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The transition from high school to college is a considerable one often met with uneasiness. The shift in academics and lifestyle is difficult enough, and student-athletes may feel unprepared for their athletic transitions as well. There are several key differences between high school and college sports, and with these in mind, students will be better prepared for the transition once it comes.

Training is Intense and Competitive

Freshmen entering as athletes will be on the same teams—and training programs—as their upperclassmen peers. As a result, freshmen will be expected to hold their own against 21 and 22-year-old players in training sessions and scrimmages. These expectations, paired with more frequent, longer practices will serve to make training more intense.

In addition to the demand of training itself, talented players add another dimension to practices. While some students on the team in high school may have not taken the sport or games so seriously, at collegiate levels, all players are talented and driven. This, along with the fact that coaches have made careers out of their roles, creates a more competitive environment.

Team Bonds are Stronger

While high school sports certainly cultivate a sense of community among team members, college teams become considerably close-knit. In addition to training and academic sessions, there may be more traveling required to play or compete at the collegiate level. As a result of this frequent proximity, teams develop significant bonds. Many academic breaks are also spent competing, which further solidifies camaraderie.

There Will be Limited Free Time

High school athletes may have experienced balancing their academics and sports, but college may prove more rigorous and pose a difficult challenge. Though some college athletes may only have three one-hour courses per day, each class requires more study and preparation than high school courses, which consumes time outside of class meetings. Balancing practices, homework, and living requirements that may have been completed by parents during high school—such as laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, and cleaning—requires acute time management.

Academics Will Also Play a Significant Role

Certain college programs may implement stringent academic requirements for athletes. Students may be required to maintain a core GPA of a 2.0, 3.0, or higher in order to remain on a team, and college programs may incorporate GPA minimum requirements in order for students to maintain their athletic and academic scholarships. As a result, college coaches will place emphasis on their players’ academics, often orchestrating mandatory study halls and other academic events.

While the transition between high school and college athletics appears daunting, with the proper preparation, student-athletes can successfully make the shift.