Top 7 Back-to-School Tips for College Athletes

Managing your life as a student-athlete takes a lot of work, but it is possible! Start your semester with this to-do list to have the most productive year yet.

Summer is officially over and it's time to head back to school. Whether you're an incoming freshman or a returning student-athlete, the first week or two is always an adjustment for everyone on campus. Here are seven things for student-athletes to remember and do to make this the most productive and well-planned school year yet!

1. Manage your time wisely

Summer is great because it's flexible, but unfortunately you have to shake that mindset for the next nine months. Now that you're back to school, you have practices, lifting, games, and team meetings along with balancing a new course schedule, homework, and prepping for exams. Take a half hour over the next week or so, grab your athletic and academic calendars, and mesh them into one big desk blotter/calendar so you have all of your commitments written down in one place. In fact, one step better is plugging everything into your phone so you'll never be without your full schedule; set reminders for the really important things you don't want to forget as well. Routines and time management are crucial to success, so after your schedule is complete, stick to it!

Related: How to Manage Your Time Intentionally as a Student 

2. Communicate with your professors

It's not the most comfortable thing to do, but as an athlete, you need to make sure your professors understand that you're committed to their classes and also make them aware that you have an athletic schedule. Academics always need to come first, but if you build relationships with your professors and be upfront with them right from the start, you'll most likely avoid major communication issues down the road. If they don't know you're an athlete and for some reason you can't finish some homework or you miss a day of class, they can make your life miserable: adding more homework to your plate, not giving you enough time to makeup exams, etc. Just be honest and in the case there's a conflict, they'll more than likely be on your side and help you out.

3. Be mindful in the cafeteria

I haven't seen a ton of college/university cafeterias, but if they're anything like the Merrimack College café, then you have a myriad of choices when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In order to be the best athlete and student you can be, you have to take responsibility for what you're putting into your body. Mom isn't around to make sure you're eating a balanced meal, so while the unlimited cheeseburgers, French fries, and ice cream are delicious, be sure to include a few veggies, fruit, and some vitamins into your diet.

Related: College Student-Athletes, Food, and Nutrition 

4. Watch your health overall 

We always like to think we can shake off that ankle twist or upset stomach, but sometimes we need a little help. Before it's too late and you injure yourself further or send yourself to an emergency room, suck up your pride and go talk to your athletic director or health office! What's better: Getting to play in that next game with a taped ankle or being out for the season because you end up breaking it?

5. Find a study buddy

Your schedule will be jam-packed in college, and you have to find time to study among classes and your athletic commitments. You'll no doubt have a ton of friends, but probably not a ton who know what it's like to be a student-athlete. With that, make a plan with a fellow athlete to meet up at the library to do homework/study for two hours every other day, surrounding your team schedules. It's also great to have someone you can trust to vent to when you're stressed. No one will know your troubles like a fellow athlete!

Related: How to Improve Your Time Management and Study Skills 

6. Learn the ropes if you're new

If you're a first-year student, you were probably one of the best athletes on your high school team last year. But now that you're at college, you're on a new team, and you're on the low rung of the totem pole. While it's a little hit to the ego, understand that you're in a great position to learn and grow as a person and athlete. Use these new teammates, coaches, and community your first year to learn the ropes. There's no way to climb the ladder and improve (yes, you can perform better) unless you're humble and ready to learn as much as possible.

7. Take it seriously

College will be one of the greatest and most exciting times of your life. But you're there for a reason: to get a degree and play for your school's team. Remember that you have commitments and your job is to follow through on all of them, meaning you show up to class on time, do well on your exams, and finish your homework on time in addition to being at practice on time, maintaining your physical condition, and more. Keep in mind that if your grades go down, athletics will be the first to go.

Related: Surviving Freshman Year of College as a Student-Athlete 

Being a student-athlete in college is time consuming and stressful, but all the experiences, friends, memories, and opportunities are worth all the blood, sweat, and tears. Enjoy this year at school. It’s all what you make of it, and you can do it all with a little time management and a lot of dedication to both school and your sport. Good luck!

From varsity to club to intramural sports, find more helpful tips for student-athletes in our College Athletics section.

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About Megan Gibbs

Megan Gibbs

Megan Gibbs is the Director CollegeXpress. She has worked for Carnegie, CollegeXpress's parent company, since graduating from Merrimack College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. Megan is the glue that keeps CollegeXpress together and the push that keeps us moving forward.


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