Is the Perception of the College Student Athlete Fair?

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by Jaelan Leonard

The notion of the college student athlete can be often times misconceived. The actions of a few individuals and universities has given the student athlete a false narrative of entitlement.

For many who don’t know, the term “student-athletes” refers to enrolled students who play college sports and are engaged in extracurricular activities that enhances their education. According to NCAA.org, more than 480,000 students compete as NCAA athletes and just a select few within each sport move forward to compete at the professional or Olympic level.

While student athletes may not be perceived to be as academically savvy as other students, the facts disprove this notion. The likelihood of an NCAA athlete earning a college degree is significantly greater than other students; graduation success rates for athletes are significantly high. 86% in Division I, 71% in Division II and 87% in Division III are the latest graduation rates among student athletes. Many individuals applaud student athletes for working hard to create a name for themselves within their sport but based on these recent graduation numbers it’s obvious to see that athletes should start receiving more recognition for their work in the classroom.

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Many individuals feel as though student athletes are held to a certain standard that regular students are not just because they are being paid to play a sport at a college or university. There have been some occasions where student athletes would not admit to a professor that they play a sport because of the possibility that they would be treated differently than a regular student.

“ I believe it is unfair that student athletes are perceived negatively on campus when there are so many things that student athletes do that can be perceived in a positive way,” said Mallory Pitchford, a sophomore student at Hampton University.

The majority of student athletes and the majority of regular students coexist in order to achieve the same goal: gaining a college degree. Many regular students and teachers don’t mind having student athletes in the classroom as long as they see that they are hard working.

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“Many of my friends are student athletes and are very hard workers. Our campus doesn’t really have a problem stereotyping student athletes because many enjoy having them around,” said Dominik Patterson, a junior student at Hampton University. “I feel as though they may think it would be boring not having them around.”

In the end, student athletes and regular students share a common bond. The willingness to try to learn and to try to succeed is shared among all college students. So the next time you make the mistake of indulging in the typical student athlete stereotype, ask yourself are you really believing the truth. Even the NCAA states,” Student-athletes must, therefore, be students first.”

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