Being a Student-Athlete at an Ivy League School

University Life

Being a Student-Athlete at an Ivy League School

The other day, I was thinking about my old college schedule. Take a look below at a typical day:

5:45 – 6:00 Walk to gym/change in locker room

6:00 – 7:05 Lift/conditioning training

7:05 – 7:15 Shower

7:15-7:30 Walk to Cap & Gown Eating Club

7:30-7:50 Shovel food into my body (if I can bare to lift my limbs)

7:50-8:00 Walk to class (an approximation)

8:00-8:45 Class 1

9:00-9:45 Class 2

10:00-11:30 Class 3

12:00 – 12:55 Lunch/sneak in a quick cat nap

Yup. That’s right: it's 5:45 AM. If you're a student athlete, that's more than likely just your morning schedule, as it was once mine. But if you do a sport AND attend a competitive school like Princeton, there will be days when the challenge will feel three times as bad. I know: Never have you ever faced such a jam-packed schedule, requiring stamina, focus and discipline, while also juggling the natural desire to be social with your peers outside of the field and gym.

You will be physically tired, not just mentally. But you'll learn to overcome it.

Your schedule will be less flexible than your non-athlete peers. And sometimes it will be frustrating.

You will be hanging out with your teammates a lot (most team schedules are aligned, mostly because you all leave the gym together and often end up at the same dining hall simply because all your classroom, non-athlete friends ate comfortably an hour ago).

You will want to fall asleep in class. It’s inevitable. You barely slept, you woke up bright and early, worked your body to failure (workout jargon which basically means your muscles and limbs feel like cooked noodles, and your brain is saying, “You can zone out for a second…its only a second…you’ll still keep up," only your body is lying to you). I've been in your place and I understand what you'll be going through or what you are going through. I don't want you to feel alone. So I'm here to help! Here are my tips for balancing the long, fulfilling yet demanding schedule of being a student athlete in the Ivy League!

I. Create a Schedule and Add Everything!

It might seem silly to schedule the amount of time it takes you to walk somewhere, but there will be days when your brain and body will thank you for considering whether you can take an extra minute or two. Literally, make a 24 schedule on your phone, booklet-calendar, where ever you have set alarms…

How can you get started? Block out your entire week by chunks of time, starting with that allotted for class, for walking to and from class, for eating, for showering, for studying, for socializing, for everything [again, see the neurotic schedule above].

Put alarms in your phone or make a schedule in your phone calendar. Alerts will become your best friend. This will be a helpful tool. You don’t have to stick to it, but at least you are now aware of what you are doing with the finite hours of each day. This tip also includes setting time aside in your schedule that designated for a little "RestnRelaxation" (i.e. take a nap, hang out with friends, watch Scandal, or whatever show you regularly binge on, etc).

II. Participate in Activities beyond Your Team

Find a couple activities or student groups that interest you outside of sports. Do you like dancing? Well, then you may be able to join one of the dance troupes for the off-season performances. Do you play an instrument? Gather with a couple fellow dorm mates and form a band! You like political science? Run for the president of the PolySci Club! The beautiful component about Ivy League athletics is that you get to play your sport at the highest level of competition (Division I), but there is a mutual understanding that school and a sports-life balance are priority. Since you are not on an athletic scholarship you are not as beholding to the school in terms of your time and attention. So when you have chunks of time and you want to join the Film Club or the Technology Club or the Language Club or the Baking Club, go and DO THOSE THINGS TOO! These are your college years. Allow yourself to really experience all the facets of this college environment.

III. Contribute to Your Team

At the end of the day, you are going to spend more hours with your teammates than you will with any other person or group of people over the course of your college years. The better my relationship was with all my teammates, the better the overall experience was as a student-athlete at Princeton University. What this means is that you should still navigate a group of friends and activities outside of your sport, but maintain your relationship with your teammates.

But I digress. Let's finish the day's schedule. I bet you thought I forgot! 

1:00-1:50pm Class

2:00-2:50pm Class

3:00-3:50pm Class

4:30 – 6:30 Practice

6:30 -7:00pm Shower and run to the dining hall to catch dinner

7:00-7:30pm Shovel food again while having a good time recounting sports horrors with teammates

The sisterhood/brotherhood of a sports team is unconditional and special. Have fun and enjoy the challenge. Remember, hundreds of THOUSANDS of people have done your exact same schedule before you. It is difficult, but absolutely possible to handle. You can do it!