Surviving Freshman Year as a Student-Athlete

Founder and CEO, GamePhox Unlimited, LLC.

Having the chance to play a sport in college is an exciting opportunity. But being a college student-athlete can seem a bit overwhelming when you first arrive on campus your freshman year. Not only do you have to adjust to a new environment with new responsibilities, but you have to add in being an athlete with new teammates as well.

Regardless of your sport, as an intercollegiate student-athlete, you are going to be very busy. Your typical day may look something like this: wake up and eat breakfast before classes, go to classes, find time to eat lunch, go to afternoon practice, eat dinner before study hall, go to study hall, go back to your room for more homework/studying/hanging out with friends, and go to bed. Then you wake up the next and do it all over again! You might even have a morning practice before your first class. During your playing season, you also have to account for games (including travel time to and from), team meetings, and time with the athletic trainer, if needed. And on top of all this, you may also have to incorporate part-time work or internships into the equation.

So how do you possibly manage it? The good news is there are ways for you to increase your likelihood of success. Here are five suggestions:

Find balance

One thing you will quickly learn in college is that you have to figure out how to balance academics, athletics, social activities, and other commitments. During your playing season, maintaining the balance will become more challenging, due to the demands on your time. One of the biggest challenges you will face and have to learn how to handle is time management. This is a crucial skill that will serve you well in college and far beyond.

At times it will seem that 24 hours aren’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything that you have to do. But with structure and organization, you can manage your time effectively. A digital or paper planner will allow you to keep up with your academic responsibilities, athletic commitments, work schedule (if applicable), and social life. When I was an NCAA Division I student-athlete, I wrote down everything I had to do, from when I was going to wake up to class times, practices, games, work, study time, when I was going to eat, and when I was going to sleep!

Having structure and keeping a planner will help you to stay balanced and on top of things. Remember, if you are not doing well academically, you could lose your eligibility and ultimately your spot on the team.

Go to class

It might go without saying, but attending your classes is one of the most important things you can do during your time in college. If you want to be a successful student-athlete, you must go to class. This is where you will acquire valuable information from your professor that you won’t get just by reading the course textbooks. This is particularly important because you will inevitably miss some classes anyway due to games and traveling during your playing season. Make sure you talk to and stay in contact with your professors. It will be your responsibility to keep up with assignments and course work and to let your professors know in advance when you have to miss class due to athletics.

Use support services

There are tools and resources on college campuses, such as tutoring, to help all students. However, there are also additional support services specifically in place for student-athletes. For example, some academic advisors work primarily with student-athletes and are accustomed to the specific challenges they face. And even if your school does not have special academic staff for athletes, they will have general academic advisors, and it would behoove you to get to know and visit yours on a regular basis. They are there to assist you with things such as selecting the appropriate courses and eligibility requirements.

Tutoring centers, study halls, and priority class registration are additional resources for student-athletes. Some schools even have special dieticians and trainers on staff for student-athletes. Again, it will be up to you to take advantage of them, but you absolutely should.


It is extremely important to take care of yourself by eating right and getting plenty of rest. Try not to skip any meals and if at all possible, eat at least three a day. You may find it difficult at first to take the time to eat—and eat well—but it is crucial that you do so. If you can’t find the time to sit down for a meal, try snacking on fruits and vegetables until you can. Remember: this is the fuel you’ll need to stay energized not just throughout the day but through your practices and games as well.

You should also strive get a full night’s sleep whenever possible. With all of the running around you will be doing as a student-athlete, you should get plenty of rest. Between classes, practices, games, and homework, you can get tired rather quickly. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is not only necessary for performing in the classroom and on the playing field but also for keeping yourself healthy.

Most successful student-athletes would probably agree that although being a student and an athlete in college is not easy, it is definitely a rewarding experience that not many people get to have. Your collegiate student-athlete career will go by fast, so savor and enjoy the time. Have fun, but be smart about it!

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