How to Manage Being a Student as a Student-Athlete

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Natalie Jacobs
Members of Florida A&M’s marching band gather for a group photo on a football field. They are wearing matching baseball caps, orange t-shirts and green pants.

Almost everyone gets the same speech when they are preparing to enter college: make friends, go out, and have fun – but never too much fun! As important as it is for college students to discover new things about themselves and jump at fun opportunities, maintaining their GPA, attending class, and forming a good relationship with their professors should come first. The general college idea is that while it is important to nurse a social life and make meaningful memories, achievement in academics should always be prioritized and a good work-life balance needs to be implemented if they want to be successful.

The Challenge of Being a Student Athlete

However, every student’s experience is not the same, and student athletes are faced with an entirely different beast when they enter college. When a student is already working to manage a healthy academic and social life, sports become a large time and energy commitment on top of schoolwork when they are already taxing activities on their own. As a member of the Florida A&M Marching 100, I’ve struggled with finding my pacing as a student when the most consistent thing in my college schedule is 2½ hour practices once a day and long games on the weekend. As a student athlete, it becomes easy for a sport to control your athletic schedule, dictate your social life, and completely overtake your academic pursuits when classes and your social schedule don’t demand the same consistency and planning factor. So, how do you avoid neglecting other parts of your college life while still maintaining the healthy amount of dedication it takes to thrive as an athlete?

Make Other Things a Priority Too

You must learn to apply the same amount of devotion you have for your sport towards your academic and social life. Just as you take extra time and implement more self-discipline to become better at your sport, as a student athlete it is your responsibility to also go the extra mile in your academics and life outside sports. When you learn to acknowledge your priorities and create a structured social, academic, and athletic schedule, you can succeed.

Acknowledge Your Priorities

The first step, acknowledging your priorities, comes with self-reflection. Ask yourself why you’re in college in the first place, and what weight your sport should have in your life. Of course, some students are in college pursuing their sport and/or being paid to participate in it while others are doing it because a hobby they love, but no situation changes the fact that attending college is for your education. Sports cannot fully provide what you’ll find in a classroom and the skills you’ll need to apply in your life, and that mindset can help you avoid becoming too fixated on them.

Keep a Schedule

Secondly, creating a schedule is very important. Whether it be a new assignment that wasn't mentioned in the syllabus, a random hangout scheduled with your friends, or another practice scheduled in preparation for a big game, academic, social, and athletic college life can be collectively erratic. With a physical schedule like a planner or calendar, it is much easier to be prepared and proactive with assignments and events so that unplanned activities won’t throw you off too much.

When I took time to reflect on my purpose in college and began to act with proactivity towards planning against the erratic nature of student-athlete, I learned to flourish on and off the field; you can do the same. It takes practice and precision to truly find a balance, but as an athlete those are qualities you have had to display plenty of times before. So, enjoy college, but most importantly, take control so that you can succeed!

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