6 am in the morning and the alarm clock goes on. You gotta get to the field house by 6.30am for practice. You barely slept 5 hours because you stayed up late finishing the homework for organic chemistry, which you are still unsure if your answers are correct. After practice you have to go to 9am physical chemistry class. It is 10am and you are already mentally and physically exhausted.
This was my rough start of the morning being a biochemistry major and a student athlete. While it might look like a miserable time, being a student athlete builds a lot of excellent traits that are well suited for high pressure situations. These qualities are specially helpful if you are trying to, like me, go to grad school after your undergrad.
- Time management; While being a student athlete your schedule is really tight. There is barely a moment in which you can relax (if you wanna be successful in school). Time management often means understanding what tasks are more important and which ones you need to expend more time on. In grad school, this quality is key for success, as you may have to juggle multiple projects and assignments at the same time.
- Endurance; One of the first things that I heard when joining the biochemistry PhD program at Texas A&M was that grad school it is not a sprint, but a marathon. And it is definitely true. As student athletes, we have been trained to keep working no matter what. Grad school will be challenging from different perspectives, but as long as you keep fighting, youhave more chances of success.
- “Cool under pressure”; Most successful athletes are the ones that can remain calm and focus under tough environments. In grad school you will find yourself daily with rough situations. Whether it is writing a grant, a paper, a critical experiment or a committe meeting, you will always be challenged on a difficult scenario. Using a game like mentality and being ‘cool under pressure’ it is something that has really helped me in many ways through my PhD career so far.
- Team work; As student athletes, you depend on your teamates for the success of the overall team. That leads to the understanding that you cannot do everything by yourself and you do need to cultivate a good relationship with your partners. Similar situation is seen in grad school; you do need to collaborate to better yourself and your organization. The happier the relationship is with your group, the more success you will experience in grad school.
While all of these qualities can be achieved in many different ways, they are traits that are needed every day on the life of a student athlete. Having those characters engraved on the philosophy of a person is an excellent tool for the success of an individual, specially in high pressure environments, such as grad school.
---Borja Barbero Barcenilla
Borja Barbero Barcenilla is a doctoral student in the Department of Biochemistry