A member of the North Central College women's golf team hits a shot out of a sand trap.

How to be a Successful Student Athlete

Kara Kots

Sep 14, 2021

Eight Tips on How to be a Successful Student-Athlete

From excelling in the classroom to on the field or court, being a student-athlete is no small achievement. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and stamina. Knowing how to adapt and maneuver through challenges that arise is crucial to do well in your program and to grow as an athlete. To learn how to be a good student athlete, read on for eight essential tips to follow. 

What makes a great student-athlete?

A great successful student athlete is not born overnight. In fact, one is not developed after a few days or weeks but over months and even years. To be a great student-athlete means you have unwavering determination and are ready to work hard. 

It means you have or are willing to develop the necessary traits to help you achieve your goals daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. It also means that you are prepared to face complex challenges and sacrifice what it takes to be the best you can be throughout your time at college. The life skills you develop from being a student athlete at the college level will help tremendously down the line. 

What does it take to become a student-athlete?

Becoming a student-athlete is often desired by many but is only achieved by a select amount of individuals. When becoming a student-athlete, a determined mindset and positive attitude will go a long way. These will push you to reach your goals and get back up when the going gets tough. Being self-confident and self-disciplined will also be critical when believing in yourself and building good habits to maintain over time. Lastly, it is important to remember that great things are made over time, so patience will be key as you take on your new student-athlete role. 

What can I do today to become the best student-athlete I can be?

The best thing you can do today is to learn how to balance your commitments. At the start of college, academic and athletic-related responsibilities will add up quickly. Finding a balance that works best for you will help you feel prepared and ready to take on whatever comes your way. It is also important to note that you will not only need to balance your studies and practices but also social activities, relaxation, and sleep.

Juggling the Academic Workload and Athletic Expectations

From class to practice to games, juggling academic and college athletics-related commitments is a balancing act. From the start of the school year to the end, the schedules of student-athletes are among the busiest. While student-athletes cannot reduce how many classes they take each semester or practices they attend, they can become proficient in planning and managing their time to stay ahead in whatever they do. Keep reading to learn about specific steps you can take as a student-athlete to find success. 

Steps to Success for the College Athlete

While college presents new opportunities, it also introduces new responsibilities. From the first day on, you will quickly find out that you control how you approach both. Like all students in college, student-athletes must learn how to honor their responsibilities while making time for their physical and mental health. Read the section below for tips and tricks on how to best set yourself up for success as a student-athlete. 

Create a Daily or Weekly Schedule

As a college athlete, creating and following a daily or weekly schedule can help you establish a routine. When you are juggling numerous commitments, having access to specific deadlines and reminders will allow you to stay on track and hold yourself accountable. 

For instance, if a project deadline or important game is coming up, you can plan accordingly and block out a sufficient amount of time to prepare for it. Being equipped with a schedule will help you feel composed and organized rather than overwhelmed and stressed out for your athletic commitments and academic responsibilities. 

Practice Time Management

Learning how to manage time as a student athlete is likely the most crucial piece of advice you will receive. It is a tip that will not only get you far as a student-athlete but will take you far in life. Good time management skills will help you prioritize and complete tasks in an efficient and timely manner. As stated by James Kluckhohn, assistant athletic director for facilities, events and recreation at North Central College, “The biggest challenge is prioritizing your time. Setting what is important to you and not getting distracted and spending time, at least too much, on doing things that are not your priorities.” By effectively prioritizing your time, you will become more confident in tackling the next task. 

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Write Down and Track Your Goals

Student athlete mental health should also be prioritized.  Writing down and tracking goals will help to manage stress and take care of your mental health. After you create a schedule and practice your time management skills, you will better understand the amount of time you need for each. This knowledge is vital as it will help you better prepare for future responsibilities. 

For example, if your English homework ended up taking you an hour and you slotted two hours for it, you can adjust your schedule and spend more time on other tasks that may need more attention. Writing down your activity is also an excellent way to measure your overall productivity and growth.

Get to Know Your Professors

At the start of each semester, take the time to introduce yourself to your professors. Arrive at class a few minutes early or stay after class to share with them more information about your busy schedule. Attending a professor’s office hours is another excellent opportunity to ask questions and speak to them if a problem or concern arises. 

Find a Study Buddy

It is no surprise that classes can be confusing and challenging at times. Finding another student to study with can make learning and getting good grades a whole lot easier. Whether you need to complete an assignment or study for an upcoming exam, having a friend as a resource to lean on will be advantageous. Additionally, you and your study buddy can hold one another accountable to stay on track to meet your short and long-term goals.

Utilize Campus Resources

At most colleges and universities, a large percentage of the student population is student-athletes. With this in mind, there will likely be several resources available to use. On-campus, you may find tutoring services, writing centers, librarians, archivists, and many other resources to help you succeed. At North Central College, student-athletes have access to faculty athletic mentors. These mentors are professors who partner with athletic teams across campus to foster supportive relationships with student-athletes. Their support and direction help student-athletes maintain their athletic and academic success. Often, these resources are free, so do not hesitate to reach out and use them. 


A simple tip yet complex skill to master is communicating. Establishing great communication with your professors, teammates, and college coaches may take time but will be helpful down the line if there is a day where you need to miss a class, practice, team meeting, or game. They will appreciate you letting them know in advance and what your plan is to make it up. As always, a good relationship with those around you will go a long way.

Learn from Your Failures

Let’s say you received a low test score or had an off day at practice; it is important to reflect on what happened, pick yourself back up, and keep going. When this is hard to do, remember that no great success is achieved without failure. By learning from your mistakes the first time, you will prepare yourself for next time and find yourself growing to be a better student-athlete than you were before. 

Busting the Myth of the Dumb Jock

No matter which college sport you play or which college you attend, you will likely face unfair stereotypes as a student-athlete. Keep reading for some of the frequently stated myths about student-athletes. 

"Student-Athletes Only Attend College to Play Their College Sport"

It is often thought that student-athletes have one dream and one dream only: becoming a professional athlete  in their sport. However, this is another misconception. While student-athletes are passionate about their sports, they are also passionate about their studies and future careers. In the NCAA’s research on how many athletes move on to professional careers in sports like basketball, football, baseball, and ice hockey, there were ten players from baseball, 39 from Men’s Basketball, and 12 from women’s basketball during 2018-2019.

"Student-Athletes Do Not Care About Their Classes"

Student-athletes are not only measured by their playing ability by college coaches but by their grades and attitudes too. With this knowledge in mind, student-athletes are likely to work equally as hard in the classroom as they do on the field or court. By applying themselves in class, they display their initiative, drive, and commitment to learning.

Kara Kots is a social media specialist for North Central College’s Office of Marketing and Communications, where she contributes her content, writing, and communication skills.



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