It is no secret that a college student athlete spends a huge amount of time in training, competition, meetings with coaches, and other sports-related activities. But what about the student part? How do student athletes find time to study?
Believe it or not, but it is actually possible to live the dual life of a student athlete without having to take fake “paper classes” or let your GPA suffer. Here are some of the ways that you can succeed academically as a college student athlete.
Choose Classes Wisely
Choosing classes wisely doesn’t mean that you pick only the easiest classes or easiest major so you can remain academically eligible for your sport. Firstly, it means that you need to choose classes which actually interest you. If you are interested in the subject, you will be more likely to succeed.
You might find that your class options as a freshman are somewhat limited because some courses have prerequisites and you will have to take some mandatory classes. Try to balance out these classes as much as possible. For example, don’t take a lot of courses at once which all require heavy reading. Nor should you take a lot of lab courses all at once. Variety is key!
Make a point of researching classes in advance so you can select your classes well before the deadline. Otherwise, you might find that the class you want is booked, or that only the afternoon class is available when you wanted the morning class.
Get Smart with Scheduling
You (hopefully) already know that you will need to keep a schedule as a college student athlete. But smart scheduling requires more than just writing down the things you need to do in an organizer. Here are some of the steps you need to do make an iron-clad schedule.
- Break Your Schedule into 30 Minute Time Segments: You can forget about a daily planner, or even an hourly planner. You need to break down your schedule into small chunks of time so you can effectively manage time and commitments.
- Fill in Non-Negotiable Obligations: Fill in your schedule with all of the set events which are not flexible, such as class times, training times, and competition dates. This will help you see how much “free” time you have to work with.
- Get a Detailed List of Deadlines: Sit down with your professors and get a detailed list of every single project, quiz, and exam which will take place during the semester. You’ll also want to note open office times when you will be able to check in with the professors.
- Work Backward: Once you’ve got a list of your deadlines, work backwards. For example, if you have a paper due on Friday and know it will take you about 5 hours to write it, then schedule in some time on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so you aren’t stuck doing it all at the last minute.
- Schedule in Some Downtime: Remember that you can’t fill in every single minute with academic and athletic activities. It is important to have some downtime too. Yes, it might seem weird to schedule in things like “sleep,” “eat,” “watch Game of Thrones,” and “call mom,” but this is necessary for student athletes to stay on top of things and avoid burnout.
- Keep All Appointments: Treat everything you put on your schedule as an obligation. So, even if you are dead tired (as you probably often will be as a student athlete), still make sure to put in that hour of studying and time to eat.
Break Academic Tasks into Smaller Chunks
Let’s say that you’ve got a 20 page research paper due. When you look at it as one big project, it can be overwhelming. Instead, break the project down into smaller tasks. For example, it might end up looking like this: 1) Research subject 2) Develop outline 3) Do further research 4) Write paper and 5) Edit and proof paper.
Once you’ve broken down the tasks into steps, you will be able to better schedule them into the small chunks of free time still left in your planner.
Talk to Professors about the Classes You Will Be Missing
As soon as you have your season schedule, make an appointment with your professors to talk about it. Let them know of any classes you will be missing (such as for games) and make a plan about how to get the course work you will miss and how to make up the work. About 1 week before the class you will miss, remind the professor that you will not be there. This shows the professors that you are serious about your career as a student athlete and they in turn will be more flexible and helpful with making up missed course work.
Prioritize Your Classes By Level of Difficulty
With any college course load, there are always some classes which are easier and others which are more difficult. Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily have to do with the class itself. For example, some students might say that “Biology 101 with Professor Brown is insanely difficult” but you might actually find it easy. It has to do with your level of interest in the course as well as your academic strengths.
Once you’ve identified the courses which are going to be more difficult for you, be sure to schedule in extra time for them. You might be able to get by with just an hour of studying for Biology per week, but might need 3 hours to keep up academically with that English Composition class.
Make Friends Outside of Your Team
If you only socialize with people from your team, don’t be surprised if you only talk about sports and not academics! Try to make friends with the people in your classes. See if there is any study group for the classes and join early on. These friends will be especially useful for those times when you fall asleep in class and need lecture notes. 😉
Take Advantage of Tutors
The athletic department of your college will most likely have tutors specifically for the athletic team. There will probably also be many other tutors available too through the college. Take advantage of these! Not only are you getting help with your courses, but you are also getting study time in a distraction-free environment. You’ll find it is a lot easier to focus and eliminate wasted time with the tutor than when you try to study in your dorm room.
Talk to Your Adviser
It is perfectly normal for freshman (athletes and non-athletes alike) to struggle during their freshman year. Don’t hesitate to get some help from your academic adviser. The adviser is there for you to help you with choosing classes, planning your schedule, and finding tutors.