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Penn student-athletes must carefully choose their classes to fit within practices, games, and travel. (Photo from Brandon Copeland) 

Being a student-athlete is no joke at Penn. Having to balance both academics and the commitment of a Division I athlete takes a lot of time management. 

On the academic side, athletes have to manage not only when they do their homework but also when their classes are scheduled. Because of this, athletes are strategic about picking classes because of practice times. 

“We usually get back to campus from the boathouse at 9:55, so you can take a 10 a.m. and risk it, but you will be late 70% of the time and never be able to shower,”  women’s crew team senior Leila Ashtaryeh said.

However, athletes can’t always avoid having their classes conflict with practices entirely. 

“Some specific classes are assigned to us at a date and time, like WH-101 my freshman fall, and I couldn’t avoid the conflict with that class and practice,” Meg Frantz, a senior on the women’s squash team, said.

Apart from athletes picking certain classes based on their practice schedule, there also seems to be a pattern in terms of athletes picking classes based on when their season is. Athletes take classes they think will be more of a challenge during their off-season. However, this is only true for fall and spring athletes, since their season falls only during one academic term. For winter sports athletes, their season is during both the fall and spring semester so they can’t pick their classes based on when their games are. 

“If I take a hard class in the fall, I know that school and athletics will pick up towards the end of the semester and if I take a hard class in the spring, usually that busy time occurs in February as the new semester picks up and the squash season starts to wind down,” women’s squash team senior Nicole Windreich said.

Because of this, winter sports athletes make sure to have a balanced course load each semester. 

“I try to balance my schedule with tough classes in my concentrations and requirements with some more fun and interesting elective classes,” Frantz said.

In addition to winter sports, there are some sports like rowing that occur both in the fall and the spring. 

“Since we practice and compete in both semesters, I don’t really change my course load. Fall semester is less intense for rowing but I still basically take the same classes,” women’s rowing team junior Chloe Rosenberg said.

However, with the pandemic hitting this year, athletes didn’t have as intense and rigorous seasons as in normal years, and some athletes took advantage of this new time. 

“For the elective classes part of my concentrations, I decided to take more difficult classes knowing I wouldn’t be practicing as much and competing this year,” Windreich said. 

In addition to being able to take harder classes, athletes didn’t have to worry about scheduling classes that would potentially conflict with practices. However, with spring sports starting practices this season, athletes are going to have to once again start managing their heavy load of academics and sports.