Transitioning to College as a Student Athlete

Coming into college was difficult at first; however, I adjusted relatively quickly, thanks in part to being a student athlete. For some incoming athletes, it is difficult to manage sports and school because college-level sports can be so much more intense and time consuming than high school sports. For me personally, though, since I have been fencing at the USA level since age 10, I was already immersed in a highly competitive field and around competitors with diverse skill sets, which helped me adjust to the rigorous practice schedule for NCAA. Being a student athlete also forced me to learn early on how to manage my time effectively, which is a very important facet of adjusting to college, whether you’re a student athlete or not. Lastly, I was lucky enough to be welcomed into an incredibly supportive team. On a lot of teams, competition is a big issue as are conflicting personalities or goals. If my team had been hostile or over-competitive, it would have been much more difficult to adjust. Also, being on a sports team provided me with a natural group of friends, which greatly helped with the transition as well.

While my adjustment to college as a student athlete was fine, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t without any challenges. Coming from being the best on your high school team to competing with others who are at your level or significantly better can be daunting. It’s very much like going from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond – where you are just one of many. You’re just one of the many valedictorians on campus, or you’re just one of the many superb athletes on your team. What helped me through all of this was having the understanding that I would, in fact, be a small fish in a big pond, and I prepared myself for this new way of thinking before college. I realized that I most likely wouldn’t be the best, so I focused on having fun and giving my personal best – because that’s really all you can do.

As a student athlete, it’s really important to take advantage of the resources available to you that are there to help you succeed. At my school, there is specialized athletic tutoring that is offered free of charge for hard science and math classes, sports psychology services, and a leadership class that I am actually currently enrolled in. This 10 week emerging leader’s workshop has changed how I view my sport dramatically. Meeting weekly with athletes in other sports, we discuss our daily challenges and learn how to apply specific concepts like confidence and composure on and off the field/court. This class helped me learn how to gain confidence and be a leader on my team, which gave being on the team even more importance and meaning to me.  I feel that I can better manage and balance the adversity in my life, in part because of this class and this experience.

Being a student athlete can be very tough (dealing with exhaustion, missing midterms, trying to balance a social life, and waking up obscenely early for weight training), but it’s worth it. Take advantage of the help available to you, as well as all of the opportunities and benefits that being a student athlete affords. You might not be the best, but you will give your best – and that’s what really matters!

Sophia, Class of 2018

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