28 Jun Life After College: Why Student-Athletes are Among the Most Prepared
By all indications, student-athletes are among the most prepared for life after college. Armed with a strong sense of independence, problem-solving skills, and a global network of personal and professional connections, they are very well-equipped to excel in the ‘real-world’ after graduation. These hallmarks of the college experience are often overlooked when initially deciding whether to pursue the college pathway. My own personal experience, however, underscores that these sometimes less-tangible aspects prove to be of most value in life after college and still serve me well today.
Commencing college on the other side of the world, away from family, friends and all familiarity, gives student-athletes an immediate sense of independence. The most routine and mundane tasks suddenly no longer seem simple, at least in the short-term. You might be asking yourself questions upon arrival, such as: where is the nearest grocery store and how do I get there? How do I set up a bank account? How do I go about getting a phone and what’s the best plan to go with? With mum or dad on the other side of the world and without the luxury of a car that you may have owned at home, you are required to navigate these scenarios independently by identifying the right people to ask for advice and figuring out means of transportation. While these scenarios are hurdles merely in the short term, throughout your time in college similar situations of uncertainty will arise that require you to think, make decisions and act independently. While you may not recognise it in each individual moment, the independence acquired from successfully navigating uncertain situations will position you extremely well to respond to the challenges you’ll encounter in life after college.
Another often underestimated asset that student-athletes acquire in college is a global network of personal and professional contacts, comprised of teammates, friends, coaches, professors, university staff, and job/internship supervisors. All of these individuals genuinely have your best interests at heart and will be your biggest advocates in gaining opportunities after college. If there is one thing true about Americans, it’s that they are avid lovers of sport. As a student-athlete, it’s no surprise then that everyone wants to get to know you and your story. Once that connection is made, people are invested in not only witnessing but in actively supporting your success. This could be in the form of a job offer after college, a scholarship to enable further study, sponsorship to continue pursuing your sport, a place to live during a period of transition, or a letter of recommendation, among many other things. The network of supporters and mentors that you gain as a student-athlete in college can arguably set you up for life.
Other characteristics uniquely derived from the student-athlete experience, including confidence in taking on challenges, resilience in dealing with setbacks or adversity, and an overall global mindedness, are vital to success after college. There’s also no denying that balancing sport, academics, and social commitments in college requires exceptional time management, which is another critical skill that sets student-athletes apart from their peers in preparedness for employment after college. Student-athletes have an exceptional work ethic; they continue to push themselves and do the ‘small things’ day in and day out to progress themselves and their team towards an ultimate goal. Student-athletes are strong leaders; they support their teammates through highs and lows and are always there to lend a word of encouragement. Student-athletes are also ‘coachable’, willing to accept and implement feedback in order to improve performance. No matter what field of work you are looking to enter after graduating college, these unique attributes are highly attractive to employers and will undeniably set you apart in the job-market.
There are so many dimensions to life as a student-athlete outside of playing sport and getting a degree, which should be considered when weighing up the value of the college pathway.