Making the Grade: Study Tips for Student Athletes

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By McKenna Ehrmantraut, Swimming World College Intern. 

The life of a college swimmer can become overwhelming as the new semester begins and they are in the middle of the most intense training of the season with conference meets and NCAAs right around the corner. While most swimmers just want to focus on food and sleep outside of the pool, it’s important to stay on top of academics as the new semester begins. You are after all a student-athlete.

Here are eight tips to help you make the grade this semester.

1.   Study Groups


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You’re more likely to study if someone else is holding you accountable! Gather your teammates (or friends outside of the pool) and find an empty classroom or study lounge to gather in a few times a week. Schedule the space/time so that you know this is time dedicated to homework. Upperclassmen can help younger students with difficult courses and everyone can benefit from a second pair of eyes on a homework assignment or paper due.


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2. Organization

Get a planner, and make sure you use it. Writing down what needs to be done and when it’s due will save so much unneeded stress and help you better manage your time and energy. On top of this, be sure to take notes in class and organize them in ways that help outside of the classroom. This could be as simple as flashcards or color coding the notes. Being organized from the beginning will not only simplify studying but also help ingrain facts and figures into your brain.

3. Avoid Procrastination


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Procrastination – the death of the student athlete. It’s easy to watch “just one more” episode of something, or click on that tempting ad on the side of an article, or look at one message on your phone and then realize that three hours have passed you by. As hard as it may be, resist all temptations of procrastinating during set study hours. Turn off your technology, set a timer to give yourself small breaks (time those too) and really focus on the task at hand during your study time.


Photo Courtesy: McKenna Ehrmantraut

4. Sleep

Student-athletes are told they need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep in order to stay at peak performance levels. This is a hard goal to hit for most college students. Between classes, homework, practices and eating, many swimmers are struggling to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep, but it’s vital to their performance both in the pool and in the classroom that they get more. This might mean doing homework in the hour between class and practice or taking thirty minutes for dinner instead of an hour. Utilizing your small chunks of time here and there are the key to getting things done so that you aren’t staying up until 2 a.m. finishing that ten-page essay and then having to wake up at four to go to practice.

5. Good Relationships with Professors


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Learn to love office hours, and yes, be a little bit of a teacher’s pet. If athletes work with their professors from the get-go, teachers will usually be very open to helping out when they miss class for a meet, if they’re struggling to finish an assignment on time, or if they just need a little extra help. Student-athletes need to be sure to notify them well in advance when they will be missing class, and be sure to ask if there is anything you can do to make up the work. Also, take advantage of their office hours: those thirty minutes of them reading over a paper may just save the grade.

6. Tutors


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Most schools have a program for students to get free tutoring, and many professors have an assistant who can help with class-specific work. Tutors have often taken the class you need help with and offer individual or small group sessions. Tutors can help students understand the grammar rules in foreign language classes, go over sticky math problems, or help you find a thesis and edit your papers. Ask your academic advisor or professor if you need help in locating a tutor on campus.

7. Goals


Photo Courtesy: McKenna Ehrmantraut

Swimmers are natural goal setters. Remember the first time you wrote your season time goals on your bedroom door so you could look at them every day? By the time college rolls around, athletes often forget to add a list of academic goals next to what times you want to hit during the season. If the goal is to get a B+ in a class, or to make it to all classes, or to get to know the teacher, write it down so that you’ll be reminded of what you want to get out of the semester. Hold yourself accountable in the pool and the classroom.

8. Ask for help


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Everyone needs help sometimes. Juggling swimming, school, a job, a social life and who knows how many clubs or volunteer activities is overwhelming, but instead of trying to handle everything that comes your way on your own, ask for help. It can be embarrassing to ask for help when you want to be in complete control over your life, but sometimes there’s just too much going on. Talking to someone – a parent, coach, friend or professor – can ease the burden and help you put things into perspective.

Balancing the life of a student-athlete can be tricky, but with enough hard work and dedication, it can be done. Good luck to all the student athletes as 2019 begins!

— All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. avatar

    I love the getting to know the prof. Always a great idea.