Getting your MBA as a college athlete

As the college sports world continues to return to post-pandemic operations, many student-athletes who would have exhausted their four years of eligibility find themselves in a unique situation. 

Traditionally, college athletes have four years of eligibility to compete in their sport, with many taking a redshirt season due to injury or to acclimate to student-athlete life during their first season. With the impact of COVID-19 on college seasons, the NCAA granted student-athletes an extra year to finish their athletic eligibility which means they can continue to compete after finishing an undergraduate degree.

Many student-athletes are now taking the opportunity to continue playing their sport while returning to campus for a post-bachelor’s or secondary degree with their extra eligibility. And there are many degree programs to choose from, including Point Loma’s Daytime Master of Business Administration

Why college athletes make good MBA students 

College student-athletes make good MBA students simply because they’re dedicated to finishing their degree and are capable of balancing a rigorous schedule. Many student-athletes have competed their full four years at a university while playing a sport, meaning they can balance a schedule while performing both in the classroom and in their sport at the highest levels. Many MBA programs are just as rigorous and require students who can handle demanding schedules. Many student-athletes finishing four years of undergraduate work are poised to move into a graduate program and have the work ethic needed to be successful in a high-pressure MBA learning environment.

Student-athletes also often work well in team settings. Most MBA programs require students to work within a team setting fairly often to simulate department projects and deadlines you’ll work on with your team in the corporate world. Former experience working on a team with others toward a common athletic goal translates well to an MBA group project setting. You may even find that your skills as an athlete make you a good natural leader in a group environment.

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NCAA eligibility rules 

In August of 2020, the NCAA voted to give student-athletes an additional year of eligibility among other items to mitigate some of the negative impact to their traditional seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, student-athletes have five years to complete their four years of eligibility for their sport. With the NCAA ruling, student-athletes have an extension on both of those items.

To continue playing your sport in graduate school while completing an MBA program, you’ll need to speak with your athletic academic advisor and your major advisor to make sure your units and program work for your sport. Your advisors will be able to help you remain academically eligible to play your sport by familiarizing you with the specifics of your program. 

For example, some graduate programs require you to enroll in fewer units than undergraduate programs to be considered full time. You must be at least full time to be eligible to play your sport, but the amount of units required to be considered full time will be different depending on the program.

Can you play college sports as an MBA student? 

Yes you can, but there are some stipulations. For instance, the NCAA allows college student-athletes to participate in post-bachelor’s degree programs as long as they’re in what the program considers full-time units. However, it’s important to research all of the options available as each program has its own requirements. Many MBA programs can take up to two years to finish, often meaning that a student-athlete will exhaust their remaining year of eligibility and potentially scholarship coverage before finishing their program. Other programs like PLNU’s Daytime MBA program offer flexible programming designed to be completed in a year. 

Beyond NCAA regulations, it’s also important to consider your time when looking at graduate programs. Be realistic about your practice and competition schedule. Will you be able to make a regular season schedule work with your graduate classes? Does the program offer any flexibility with professors, tests, essays, and class sessions that will allow you to compete in your sport while participating in the program? If you can’t fully participate in the program while playing, then you’re not making the best use of your time or money.

Steps to earn your MBA as a college athlete 

Earning your MBA as a college athlete is a fairly straightforward process, especially if you’re planning on remaining at the same university where you earned your undergraduate degree. Many MBA programs will waive your application fee, and some will even offer a discount if you’re continuing your studies with your alma mater.

The first step is to meet with your major or academic advisor to find the right graduate program. Consider one-year programs first as they provide the most bang for your buck. For instance, PLNU’s Daytime MBA program can be completed in 12 months. Many other programs can also be completed in 12 or 18 months. This will ensure that you’re using all of your eligibility in the most efficient way. 

The second step is to talk with your coach or coaches about your plans to continue playing and finishing a post-bachelor’s degree. Coaches, academic advisors, and compliance officers for your university should all be on the same page with you on your graduate school plans. These individuals will help ensure that you’ill remain eligible while you complete your classes. Once you’ve decided on a program and spoken to everyone, you can move forward with the application process.

Fifth-year MBA programs for athletes

Many universities offer pipelines from their undergraduate business programs directly into a Master of Business Administration graduate program. Universities recognize that student-athletes with an extra year of eligibility are uniquely poised to take advantage of this opportunity. 

PLNU makes it especially easy to move from your undergraduate programs into the Daytime MBA program. You simply have to fill out the application online. While this program requires the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), you can often work with a program coordinator to get it waived.

Many other universities in the San Diego area also offer MBA programs, but you’ll want to make sure the one you go with works with your academic eligibility requirements for your sport. It’s important to meet with an academic or program advisor and work with someone in athletics as well to ensure that the program you choose will work for your extra year of eligibility.