By Emily Watts, Chapman University, Class of 2018
Being a student athlete often comes with additional layers of responsibility and pressure. Not only does the collegiate athlete feel the need to perform in the classroom, but she also knows it is her job to perform on the field, on the court, or in the pool. It takes a specific kind of person to be able to develop the time management skills needed to balance athletics and academics at the college level.
Collegiate-level athletes are expected to maintain a minimum GPA in their courses, conduct themselves in a manner that positively reflects the school, and execute their athletic aptitude to the best of their abilities. This often burdens many college students who find it challenging to balance the demands of a stressful academic schedule with the demands of their coach.
As a student-athlete at Chapman University, I have felt those stresses and pressures over the past three years. As I get ready to start my senior year of college, I realize that although being a collegiate athlete was at times challenging, the experiences and skills I have developed over the past three years have shaped me into the individual that I am today. I think part of my success was that when I was first researching colleges, I knew I wanted to compete, but I also knew that I was going to college first to get an education and second to play soccer. That’s why I selected a Division 3 school; at the D3 level, a student is provided with the balanced opportunity to focus on education and sports in a way so that the two coincide with each other, instead of overlapping. Division 1 schools, on the other hand, are famous for placing a greater emphasis on athletics than academics, so the Division 1 athletes often face impossible demands; while Division 3 schools promote a harmonious balance between the two.

At Chapman, I have always felt that my education is my primary objective; however, as a member of an athletic team, I have developed a deeper connection to my school, proven to myself that I could balance the many demands placed on me, and continued to compete in a sport that I have played for nearly my entire life. I wouldn’t change that for anything.
Ultimately, for the student who values their education and sport equally, becoming a Division 1 athlete may not be practical. Playing a sport at a Division 2 or 3 (or at a NAIA school) may grant the student the time and freedom to be a college student, as well as to be an athlete for their school. Yes, sports do require an extra level of responsibility and commitment in college; however, with the right mindset, athletics at the collegiate level can enhance a student’s college experience.