By: Brittany Clausman

Parros College Planning has been assisting student athletes to bridge the gap between academics and athletics for over 10 years, and we understand the difficulties student who participate in sports face. Challenged by rigorous training, competitions and a busy schedule in the classroom, many students feel that they should focus on one over the other. With our planning and expertise, we want students and their parents to know that they don’t have to choose success on the field over success in the classroom, and instead, can be both the ‘scholar’ and the ‘athlete’ that they wish to be.

blog_kirstyn_heinKirstyn Hein
Pinckney High School, Class of 2011

Kirstyn came to Parros College Planning her senior year at Pinckney High School, where she graduated with top honors. Hein went on to play basketball for two years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating with a major in Chemical Engineering.

Kirstyn’s time as an athlete at MIT is a great example of how students must learn to manage their time in class and on the court. Read about Kirstyn’s success as an athlete and as a student in the interview below.

 STUDENT OR ATHLETE?

“Academics were very important, and I worked to get all ‘A’s’ all four years of high school,” Hein said. “Especially because the schools I was looking at were very academically focused, and I knew engineering was more important to me than basketball.” Hein’s focus on academics in high school continued to help her focus on the rigorous curriculum at MIT, a Division III school geared towards academics.

“My university had particularly high limits on what our coaches were allowed to do,” she stated.  “I really enjoyed it – I felt like I got tons of time playing basketball, while still putting all of the time I needed into my academics.”

For many students, the choice between academics and athletics can be a troubling predicament for them. It’s important for them to remember that while athletics can generate a great learning environment, it should not replace nor diminish their experience in the classroom.

COLLEGE SELECTION AND SELECTIVITY

Hein’s time in the classroom and on the basketball court gave her the foundation she needed to excel at MIT. As we know, the chances of playing after college are extremely small, so competing for grades over trophies was the key to success for Kirstyn. This was especially apparent when she stopped playing after two years due to an injury.

“MIT was 100% absolutely the right fit, and the two years I played ball were incredible,” she remembers, “I’m really glad I was forced to stop, though, because MIT had so much more to offer than just athletics, and I loved those new opportunities more so than if I had continued playing. I wish I hadn’t gotten injured, but I’m so glad I had the chance to do other things besides sports. “

Occasionally, students may find themselves unsure of which school they wish to attend. With so many options amongst divisions, universities, and sports, it can become difficult to make that final decision. For some, after continued communication between certain departments, the decision can only become more complex. It’s important to remember, however, that athletics and relationships with coaches should not be the determining factor for a student’s final decision. With Hein’s skills in and outside the classroom, she was a valuable athlete to many colleges who actively recruited her, but it left her with a difficult decision in the end.

“Relax,” Hein advises others who are in a similar situation. “I’d gotten quite close to my top three schools, and I had to tell two of them ‘no’. But life goes on, they get other players, that’s how the game works. Embrace it and cherish every single minute of it, being recruited and making those decisions is a lot of fun. You’ve worked so hard to get to this point – enjoy it.”

UNDERSTANDING THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS

Students who consider playing in college may have trouble discerning how exactly to start the recruitment process. There is such a variety of options available that, occasionally, it may be difficult to determine what student athletes need to do in order to stand out to coaches and universities. For Hein, online resources were great for information not only on the recruitment process, but also in regards to divisional requirements.

“The NCAA website and talking with my schools,” she remembers as her go-to resources. Also helpful says Hein: knowing exactly what kind of learning environment you want from a certain school.  “I was specifically focused on good engineering schools where I could play basketball,” said Hein. “The coaches all respected that and were very open about what they expected, and the players were open about their experiences with it.”

Having a support network is also helpful. Whether that network be composed of friends, mentors, or guidance counselors, the bigger your circle, the better or more diverse your system of support. “I had friends who played all levels of sports – NCAA DI-DIII, NAIA, and junior colleges and community colleges,” says Hein, remembering how having others around helped with understanding the recruiting process. When discussing the role Parros College Planning had in her recruitment, she says, “They helped me get into MIT – they were part of the support network in high school, giving me advice, guidance, and generally just being encouraging and exciting, and I’m so grateful for it.”