To be a better student or a better athlete?


Tim Baffoe

Study and work harder in your classes than on the field, argues senior J.J. Kuptel.

Which would you rather be: a great athlete with a pro career on the horizon, or be a top student with a future career in law, medicine, finances, or engineering? 

100% of the time it benefits someone to be a better student than an athlete.  College graduates make a good amount of money. It is true that throughout a lifetime of a college graduate, even in lower-paying jobs, like teaching, will do much better than a non-graduate. People who don’t have a college degree can have jobs that pay well but in most cases, the college graduate or top student will do better financially than a non-graduate.

“In some cases, salary increases most likely reflect these unique times,” says Shawn VanDerziel executive director of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers. 

An example of this would be a chemical engineer who starts out at an annual salary of $72,713. The examples of top students were just examples that do not include every field. There are many top students who choose various fields of employment.

“Technical majors typically are the highest paid as they are usually the highest in demand,” says Andrea J. Koncz, NACE research manager. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an increase in salaries for science, technical, biology, and engineering.

Other jobs with high salaries are lawyers or doctors, both of who require extra education. Lawyers must graduate from law school and pass the bar exam. Doctors must go to medical school and also pass the MCAT. Salaries for these professions depend on location. 

Law or medical degrees require extra education and extra costs. These costs are easily paid back over the course of one’s professional life as a doctor or lawyer. 

Some would argue that professional athletes would make much more money. The percentage of those who make a professional roster is very slim. According to LeagueSide, an organization dedicated to increasing fundraising for youth sports, about 1.2% of college basketball players make it in the NBA. Roughly around 0.9% of female athletes make it to the WNBA. In baseball, 8.6% of college players are drafted into the MLB. However, being drafted in the MLB does not guarantee success. In football, about 1.6% of college athletes are drafted by the NFL. But, this will not guarantee a big contract. In men’s soccer, about 1.4% of college players are drafted by the MLS. For ice hockey, around 6.8% of college players are drafted by the NHL. Once again, being drafted does not guarantee a big contract or a successful career. According to the Journal of Medical Regulation, in 2018 there were more than 985,000 doctors in the United States. The exact number of professional athletes in the United States including men and women’s sports would be far less. There are currently an estimated 11,800 athletes in the U.S.

The most significant roadblock to sports stardom is injury. The greatest quarterback or the pitcher with a 100 mile per hour fastball, or the best 3-point shooter could have their career stopped by an injury. All good athletes in every sport have to deal with this issue. Many star athletes do not make it.

Being a top student means you could become an expert in your field. Experts in a field are usually judged by evaluations. Doctors are evaluated online by their patients. They are given ratings as per their customers.

The research team you’re on could discover a new planet. Prominent scientific discoveries may be rare but they can also be life-changing. A slam dunk or a long touchdown pass does not save lives. A scientific discovery can save lives. A smart group of people could develop green energy that saves the earth. A cure for the common cold could be your discovery. An even greater find would be to end Covid or find a cure to cancer.

Top students often become top doctors, lawyers, or engineers. Not every athlete makes gigantic amounts of money. There are many bench players in all sports. In science, it is true that not all become superstars. All it takes is one doctor or one scientist to make a significant discovery that could save thousands or millions of people.

Top athletes appear on ESPN. A high school student can get into college because of an athletic scholarship, but statistics show that only about 1% of college athletes go on to professional careers.

The choice is clear: be a great student.