There are plenty of benefits of being an NCAA student-athlete in college. Although only a small percentage of student-athletes go on to play their sport professionally, there are still other advantages to playing a sport while pursuing your degree.
So, what makes NCAA athletics an enticing option for students who want to keep playing their favorite sport in college?
1. NCAA student-athletes learn employable life skills.
One of the key benefits of being an NCAA student-athlete is that the life skills you learn on the team are ones which job hunters are always searching for. Playing a sport in college is like having a full-time job on top of the rigorous academics. This demonstrates to employers that you have a strong work-ethic and great time-management skills, which makes you a highly-desirable job candidate. Moreover, student-athletes learn discipline, leadership, and teamwork skills that are invaluable when entering the workforce.
The NCAA also offers leadership and training programs to further develop these skills, like the Student Athlete Leadership Forum and the Career in Sports Forum. They also have an “After The Game” Career Center, which connects former student-athletes to discuss career advice and browse and post job openings in a variety of industries.
These skills are also useful in other areas of your life, like learning how to effectively balance your work and home lives. The attributes you develop in NCAA sports will serve you throughout all of your endeavors.
2. NCAA student-athletes build fundamental relationships.
Relationships are invaluable both during and after your college experience. It can be challenging to create social circles when attending a new college, but being on a sports team offers an instant “group” you can hang out and connect with right off the bat. Teammates often become friends for life, from groomsmen or bridesmaids in wedding parties to business partners in entrepreneurial endeavors.
When you join college sports, you’re meeting an elite group of teammates, coaches, staff, and professors who can provide advice, references, and networking opportunities. These people become a valuable and trusted network that you can call upon for years—even decades—after graduation.
Even if you’re not a student-athlete, your school colors are more than just the colors on your favorite sweatshirt—they become your network for life!
3. There are additional academic resources available to NCAA student-athletes.
Most schools offer tutoring programs specifically for NCAA student-athletes. This means that as an athlete, you’ll receive first-pick of the best tutors and teachers to ensure you’re feeling confident in your studies. The NCAA also provides state-of-the-art technology for athletes as well as access to exclusive academic advisors who offer NCAA athletes the best-possible opportunities for academic success.
Additionally, in a lot of colleges and universities, athletes have the advantage of registering for classes before everyone else. That’s because you will need to find classes that will work with your practice and game schedule. A positive side-effect of early registration is that you will have the pick of the litter to find classes that most interest you, with professors you’d love to learn from.
4. Some student-athletes receive financial assistance.
Division I schools can offer full athletic scholarships, and D-II schools can provide partial scholarships. All schools, including D-III, can have additional financial assistance programs to help their student-athletes fund their tuition, room and board, and other college expenses.
NCAA colleges give about $3.5 billion in academic scholarships to more than 180,000 student athletes every year. This encourages student-athletes to continue playing and learning with the knowledge that they won’t be stuck with substantial student loans after graduation. The NCAA also finances a Student Assistance Fund of about $86 million per year. This helps Division I athletes with essential needs like flying home for a family emergency, paying for certain injury-related expenses, or even buying books or a new winter coat.
The goals and principles of the NCAA aim to ensure that student athletes stay happy, healthy, and as free from stress as possible, including financial stress.
5. Should NCAA athletes be paid?
People often question whether NCAA athletes should be paid. Paying student-athletes with NCAA funds is not currently an approved practice, and the NCAA also doesn't allow individual schools or teams to pay student athletes, either.
When polled, 60% of college students believe salaries should be paid to all athletes, and 38% said salaries should be paid to athletes that play revenue-generating sports. NCAA paying athletes is definitely a hot topic for discussion, but it’s unlikely to happen any time soon, as it could impact the integrity of the game and the prioritization of education. It could also radically impact the professional sports world.
Recently, however, rules have changed regarding students’ ability to profit off of their NIL (name, image, likeness) in California—and the change will likely spread to other states as well. Learn more about the ins and outs of the NCAA allowing athletes to get paid for non-college related activities in this article: When Can We Expect the NCAA Football Video Game to Come Back?
6. NCAA student-athletes have access to wellness resources.
Health and wellness are important for every student, but unfortunately there aren’t always a lot of opportunities for students to find the wellness resources that they need. Student-athletes often have their own wellness programs to keep them fit and healthy, from dedicated stretching days and ice baths to available nutritionists and health professionals. Some D-I and D-II schools even provide unlimited meals and snacks to students to ensure they’re getting the caloric intake required to upkeep their rigorous fitness schedule.
The NCAA also focuses on keeping its student-athletes healthy through medical insurance (particularly for catastrophic injuries) and the Sport Science Institute for health and safety research. They also provide ongoing trainings regarding concussions, mental health, overuse injuries, long-term injuries, sexual assault prevention, and more.
7. NCAA student-athletes are more likely to graduate.
The NCAA reports that student-athletes have higher graduation rates than the average student body. In fact, in Division I schools, nearly 9 in 10 student athletes earn their bachelor’s degree. This is likely to do with all of the benefits we’ve mentioned: great academic and wellness resources, financial assistance, a strong work ethic, and relationships that keep students on track and happy.
Learn how to prepare yourself as a college-bound student-athlete to get the most of your experience.
8. NCAA student-athletes get tickets to the big games.
It may seem like a small benefit, but this can actually be a huge advantage come gameday. Student-athletes usually get an allotment of tickets so their families can come watch them play. That means they even get great seats to playoff games and March Madness. When it’s hard to secure those prime-time seats in the electric atmosphere of the stadium, NCAA student-athletes still get first-pick.
Being an NCAA student-athlete is challenging, but worth it.
College athletics take a lot of time, commitment, and perseverance. Being a college athlete is like having a full-time job on top of maintaining athletics, a social life, and any other hobbies or interests. We commend all student-athletes, and we are inspired by their passion and drive. Even with all that hard work, 90% of former student athletes, surveyed 10 years after eligibility, report that they were happy with their college experience. It’s worth it for a lot of students who really love their sport.
Show support for the student athletes at your school by repping your campus colors at the games! Choose your school here to find the coolest merch for showing pride for your college!