The Other Decision For Postsecondary Athletes

Pros-ConsAs a nineteen year old born in a foreign country, then to have immigrated to Canada, I have been fortunate enough to experience vast differences within the two countries when it comes to perspectives of sports and education.

I was born in South Korea, a country where a child’s success greatly depends on the post-secondary institution attended. As a result, the majority of students base their decisions on educational aspects. For roughly 9 years, I endured this system and had no complaints against it, as I believed this was the “way” it was done. As for sports, they were only pursued by those who would later make a living off of it in the future, and thus resulted in the majority of Korean students not partaking in school athletics. When I finally immigrated to Canada in 2002, I fell in love with the freedom that students received. There would be large amounts of students who played a vast number of sports for their respective schools and I for one, started criticizing the Korean system and its education-heavy focus.

Fast-forward 11 years later, the year where I had to make a decision on where to pursue my post-secondary studies, I started noticing a flaw in the Canadian system: Too many athletes based their decision on the quality of the athletic program rather than the educational aspect.

Throughout my High School career, I had the opportunity to experience great moments on sports teams, and also watch great athletes develop into local stars. Of course, these athletes blossomed further and had to make the same decision as I, on which school to attend in the upcoming fall. The only difference was that I completely focused my decision on the quality of the academic program at each institution whereas athletes focused mainly on the quality of the athletic program. This is where I believe the minds of Canadian athletes must think like their Korean counterparts. Contrary to the future “success” these athletes were told to have, I have noticed (or heard of) countless University/College athletes having difficulty finding jobs or have found a job that is completely irrelevant to their degree.

A recent study in 2014 reported that less than 2 percent of college athletes turn professional, with the other 98% having to adjust to lives they were not fond of. Knowing this, it would make perfect sense that athletes choose an institution that offers the best educational program that ensures a successful future. Yet, everyday thousands of athletes make their decision based on the quality of the athletic program and keep educational influences at the minimum.

Now, I am no career professional in any way, but I was able to experience both the life of a sports-focused athlete as well as an education-focused student, and in doing so, have come up with the following three recommendations to fellow athletes making their big decision:

1. Yes, Sports are fantastic, but are the four years of glory really worth possibly risking your future?

Sports are great, I understand, however you must be willing to draw up a plan that supersedes the next four years of your life. Even if you are the greatest athlete that a city has ever seen, you must prepare for the worst and have a backup plan that ensures success in another form.

From experience, institutions with a focused career center and a large alumni base provide a significantly better service when it comes to landing you a job. How do you know which institutions offer the best service? Check out the institution’s career services online and look at the number of opportunities that past alumni posted. Usually, graduates in hiring positions hire candidates from their Alma Mater, and a large number of postings signal connectedness between career centers and alumni.

Yes, I understand that a great athletic program is important, but it is equally, if not, more, to choose an institution where it will serve its main purpose – to get you a job.

2. Choose a program that you genuinely enjoy…. Not what is said to be the “lightest work-load”.

I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times but too many times have I heard college athletes say that they are studying “arts”, “psych”, “soc”, etc. Too many times have I heard these same athletes state that they hate their program or have no knowledge of the topic whatsoever. To clarify, I am not stating that the programs mentioned above are in any means the easiest but that these are the programs that the majority of athletes are enrolled in (in their defense, most post-secondary individuals, athlete or student, are studying arts). My recommendation here? Why not put in the same effort that you put into evaluating the athletic program into evaluating an academic program? Why not take the time to find out what your program actually consists of after school? When you’re taking that leap year to play sports, why not also take the time to actually find out what you enjoy doing? These are all great habits to have in making any decision so why not apply them to a decision of this magnitude?

3. Be Patient

Benjamin Graham, the father of Value Investing states “Can you really make money in them? Yes, if you don’t lose patience if they fail to advance soon after you buy them.”

The key point here is that, this decision is an investment in yourself, in which you must be intelligent, and patient. Schools are not going anywhere, and thus you should not be rushing decisions. You should most definitely weigh the pros and cons of each institution and come to a conclusion where you are clear about the decision you are making and its drawbacks. I would also like to note that having screened hundreds of resumes last summer, applicants who stated that they were a part of varsity sports were equally impressive. Basically, the fact that you played varsity sports is an accomplishment in itself so why not choose an institution that is renowned for your chosen major?

So when making that big decision, don’t limit the influences to the quality of athletic programs but also think of the other decision, and make sure to find the perfect medium where you will thrive for the next 60 years, not just the next 4. Good luck.

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    Christina 10 years

    this is worth a read, well written article!