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Five Major Differences Between High School and College Sports

By Next College Student Athlete, 07/16/18, 12:00PM CDT

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There’s a whole new dimension added to practice when you’re in college

College coaches want to know schedules so they can maximize their training programs. You may even be required to participate in mandatory study hours.

We take a lot of leaps in life — the transition from high school to college is unquestionably a big one. And before heading to college, most recruits fail to realize that they may be going from being one of the best high school athletes in their area to “hopefully good enough” to get playing time on their college team.

It can be a little bit of a shock to the system. So, in order to set the right expectations, here are the five biggest differences you can expect when transitioning from high school to college sports:

1. Training is much more intense  

When you’re a freshman in college, you’re training on the same program as 21 and 22-year-olds, and they push you. Every practice is like an all-star game. It’s extremely rare for a freshman to be the best player on the team.

Read more: Are you good enough for college sports

2. Everyone is talented — not just you    

There’s a whole new dimension added to practice when you’re in college. Every player on the team is good, meaning your spot can be taken at any point. Think about it from coaches' point of view — this is a business for them and if you’re not performing, they’ll replace you. It’s not like high school where your coach is also your science teacher. This is their career and everything is much more competitive.

3. Your team is everything  

You’ll spend holidays with your team, live with them, have classes with them and travel with them. That’s why it’s so important to talk to the student-athletes at the colleges you’re interested in and learn more about them. The best time to do this is on an official or unofficial visit.

4. Free time is limited   

If you have class in the morning, followed by practice, rehab in the training room and then studying, you’re looking at an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. day. It’s all about time management. Your parents are there to guide you in high school, but in college you quickly learn how to manage your responsibilities.  

Read more: What’s it like to be a D1 athlete?

5. Your coach is more involved in your academics   

College coaches want to know schedules so they can maximize their training programs. You may even be required to participate in mandatory study hours. Some coaches receive bonuses based on how their team performs academically, so they take it pretty seriously.

Keep in mind that there are all kinds of options when you’re looking at different athletic programs and colleges. Division II, Division III and NAIA programs are less demanding than Division I and allow for more personal time. It’s important to understand which fit is right for you academically, athletically and socially.

Read more: The difference in the division levels

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