This article gives a first-hand perspective from a current college tennis player on making the transition from high school to college
When I was going through the college tennis recruiting process, it sometimes felt as though my “end goal” was committing to a tennis program rather than successfully transitioning from high school to college. After reflecting on my experience, both academically and in terms of tennis, I can sum up my adjustment to college in four words: exciting, challenging, rewarding, and scary. Here are some thoughts about my transition to college and how I have learned to balance tennis and academics at an elite academic institution.
I was very nervous about going to school, and I worried that I needed to find friends right away. When I got to college, though, I realized that being on the tennis team meant that I already had a built-in group of friends on campus. Although many of the friends I have made on campus are not on the tennis team, I felt relatively little pressure to meet people immediately. In that way, playing college tennis made the social adjustment to college easier for me than it would have been otherwise.
I remember my freshman year roommates and many of my classmates participating in social and extracurricular events that I could not attend because of tennis commitments. Most of the time, I did not feel like I was missing out because I was so excited to be playing tennis with my teammates. Nonetheless, accepting the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and that I had to make decisions about the events that I did and didn’t participate in was an important part of my adjustment to college. And, as time has gone on, I have been able to slowly but steadily increase the ways in which I am involved in campus life outside of tennis.
Learning to advocate for myself was also an important part of my transition from high school to college. During my first semester, I realized that some of my professors held office hours during times that conflicted with tennis practice. In order to prioritize my academic work and simultaneously fulfill my tennis obligations, I asked two of my professors if they would be willing to meet with me at times other than their standard office hours. Although I was initially nervous that my requests would not be received well, both professors were very accommodating. In fact, they even seemed excited that I wanted to ask questions about the course material. Since my first semester, I have become even more comfortable asking for help when I need it, and I would advise freshmen to advocate for themselves by reaching out to professors when necessary.
Once classes started, I felt excited about the freedom that came with college classes. I loved that I did not have to spend as much time in class as I did in high school, as much of my course work was assigned as homework. While the freedom to complete my work on my own schedule was a luxury, it also forced me to plan my time responsibly. If I were to give one piece of advice to an incoming freshman about the transition to college, I would advise them to avoid missing class. Even though attendance is not taken in most of my classes, showing up to class was and continues to be the easiest way for me to stay on top of my workload.
During the spring tennis season, managing academic work and a busy match schedule has been both difficult and fun. During the heart of the season, I feel like I eat, go to class, do my schoolwork, work my on-campus jobs, go to tennis, sleep, and repeat. While I sacrifice some time that I might spend socializing if I were not playing tennis, my tennis and social experiences at school feel interconnected. Many of my fondest college memories thus far are of team meals, bus rides, and early morning walks to team lifts. This past season, I had three instances when I could not attend practice the day before a match (twice because of academic commitments and once because of a non-tennis extracurricular commitment). Because I attend a college in which academics are prioritized over athletics, I was able to miss team practice and communicate with my coach to set up a separate practice time with one other teammate on each of those three occasions.
Throughout college thus far, balancing rigorous academics and tennis has been both rewarding and challenging. In my busiest moments, I occasionally wonder whether college life would feel easier without tennis. Those moments are always short-lived, though, as tennis has been the highlight of my college experience. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to continue to play competitive tennis while also receiving an education at a great school. I’ve always loved tennis, but for me, college tennis has been the highlight of my tennis career because I am playing for my team rather than just for myself. Playing college tennis is a big commitment, but the joys of competing on a team with some of my closest friends have made that commitment feel completely worthwhile to me.
Donovan Tennis Strategies
Donovan Tennis Strategies has been helping prospective college tennis players and their families navigate the recruiting process since 1997. In addition to consulting services DTS runs two College Prospects Showcases to help players get exposure to college coaches.