as much money to offer their cheerleaders.

Basically, making it to division I means that most of your life will revolve around cheerleading. If you still want to be a cheerleader while focusing on your studies, look into division II or III programs.

When choosing a school, it’s important to know what division the school is in. If you’re looking for a Division I school, your options are limited because there are only around 100 schools that offer scholarships. If you’re looking for a Division II or III school, your options are much greater.

NCA vs UCA — Which One to Choose?

NCA (National Cheerleading Association) and UCA (Universal Cheerleading Association) are 2 different associations a school can belong to.

The main difference between the two associations is that NCA has a higher level of competition. If you’re looking to compete at an elite level, then you’ll want to choose a school that’s affiliated with NCA.

UCA is more focused on recreational cheerleading. This doesn’t mean that their athletes are any less competitive, but the level of difficulty isn’t as high as NCA.

If you’re looking for a school that offers a more recreational program, then you’ll want to choose a school that’s affiliated with UCA.

The Best Cheerleading Schools in the United States

Finding the best cheerleading schools is a complicated matter. There are so many caveats that depend on the end-user that picking the best is pretty hard.

That’s why we separated the colleges into their respective divisions. If you want your life to revolve around cheerleading, look for division I programs. If you still want to focus on your study while cheerleading, however, picking a lower division is also cool. It all depends on your life goals.

Let’s get into the details.

Best Division I Cheerleading Colleges

If you want to become an elite cheerleader who will perform at the upper echelons  of the sport or in huge events like the Super Bowl, then you’ll want to consider one of these schools.

University of Kentucky

Founded in  1865, the University of Kentucky is one of the oldest universities in the United States.

Their cheerleading program is one of the most competitive in the country. Not only are their athletes incredibly skilled, but they also have a tremendous work ethic. If you’re looking to become a Division I cheerleader, the University of Kentucky should be at the top of your list.

Of course, with such a demanding program, prepare for grueling training sessions. The competition is fierce, and your peers are as willing as you to get into a top cheerleading team.

University of Alabama

Founded  in 1831, the University of Alabama is one of the largest universities in the United States.

The University of Alabama is unique because it has a strong focus on tradition. This is evident in their cheerleading program where the athletes are taught to respect the history and traditions of the school. In addition, the University of Alabama also has a strong focus on teamwork. Their athletes learn how to work together to achieve a common goal.

If you’re looking for a school with a rich history and tradition, the University of Alabama is the perfect choice.

University of Louisville

The University of Louisville was founded in 1798. It’s one of the oldest universities in the United States and is located in Kentucky.

Their cheerleading team is one of the most successful in the country. In addition to having a top-tier athletic program, their cheerleaders have a tremendous work ethic. If you’re looking to become a Division I cheerleader, the University of Louisville should be at the top of your list.

Just like their basketball team, the University of Louisville is a powerhouse in terms of cheerleading.

Best Division II Cheerleading Colleges

If you don’t want to sacrifice your academic career for the sake of cheerleading, then consider a Division II school. These schools offer great programs that will challenge you while also allowing you to cheer for your school.

Blinn State College

Blinn State College was founded in 1883. It’s a public community college located in Texas.

Regarding cheerleading, their team is called the buccaneers, and they’re pretty darn good. In fact, their team has competed in the National Cheerleading Association (NCA) competition multiple times.

What’s great about Blinn State College is that they focus on the development of the whole athlete. This means that you won’t just be a cheerleader; you’ll also be a strong, well-rounded athlete.

If you’re looking for a great cheerleading program that also focuses on academics, Blinn State College is the perfect choice.

The College of New Jersey

The College of New Jersey was founded in 1746. It’s the oldest college in New Jersey and is a public university.

Their cheerleading team, known as the Lions, has had tremendous success over the years. In fact, they’ve won multiple national championships.

What’s great about the College of New Jersey is that their cheerleading team is very well-rounded. Not only are they great at stunting and tumbling, but they’re also great at dancing. This makes them a threat at any competition they enter.

And as with any division II cheerleading college, you’ll still have time to pursue your academic interests. Great choice if you love cheerleading but want to get  a degree too!

Drury University

Drury University was founded in 1873. It’s a private university located in Missouri.

Their cheerleading team, known as the Panthers, have a long and decorated history.  In fact, they’ve won numerous national championships over the years.

What makes Drury University’s cheerleading program unique is their focus on teamwork. Their athletes learn how to work together to achieve a common goal. This is important because it teaches them how to be part of a team and how to cooperate with others.

Best Division III Cheerleading Colleges

Just because a school is Division III doesn’t mean that their cheerleading team isn’t competitive. In fact, many of these schools have teams that are just as good, if not better, than the teams at some Division II schools. They just have a different focus.

You’ll still become a competitive cheerleader – you’ll simply have more time to focus on your academic results. Some teams in division III outperform division I teams, which is proof that you don’t have to attend a division I college to be an elite cheerleader.

Elmira College

Elmira College was founded in 1855. It’s a private liberal arts college located in New York.

Their cheerleading team is known as the Soaring Eagles, and they’ve had a great deal of success over the years. Elmira offers both a coed and a girls-only cheerleading team, so you have plenty of options to choose from.

SUNY Cortland

SUNY Cortland was founded in 1868. It’s a public university located in New York.

Their cheerleading team is known as the Red Dragons, and since we’re talking about the most competitive teams, I don’t have to tell you that they’ve pulled some great performances over the years.

Attending SUNY will turn you into a well-rounded student-athlete.  SUNY Cortland is one of the few schools that offers both a competitive and a non-competitive cheerleading team. So, if you’re not looking to commit to a highly competitive program, SUNY Cortland is still a great choice.

Montclair State University

Montclair State University was founded in 1908. It’s a public university located in New Jersey.

Their cheerleading team is known as the Red Hawks, and they’ve had a ton of success over the years. In fact, their team has won more than 20 national championships.

There’s not much to say about this that we haven’t already said about the other colleges. Montclair has a competitive cheerleading team that’s won many awards over the years. What’s great about Montclair is that they have a coed and a girls-only team, so you can choose the team that fits your personality best.


Cheerleading is a great way to get involved in college. It allows you to make new friends, stay active, and represent your school with pride. If you’re looking for a great cheerleading program, the colleges listed above are a great place to start.

They have a long history of success, and their teams are full of dedicated athletes. So, if you’re looking to become a competitive cheerleader, one of these schools is definitely worth considering.

But before rushing to apply to any of these, consider what you want to do with your life. Is cheerleading more of a side hobby for you, or is it something you want to pursue as a career? Once you’ve figured this out, making the choice will be way easier.

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