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6 Things I Wish I Knew As A College Athlete Trying To Keep Up With School Work


1. Utilize Your Syllabus

Your syllabus can be a useful tool. It outlines a game plan the professor has for their class that will include project rubrics, what material will be covered on each exam, and what chapters were covered in class throughout the semester based on each week.

When preparing to travel for a game that you will miss class for, take a look at the syllabus and see what you are going to miss. If you’re lucky and it's just notes, find a friend in the class and ask them to send you their notes for the days you will be missing. If it is an exam, project, or homework due, then you will need to discuss a plan with your professor. Many professors will give you an alternative date to turn your assignment in or take a makeup exam, but many do prefer that you do this before you have left to travel. This leads us right into step 2.


2. Be Vocal With Your Professors

Many professors will not keep up with your travel schedules. It’s also not like high school where there are announcements about the games over the intercom, a pep rally, and emails sent out to each professor letting them know who is going to be missing for the game. This means that communication with the professors falls on the shoulders of the student athletes.  

If, like mentioned in step 1, the student has an exam that falls on a travel day and the professor require athletes to make up exams before they have left, the athlete would need to let the professor know that they will be missing the exam and then would need to schedule a time to make up the exam. If the student athlete were to let their professor know last minute that they would be missing the exam due to travel, the professor might not allow for a make up exam to be given. This would result in a low-grade average for the student.


3. Keep A Detailed Schedule

At the beginning of each semester, there are many adjustments student athletes must make. They are not only adjusting to a new class schedule, but will also have a game schedule, a practice schedule, a conditioning schedule, a weight lifting schedule, a travel schedule, and in most cases, a required study schedule. That’s a lot of required time that needs to be kept track of. It is very easy to become overwhelmed with this schedule and lose track of valuable time. It's vital to know your schedule so that when you are going to be away, you know what all you will be missing. It is also important when scheduling make up work with your professors. Trust me, you do not want to be the player that accidentally schedules a makeup exam during your practice time.

There are several ways that can help you keep track of your schedule like keeping a detailed planner, using your calendar on your phone, or have a dry erase calendar in your dorm room. The system I find most effective is using a daily planner. I prefer this method because I can write all of my schedules in my planner. This allows me to easily see when a travel date conflicts with an assignment or exam for class. It's also easy to determine when I have available time where I would be free to complete my makeup work.


4. Have A Clear Ranking Of Your Priorities

In college it can be very easy to lose track of what is important. You are balancing your practice schedule, game schedule, class schedule, social life, extra circulars, and much more. It can be very tempting to dive into team gossip or playing games while staying in the hotel’s rooms or on the bus, but this is where it is imperative to stay focused on your priorities.

Furthermore, when working on homework on the bus, it is important to have a clear list of what needs to be completed and by when. It makes no sense to work on a project that due in a month when you have a paper due the day after you return from your game. It is best to make a list of upcoming due dates and then rank them based of their difficulty, amount of time needed, and their due date. 


5. Minimize Your Distractions

When traveling with your team, there can be countless number of distractions. Your teammate next to you is asleep and snoring, the movie on the bus is turned up way too loud, everyone around you is playing a card game, or my team's personal favorite: a karaoke sing-off.

Whatever the distractions might be, you must learn to minimize these distractions and focus on your school work when needed. For some, this can be more difficult than it is for others.

Here are a few tips for minimizing your distractions:

  • Sit at the front or very back of the bus (whichever end is considered the quite/relaxed side of the bus)
  • Don’t be afraid to be the only person working on homework or studying
  • Be prepared for your teammates to try and distract you, and be sure to hold your ground - They will understand that you have work that needs to be done
  • Try wearing your headphones or ear plugs to help cancel out the noise


6. Don’t Procrastinate

This is perhaps the most common reason student athletes fall behind when on the road. You get on the bus knowing that you must study, keep up with reading and notes for class, and complete homework, but you trick yourself into believing that you have the entire trip to finish all of these tasks.

Many times my freshman year I fell victim to this trap. When I would get on the bus, I would think about how I had the entire weekend to complete my school work. So instead of working on what I could on the bus on the way down to a game, I spent my time watching movies, playing on my phone, and sleeping. When we arrived at the hotel we would be staying at, we usually spent our time playing an array of games and participating in different team bonding activities. I would put my homework off until the bus ride home. Unfortunately, this also fell immediately following a game. This meant we were getting on the bus sweaty and drained from the game we had just played. When trying to complete your school work at this point in the trip, you will likely not give your best effort or you will give in to the sleep your body desperately needs.

My greatest advice to avoiding this ending to your trip is to finish your work as early as possible. If you complete all of your work before the ride back, then you know you will have that time available to relax and recharge for the upcoming week.