Transitioning from high school to college comes with a lot of new responsibilities. Suddenly, you’re on your own. Your parents aren’t waking you up if you miss your alarm, no one is preparing meals to meet your specifications, teachers aren’t holding your hand through assignments and tests – and who knew how time-consuming laundry could be?! On top of this, you’re upping the soccer ante, competing daily in practice and strength sessions, traveling for games, and adjusting to a new team and its norms. As a new freshman, you’re likely to become overwhelmed at first. You’re looking after yourself in this brand new collegiate world and you’re navigating every challenge solo. Here are some tips to ease the transition, help you settle in more quickly and find a new routine that works!
It’s tempting to forget that you’re primarily a student, especially when arriving on campus for preseason 4-6 weeks before classes begin. However, try to remember that you are a student first and foremost. Academics should be priority number one and you need to maintain a minimum GPA to even compete on an NCAA team. Furthermore, you chose the college for the goals you want to achieve. Make sure you’re putting your future self on the best possible path by taking the right courses, working hard in the classroom (and the library) and fostering good relationships with professors.
Get – and use! – a Planner
We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so important we must bring it up again: Get. A. Planner. As a student-athlete, your time is limited and your success is dependent upon your time-management skills. Whether you decide to use a free list-keeping app like Todoist or Trello, or you prefer to go old-school with a paper planner, be sure to include your practice regimen, class schedules, soccer travel, and major deadlines (think: midterms, term papers, oral presentations). Having a visual reminder will help you keep track of all your to-do list items and enable you to take full advantage of the limited free time you do have.
Take “Me” Time
Self-care is no joke. With a new roommate (or three!), a grueling fall season and an intense academic course-load, you’ll no doubt feel the need to take some “me” time away from everyone. This is totally normal and also quite necessary for our overall health. Find ways to treat yourself: a massage, a nice meal out, a yoga class, or even just quiet time alone to read something you love. Being part of a team is wonderful, but it can be all-consuming. It’s important to carve out time to recharge your batteries and check in with yourself and your emotions so you’re refreshed and ready to go when the time comes.
Join a Non-Athletic Group
I know, I know. Your time is limited as it is! But hear me out – joining a school club outside of soccer will help you form friendships and connections unrelated to sports, which can be a really good thing. By doing this, you’ll create a social refuge for yourself away from soccer – a network of people who won’t care if you had a bad practice or missed the shot. Clubs usually meet once every few weeks so the time commitment won’t be huge, you’ll make new friends, and have some bonus extra-curriculars on your resume when it comes time to apply for internships and jobs. Win-win-win!
While it may take more time than you’d like or expect, keep in mind that eventually, you will adjust to campus life. It can be tempting to compare yourself to the fun and carefree photos that other college students will post, but remember that everyone experiences an adjustment period. If you find that time has passed and you’re still struggling, you can always reach out to your school’s counseling services, which are free and confidential. The professionals there have the tools and resources to support you even further and can help get you feeling more at home on campus.
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Katie Giberson is an educator, a coach, and a former professional athlete whose own college soccer journey provides valuable perspective when advising clients in her role as CBW Soccer Elite's Head of Recruiting. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.