Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Starting College as a Student-Athlete

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Tufts chapter.

No one would disagree with the statement that the transition from high school to college is difficult. Moving away from home can be sad, making new friends can be confusing, and surviving harder classes can seem impossible. So how does adding the additional factor of coming in as a member of a sports team change this monumental life transition? Does it make it even harder to balance school with everything else, or does it give some guidance to new and confused freshmen? We asked class of 2023 student-athletes, who have only been on campus for about a month, if being on their team made things easier or more difficult. 

When asked about her team’s impact on her adjustment to college, one freshman said, “I actually genuinely look forward to practice every day because of the team,” and that “it’s really nice having meals with them all the time.”

So maybe in one sense being an athlete is the perfect solution to a problem almost any college freshman will struggle with in some capacity: making friends. With the decently large student body found at Tufts, it can be hard to meet people other than those on your floor or in your classes, so extracurricular groups like sports teams may help incoming student-athletes with their adjustment. 

While practices require a significant time commitment, some students appreciate having blocks of time devoted to sports. Used to having a busy schedule in high school – long school days followed by hours of practice – one student expressed her comfort in having structured practices: “I was so used to being constantly busy in high school, I don’t know how I would manage having so much free time. Having practice built into my schedule helps me figure out when I need to be doing schoolwork.” She also expressed how with more time, she would feel more inclined to procrastinate. Student athletes have to balance school, sports, and leisure, but for some freshmen, that helps them get into a good routine. 

On the other hand, we spoke to another freshman who felt that the team did not have a large effect on her initial transition, despite the fact that she now enjoys eating dinner with her team every night. “We didn’t really do a lot as a team, so it didn’t really impact me,” she says. So, if a team does not make specific plans to reach out to its incoming freshmen, then maybe athletes’ experiences are not so different from anyone else’s. 

This year Tufts Housing introduced a new policy of housing athletes together and putting members of the same team together in a dorm or on a floor as a group. One girl describes her experience living with other athletes, “we’ve really bonded over our similar interests and busy schedules. We get how hard the balance can be and are always there for support.” 

The freshmen expressed varying views about the extent to which being on a team has shaped them a month into the school year, but there is one quality that seems to be universally liked: the community. From having upperclassmen to share their experiences and help guide 

them through a new environment, to having other freshmen who are experiencing the same difficulties, being on a team creates a sense of belonging that new students seek.