Earlier this year, the NCAA announced that student-athletes at its Division I schools have continued to make gains in the classroom, earning all-time high scores during the most recent measurement of the Academic Progress Rate (APR). The 2014-2015 overall four-year APR for DI schools was 979 (out of 1000 possible points)—a one point increase from the prior year.
This is great news, and the success of these schools and their student-athletes should be commended. But what additional gains can realistically be made with respect to the overall four-year APR of Division I colleges? What happens when it reaches 985 or 990? Will student-athletes really be noticeably better off at that point?
It would appear that student-athlete APR attainment is reaching its apex—and, at a time where less than 30% of college seniors have jobs in hand upon graduating, a college’s APR no longer seems like a sufficient measurement of a student-athlete’s success. Where, then, should athletic departments and their student-athlete support staff divert their attention and efforts?
More and more, athletic departments are looking beyond simply graduating student-athletes and keeping them academically eligible. Today, forward thinking universities have shifted their focus toward readying student-athletes for life beyond college. This means committing additional resources to their professional and career development, including new tools to connect them with employers.
The time is certainly right for colleges to adopt a broadened interpretation of student-athlete development that includes their success beyond college. At a recent NCAA DI Presidential Forum, the DI Board of Directors identified future priorities for overseeing student-athlete development including “ensuring that the academic studies of college athletes align with career ambitions, and engagement, integration and life skills for student-athletes.”
In addition, the NCAA recently announced that it will distribute $200 million for DI schools in 2017, earmarked for programs that benefit student-athletes. These programs are designed to exceed the minimum academic requirements and focus on more substantive objectives like a student-athlete’s “financial literacy and mental health.”
Many schools have already embraced a more holistic approach to developing their student-athletes for success beyond college. For example, schools like the UNC, USC, and VT have introduced career development programs that help student-athletes improve their resumes and provide them with internship opportunities. These schools and many others have recognized that career outcomes are ultimately one of the most important indicators of successful student-athlete development.
Assisting student-athletes as they make the transition into the professional world is the new objective of forward-thinking student-athlete development staff. Here are a few ways (and associated resources) to help student-athletes bridge the gap between athletics and the professional world:
- Offer a resume and cover letter workshop (here are some resume design and writing best practices)
- Conduct mock job interviews to prepare them for the real thing (here are some tips for conducting constructive mock interviews)
- Organize a networking event to help them build a professional network and find internship/job opportunities (here are some ideas for organizing a successful networking event)
These are just a few of the many ways to improve career outcomes for student-athletes. What are other best practices or suggestions for helping student-athletes successfully make the transition into the professional world? Leave us a comment below and share your experiences.