What next for graduating seniors? - USA Athletics Scholarships

What next for graduating seniors?


What next for graduating seniors?

The dust is now settling on what was another great season for the British and Irish athletes competing in the NCAA during the 2014/15 academic year, and most will be now taking some well-earned rest and recovery before heading back to do it all again in 2015/16. However, for around 20-25% of student athletes, there will be no more NCAA events, team outings, or study hall hours to look forward to, as something has changed – they graduated.

Graduation is an interesting time for all involved; the end of one (hopefully successful chapter) of life immediately signifies the beginning of something else. Whilst this can be a smooth process, what exactly that next phase involves is not always easy to figure out, and can result in ‘post America blues’. This basically involves returning home and procrastinating about what to do next as well as reminiscing about what you are now no longer part of.

What options are there once that G word happens?

Professional athlete

The ultimate aim for those who are entirely athletically focused and who achieved very highly whilst in the NCAA. Most likely this will involve financial support from a shoe company and / or funding from the national governing body, as well as being part of a full time professional training group. This can be done either in the UK or US, and following this path should give the athlete the best possible chance of continuing and building on the good work done in college. However, keep in mind that this fully professional option is realistically only going to be possible for athletes winning, or at the very least contending to win NCAA titles.

Full time employment

The ultimate transition to real life is of course getting a full time job and putting the years of academic study to good use and earning some money. This is quite often when the priorities of a graduating student athlete change and words like ‘career’, ‘mortgage’, or ‘family’ start being used more frequently. For most full time employment will involve working for a company, but it is also worth remembering that working self-employed is entirely possible. At this point athletics, which was previously a serious priority before, can often drift out completely, or instead remain in place but only as a hobby. The full time employment option is probably the path most gradated student athletes end up taking at some point within one to three years after finishing college.

Part time employment / part time athlete

This is a tough one to grasp and can be a real grey area. Graduation comes and goes, and the student athlete is still none the wiser as to what to do next. Athletics has gone very well and despite no professional offers being on the table, the athlete is still highly motivated to continue to train with complete focus and dedication. The obvious dilemma here is that without any fixed income it is difficult if not impossible to get by, but without time to train properly the prospects of further improvements are greatly reduced. How this can be done effectively is a tough question to answer, but we certainly believe that this is one area where the US are years ahead of the UK in terms of opportunities of this nature being available for post collegiate athletes.

Coaching / graduate assistantship

An obvious way to continue to live in that collegiate bubble is to get a job working in it as a coach. With such few full time coaching opportunities in UK available, collegiate coaching is becoming an increasingly attractive option for graduates wishing to pursue that career path, and we expect the numbers doing this to greatly increase over the next decade. A natural first step on to the coaching ladder will be for student athletes to work as ‘graduate assistants’, this is where a master’s degree is funded in return for a certain number of hours given towards coaching the team.


These are a few of the options that we and many others faced when we graduated from US universities. Our advice is what it is with everything we speak about – take your time and try to plan ahead as much as possible, trying to have as many open doors to choose from as possible.

Whilst on this this topic of what happens post America, there is one more athletic related point that is worth making. Critics of the collegiate system often point out that a failure for the majority of athletes to improve after their time in the US is a good reason not to go in the first place. We would argue the exact opposite to this. Having now looked at the options facing athletes upon graduation, it is clear to see that the regression many athletes face is in most cases no fault of the US system at all. In fact, it would be easier to criticise what was going on in the colleges if more athletes were returning home and improving, despite switching a near perfect training situation to one that is fitted in around a full time job and other chores of daily life.

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