Timothy Parros and Madeline Riley

Think you have what it takes to be a student athlete at a four-year university? You might, and so do thousands of high school students across America. You’re all vying for highly coveted, extremely time consuming spots that are offered to very few people. With tough competition for the few places on teams, unfortunately, everyone on your JV soccer squad won’t be moving on to college athletics with you. The hardest workers, the best talents, and the biggest dreamers will, however, get a chance to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

“We have had many student athletes come to our office and seen some wonderful results, but it takes hard work to get there. Once you’re committed athletically to the college, the work is actually just starting because it gets harder when you hit the ground running your first year”, said Timothy Parros, a College Advisor with Parros College Planning located in Ann Arbor Michigan. “Our students have told us how difficult it is to balance each part of the college experience. Because sports takes up a lot of their time, they must pay close attention to the academic portion of their responsibilities in order to avoid falling behind.”

To help you to decide if playing a sport at your future university is desirable and possible, here are two challenges to take into consideration about being a student athlete:

Full-Time Scholarships are Hard to Come By

Less than 2% of high school athletes receive a full ride Division I scholarship, and only 7% collect any athletic scholarship across divisions. Only the best of the best are moving on to DI, and even those who do, face high tuition rates and incomplete scholarships. Women on average tend to receive slightly more in funds because there are fewer full ride scholarships given out like there are to men (mostly in football and basketball), but even so, the overall average award is less than $7,000 for both sexes.

These figures paint a bleak picture of opportunity for college athlete hopefuls, but don’t be completely dissuaded. There are ways to make yourself more attractive to university teams, and to pay for college outside of your athletic scholarship money.

“I knew that I wanted to play baseball at college and I was determined to attend the best college possible that would offer me a full ride scholarship. With this goal in mind I tried to set myself apart beyond the skill it took to be recruited, through my grades, test score, and other activities”, remarked Jason Pastoor a sophomore at Transylvania.

Student athletes should pursue all types of aid and scholarship. Excelling in academics will allow you to be independently competitive as both a student and as an athlete. Your grades and test scores can help distinguish you from other potential recruits, and having a stellar academic background is often a baseline necessity for playing at top-tier universities. In DIII, athletic scholarships are outlawed, but having a past that demonstrates leadership and academic excellence can garner grants and merit based aid. If all other funding streams fail to cover your cost of attendance, student loans are a great way to subsidize your education.

Being a Student Athlete is a Full-Time Job (or two)

Student athletes are taking on a massive responsibility in working toward a degree in their classes, and working toward athletic success in their off time. Students are bounded to 20 hours of practice per week maximum, but an NCAA study found that coaches often exceed this limit. This 20+ hours is in addition to at least 12 credit hours a semester and studying for classes.

“It has been a learning experience balancing sports with my rigorous classes at Kalamazoo”, said Matt Turton Catholic Central class of 2016 who is playing soccer at Kzoo. “I enjoyed every minute playing soccer and I was surprised at the commitment that I had to make to be successful in both.

Matt is not alone in being surprised at the tremendous workload he faced playing a sport in college. As you can imagine, most student athletes are stressed! They’re facing academic pressures, physical pressures, scheduling conflicts, and less time for sleep than many college students. The day in the life of a student athlete is often sunrise to sunset without time for breaks or relaxation. The resolve of these students is such that their sport is essential to their day, their life, and their self-identity. Student athletes love what they’re doing and are intense. Wonder why competition is cutthroat for spots on college teams? It’s because of this profound focus on achieving athletic success and doing whatever it takes to be the best at their sport.

At Parros College Planning, we work hard to prepare students for the demands of being a student and of being a student athlete. We reject the idea that having talent in a sport disqualifies a person from also being academically gifted, and effort to develop each side of our students. We’ve designed a special program for student athletes, which sets them on the path for success immediately.