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First Day of Class: Collegiate Student-Athlete Checklist

Students shaking hands with teacher on balcony in school

The first week of class is incredibly important for ALL college students, and even more so for athletes. Whether or not you are in-season, balancing academics with athletics is no easy feat even for those with strong academic backgrounds and organizational skills. Recognize that some instructors will have had issues with previous athletes and may unfairly put that experience on you. The best way to make a good impression and challenge any potential stereotypes and assumptions is to come prepared and organized. If you want to set yourself up for academic success, here are five essential first day/week actions:

1. Make a Strategic Impression: The first week of class is chaotic for everyone! Plan for it and don’t get caught up in the chaos. Know where your classes are and be there on time or early. If you are in season, come with your travel letter in hand and be prepared to discuss specifics. Introduce yourself to the instructor. Tell them your name and say you are a student-athlete. Ask if the instructor has a moment to discuss your travel letter, if not ask when is the earliest convenient time to discuss your travel dates and making up work in advance. First impressions are important, be strategic in yours! Even when not in season, it is still in your best interest to introduce yourself and manage that first impression which can help squash previously held assumptions and stereotypes.

2. Prepare to Discuss Travel Letter: If you are in season, get your travel letters and review before talking with instructors. Look at how much time you are missing and the dates in relation to the semester. Are you missing more time in the beginning or end or throughout? The more time you are missing the more prepared you need to be in your discussion. Initiate the discussion with a plan. Ask what the instructor prefers, would they like you to take quizzes/exams or turn in papers in advance? Show that you have thought about your absences and how they will affect you, the teacher, and the class. Most instructors will be pleased with your initiative and willing to work with you. If you find your instructor has to be prickly, try to ignore it and focus on “what you can do” to ease situation. Make a plan with your instructor and stick to it. Don’t make them remind you. Communicate with them early, often, and respectfully if travel changes or arises for post season play.

3. Follow-Up Email: After meeting your instructors, send a follow-up email later that day. Say it was nice meeting and how much you appreciate their time in working with you while in season. Invite them to email you if ever an issue arises. The point of this email is to re-enforce your positive first impression as well as your commitment to the class and responsibility in working around your athletic schedule.

4. Organize A Schedule: As soon as you have met all of your instructors and have your class syllabi and schedules, sit down and get organized. Whether you are a fan of physical calendars or phone calendars or diagrams or various apps for staying organized, sit down, make a plan, and put it in a calendar. Figure out when you will need to turn in assignments early or take quizzes/tests early. Look at when you will be travelling and need to study for a test or assignment due in the days following your return. Once you have your schedule figured out, don’t forget to look at it a couple weeks in advance so you know what is coming. Success in-season requires a strong and strategic offense.

5. Meet Other Students: Go out of your way to meet a few (or more) students in class. Knowing people in class is beneficial for many reasons. It eases anxiety in attending a class where you don’t know anybody. You can count on each other to cover what was missed when one or the other is absent. You already know a couple people for possible group projects. The list goes on….Strategically meeting other students early and often can only enhance your learning experience.

6. Identify Resources: There are literally hundreds of people on campus just sitting around waiting to help you with nearly every aspect of your college experience. Think about the subjects with which you may need extra help. Math lab? Writing Center? Language Center? Locate these resources on campus and be prepared to use them early and often when needed. Taking the time to get help in advance will beat playing catch up every single time. Although there are specific resources for student-athletes, try to incorporate help outside the athletic department. Many athletes feel isolated from classmates and peers because of their athletic identity and schedule. Seeking out places where you can meet and engage with students outside of sports will benefit you inside and outside of the classroom.

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