Jan 29, 2015Making College Count
Part of being an athletic training student is always being on the run. That’s okay, as long as you make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
By Dr. Debbie Bradney & Dr. Tim Laurent
Debbie Bradney, DPE, ATC, is an Assistant Professor in Athletic Training at Lynchburg College. Tim Laurent, EdD, ATC, is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for Athletic Training and Exercise Physiology at Lynchburg College.
As a college student, you are constantly pulled in numerous directions. First and foremost, you have your academic work and clinical experiences needed for graduation and certification. Then there are various co-curricular activities. On top of that, family and friends want to spend time with you. You may even have a job to help pay for college expenses.
With so much going on, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of getting everything done. But this can lead to losing sight of the big picture and forgetting why you’re in college.
These are important years in your life and taking time to decide what you want from them will help guide you in the right direction toward a successful career. While there’s no one magic formula that will work for everyone, there are some common ingredients you can mix to find the right recipe for you.
Set your priorities. Think about your ultimate purpose for attending college. Examine your personal and career aspirations. Where do you want to be in five, 10, and 20 years? Don’t worry if you have some doubts or conflicted feelings. The idea is to think about what you want, not lock yourself into an unbreakable path.
These goals can then help you decide which activities are most important. For example, an athletic training student planning for a career in a high school setting will probably need to consider education classes and teaching certification while someone looking at a career at the collegiate or professional levels won’t.
Know your limits. In an ideal world, you would be able to partake in everything college has to offer. In the real world, you have to pick and choose the activities that will benefit you the most.
Let’s say you’re working with the men’s basketball team. As the fall semester winds down, you receive invitations to holiday parties, including one for the track team you also work with and another for a family party. You know you need to focus on getting your academic and clinical work done first. You also figure you can take a couple of hours to go to the track team party, but it might be too much to travel home for the family party. So you decide to stay focused on school until finals are complete.
Learn to say no. In a desire to be helpful, it’s easy to quickly say yes when asked if you can help with a task or project. But you don’t want to rush into commitments that will conflict with those you’ve already made. The last thing you want to do is add more tasks to an already full schedule, which will leave you unable to do a good job on any of them. Keep in mind that your performance is a reflection of you.
Sometimes you may even have to say no to something that’s in line with your priorities. For example, your head athletic trainer asks for your help doing inventory of the athletic training room during midterms. You really respect the head athletic trainer and are constantly striving to impress her, but you have three midterms in the next four days. You need to tell her that you cannot help at this time, but you would love to another time when you aren’t facing so many exams. After all, failing a midterm is not the way to impress the head athletic trainer.
Connect work and academics. Look for internships and clinical experiences that are similar to your ideal job. Work hard during your practical experiences and ask good questions. Your supervisors can be excellent references for jobs or graduate school since they can view you as a potential colleague. Their perspective will be invaluable to you and your future supervisor. Who knows, they may even be in a position to offer you a job down the road.
Track your activities. Try to update your resume at least once a year to ensure you have accurate information. This is much easier than trying to look back over your entire college career at once. Doing so also allows you a chance to review what you’ve done in the past year and determine if there are other activities you need to include in the future.
Be prepared for change. Many changes are expected and come at regular intervals, such as a new class schedule each semester. Others are unanticipated, such as changes in test dates, unscheduled practices to cover, or sudden illnesses. In any case, the best way to deal with it is patience and a positive attitude. Avoid wasting time and energy complaining about the changes–rarely will that accomplish anything except to slow you down.
And remember, even good changes can be hard to handle. Let’s say you’re working with the baseball team, which comes out of nowhere to win the conference tournament and qualify for a national playoff berth. Sure, it’s exciting and a great learning experience to work with a playoff-bound team, but if the tournament coincides with final exams you will have to balance the demands of both or skip the playoffs.
Learn to monotask. Today’s technology has allowed some people to turn multitasking into an art form. They can pound out text messages on their phone and trade instant messages with friends while watching TV and studying for a test.
Although some may see the ability to multitask as a positive quality, often doing a single task well and then moving on to the next is much more effective than simultaneously working on several things. It takes your brain time to adapt from one task to another so it can actually take longer to do two things at once than if you did each separately. You may also do a better job, especially on a complex task, if you focus your attention fully on it.
This may mean turning off your e-mail or cell phone while writing a paper or studying for a test. If you know that the thought of messages piling up in your in-box will distract you, schedule predetermined times no more than once an hour to check your phone and e-mail. Few messages are so important that they can’t wait an hour for a reply.
Share your goals. Although they don’t mean to, well-intentioned family and friends can interfere if they don’t know what your goals are. It’s hard for your family to understand why you can’t come home for the weekend if they don’t know how important it is for you to stay and work the regional track meet. Sharing your priority list allows those around you to accommodate rather than hinder your progress.
Build personal time in to your schedule. With everything you have going on, don’t forget to take time for yourself. This can mean almost anything that will make you feel good–reading a book, working out, watching a movie, or taking a nap. These little breaks from student life can help you maintain your mental and physical health and give you the energy you need to get through the stressful times.
College should be fun, but always keep your ultimate goals in mind. Getting an education is a means to an end, and by setting and following your priorities, you exponentially increase your chances of reaching your aspirations.