The 5 Best Colleges for Student Athletes

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Student athletes have no shortage of options when it comes to choosing the right college. Take a look at some of the country's top choices when it comes to academics and athletics.

Choosing a College As an Athlete

Making the jump from high school to college is already a difficult transition, but making the adjustment as a student athlete can be even more complicated. In addition to considering your academic future, you need to choose the school that's best suited to your athletic goals (no pun intended).

While the ''best'' school is different for every athlete, the following list contains a sampling of schools that have a reputation for being excellent both on the field and in the classroom.

1) University of Maryland

The University of Maryland sits just outside of Washington, D.C., and competes in the Big Ten Conference. The Terrapins (or Terps for short) are dominant in several categories; their lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer teams have all won recent national championships in both the men's and women's categories.

Athletes in college playing soccer

Maryland also maintains a commitment to helping athletes develop their after-college careers. The school's career center offers plenty of support, ranging from career counseling to job boards to mock interviews. The school also hosts an annual job fair that allows college athletes to speak with prospective employers and determine potential careers for the future.

2) Yale University

Yale's status in the academic world is unquestioned, but what many people might not know is just how competitive and successful the school is in terms of its athletic program. For example, the Bulldogs' football team, one of the oldest in the country, first began competing in 1872. The Bulldogs have won 27 national championships and produced two of the first three Heisman Trophy winners.

Both varsity athletes and students interested in recreational opportunities can enjoy a variety of facilities on and around the scenic campus, including:

  • Gales Ferry
  • Gilder Boathouse
  • Ingalls Rink (ice hockey)
  • Reese Stadium (lacrosse, soccer)
  • Yale Bowl (football)

Not to be forgotten is Yale's academic pedigree. U.S. News & World Report ranked Yale #3 among national universities, and its economics program is routinely ranked among the country's best.

3) Louisiana State University (LSU)

Louisiana State University competes in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and fields a number of elite teams in a range of sports. As with most southern schools, football is the top sport here, but college athletes who play golf, basketball, and baseball will find a winning tradition and vibrant campus at LSU.

The on-field experience is supplemented by an impressive campus, which in many ways, resembles a small city. When you're not relaxing at home, you can take advantage of LSU's recreational facilities, which include a rock-climbing wall, pool, and indoor soccer fields.

For any injuries, sports-related or otherwise, LSU's Student Health Center affords access to mental health counselors, health educators, and registered dietitians, all of whom are located on campus.

College student speaking with counselor

4) Duke University

Located in North Carolina, Duke University is one of the country's most prestigious private schools. In addition to its men's basketball team, one of the top programs in the country, Duke features impressive golf, baseball, and lacrosse teams, meaning that athletes will have plenty of opportunities to continue their careers.

On the academic side, Duke's impressive academic record is supported by its student services, provided by academic advisors, tutors, and the William R. Perkins Library, which is among the nation's top ten private university library systems.

college students working in advanced library

On a more personal level, students also have access to counseling and psychological services. This makes Duke a top destination not only for athletic development, but also for academic and personal development.

5) Stanford University

Stanford University represents perhaps the most impressive mix of athletic competitiveness and academic prowess. Stanford has won the Directors' Cup, an award given to the most successful overall intercollegiate athletic department in the nation, for 23 consecutive years.

The school competes in the Pacific-12 Conference and has amassed a whopping 107 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships: 61 in men's sports and 46 in women's sports. Stanford is known for its elite tennis, swimming, and golf teams, and its football team is routinely ranked in the AP Top 25.

Off the field, Stanford also boasts a reputation as one of the top schools in the country. The most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings placed Stanford in seventh place among national universities. The school's business, engineering, and mathematics programs are all among the country's best.

Making the leap from high school grad to college athlete isn't an easy task, but it's not one that you have to do on your own. This guide from Study.com on transitioning from high school to college offers helpful tips and tricks to make the move a smooth one.

By Bill Sands
September 2018
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