Why Walking Away From a College Running Scholarship Was the Best Decision of My Life

Ever since I was 13 years old, I dreamed of earning a college scholarship and running cross country and track at a Division 1 school. I worked my hardest to achieve this goal. I did things like running about 15,000 total miles from seventh through twelfth grade, waking up at 5 a.m. multiple times a week to train with elite adults in my community, missing junior prom and filling tons of weekends with meets. I felt like every good high-school runner runs in college, and I needed to as well. By my senior year in high school I had several scholarship offers. I decided to go to the University of Georgia to run cross country and track. I had achieved my dream, and every day since committing I could not think of anything else but Georgia and how much fun I would have.

I wrote this to show others that sometimes in life it’s okay to change your dreams and passions. I’m not trying to put down college athletes. I have the utmost respect for what you do. I’m just happy I am not a college athlete anymore.

The problem was, I actually hated college running. I was so sure it would work out and I would love it, but that was surprisingly not the case. I went from loving running more than anything to hoping the season would end quickly. Three weeks in, I remember almost getting hit by a car at practice, and I did not care. If I was hit, I could probably get out of doing cross country and track. That was when I knew I needed to quit. I hated it so much that I did not care if a car hit me.

Everyone always asks if the workouts were too hard. And my answer is no, not at all. In fact, I ran more miles and more difficult workouts in high school. But in high school, it was fun. In high school there’s not much to do besides play sports.

The thing I hated most was the lack of freedom. I had never felt so controlled in my entire life. I felt like all of my normal friends were gaining so much freedom by going to college, while I had entered boot camp. I was not allowed to wear certain colors to some practices, rush a sorority, sign up for certain class times, visit friends or go home for the weekend. I was assigned a mentor to check my planner once a week and had mandatory tutoring nearly every day. I had to sign in with a class checker outside of my classes. If I missed any mentoring, tutoring or class, I could be suspended from the team. This doesn’t seem that bad, but it was enough for me. I have always been a driven person inside the classroom and on the field, and I did not need tutors, mentors or class checkers to ensure my success. They actually got in my way and took away from my studying and sleeping time.

In addition, I hated the way competitive running made me feel. I was so burnt out and done with feeling like I had to prove myself. All my life, I would stress over running. What if my workout wasn’t good enough? What if I get injured or sick before the big day? What if I just get out-kicked and lose? I started thinking, ‘Why do I want to care about all of this for another four years?’ It doesn’t really matter. It only matters to those who are running. There is so much more to life, and I wanted to explore it.

I quit nearly a month into the season, and I have never regretted it. It’s one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Of course, quitting was hard. I did a 180-degree turn on my life, and I was stuck at a college where I lived with only athletes, and the only people I knew were athletes. I’m not going to lie — Georgia was rough. I left a lot and went and visited friends at my in-state college, UF. But I made some friends and got through it. That experience made me stronger and more appreciative.

It was also hard because running was a big part of my identity. I was known as “Alex the runner” to everyone who knew me from high school. My friends and family were so proud of their Division 1 SEC athlete.

After my freshman year at Georgia, I ended up transferring to UF. Here, I was just a student with a fresh start. And I have had an amazing year that I really appreciate. And that’s why I am so glad I walked away from my scholarship:

I earned a 4.0 during my first fall semester. That was a feat I had not achieved since my freshman year of high school. I’m not saying you can’t do sports and get a 4.0, but for me, I don’t think I could do sports and maintain this GPA. College was harder than high school, but I was not physically and mentally exhausted from running like I had always been. I put all of my competitive energy into school, and it paid off.

I joined Her Campus at Georgia and developed a passion for journalism and writing articles. I have continued this and now write for Her Campus UFL, and I plan to minor in communications. This is an interest I never knew I had until I explored my options in college.

At UF, I joined a sorority as a charter member. I gained a family of 200 sisters, some of which will be my best friends for life, and I also earned the position of internal philanthropy chairwoman. I chose this sorority primarily because our philanthropy is national partners with Girls on the Run. I was so intrigued by the chance to fundraise for a charity that seeks to instill confidence, value and joy in girls in third through fifth grade by the sport of running. I have always and will always love running, and getting involved with Girls on the Run was a great way for me to re-direct my passion.

In addition to coordinating and fundraising, I also get the chance to volunteer locally. I am a coach for Girls on the Run for the first time this semester, and I plan to coach every semester that I can. I interact with girls each week and teach them about confidence, self-worth, value and health. They work together and use running to help learn valuable life lessons about self-esteem, health, friendship and so many other things.

What I’m saying is that I have had so many opportunities to find myself and discover who I really am and what I really want in college. I have discovered new passions and re-directed my passion for running. I do not think I would be the same person or have these opportunities to find myself if I did not walk away from my running scholarship, and this is why I am so glad I did. Fellow collegiettes, do not be afraid to chase new dreams.