This NBA star wants his peers to know how he earned his degree in management studies after six years of online correspondence.
By Jalen Rose
College – The number one reason why I decided to get my college degree online is that I would become the first of my mother’s kids to have one. As excited as I was to be part of the Fab Five at Michigan, it still bugged me deep down inside that I went to school for three years [leaving after his junior year] and still didn’t have my degree. I needed maybe three or four semesters to actually graduate. To get those credits, it took me six more years of work. It wasn’t an overnight process.
The great thing about the NBA is that the players’ union has programs set up to help you get your degree online. So the first thing you need to do is contact a representative for player affairs. You don’t even have to know what you want to study, but you have to be prepared to do the work. Make school a priority and take it seriously, just like you take your training seriously. You’ve truly been blessed to be able to play professional sports. But your education will be what drives you before, during and after that time.
How do you choose a school? I went with the University of Maryland in College Park for my online correspondence because the agency that represents me is located in the D.C. area. When researching schools, I wanted to enroll somewhere where I could be hands-on during the offseason. A lot of times, I need to go to D.C. to catch up on business, so with UM, I was able to visit my professors while in the area. I needed a school that was convenient in that respect. But, no matter which school you select, taking a course online is like taking any other college course—it has a syllabus, assignments, group work, papers due and deadlines to meet. I did all the same things that my classmates did; I just wasn’t in class every day and didn’t get to interact with them face-to-face. What makes it cool is that eventually your classmates become interested in you. They may even find out you play ball. Because of that, it kind of helps the situation, because it’s not like you’re a total stranger.
As far as selecting courses go, find out what interests you. Part of being an athlete is being able to manage your affairs financially. That’s why I wanted to take classes in that area. That major [a BS in Management Studies] made sense to me. Two careers that I want when I’m done playing is to be an NBA executive and an NBA coach. Hopefully, I can wear a lot of hats like Isiah Thomas or Doc Rivers, guys who are retired, but are still part of the game. Shaquille O’Neal is trying to wear all the hats he can, too [last year, O’Neal received his MBA from the University of Phoenix, an accredited online school]. When Shaq’s done playing, as many options as he has on the floor when he has a man guarding him, he’s going to have plenty more off the court. Those are the guys I look to for inspiration.
If you do go for your degree, you have to do it for the right reasons. A lot of athletes don’t know that you won’t be taken as seriously in the work force after your playing days are over if you don’t have a degree. The world doesn’t care that you averaged 25 points over 10 years. It doesn’t work like that.
Believe in the opportunity to take your life to the next level through continuing your education. Defy the naysayers the same way you do as an athlete. Put the same time, energy and pride into saying, “I want to be a college graduate” as you do in saying, “I want to be a great athlete,”
and it will happen for you.
Five Steps to Getting Your Degree Online
1. Do the research
Web sites such as www.worldwidelearn.com are decent places to start, but you still may need someone to help you navigate the wealth of information out there. If you don’t want to go through an official league program, try contacting Dr Cristina Versari (firstname.lastname@example.org, 800-234-7041) at the San Diego University for Integrative Studies (SDUIS.EDU). Versari worked for the NBA for over a decade and helped more than 1,000 players get their college degrees. She is now a consultant and personal coach, helping both current and former athletes from all sports succeed in the world of continuing education.
2. Map out a game plan
When deciding on a school, don’t just throw a dart at the board. Decide which situation would work best with your specific schedule and prior education background. “We often coordinate with the athlete’s original college, if they still have credits,” says Versari. “But each person’s needs are different. We can come up with a degree plan for anybody.”
3. prepare to commit
According to Versari, all you need to get a degree online is “a laptop and two to three hours of free time per day.” But you do need the motivation to see things through. “Being an athlete doesn’t automatically make you a great student,” warns Rose. “You have to put the work in.”
4. Use your skills
It may not always be obvious, but the skills developed as an athlete—analyzing game tapes, devising strategies, working within a team—often translate pretty well to the classroom. “I used my basketball experience working with different egos to get everybody to work together,” Shaq has said about his online university experience.
5. Exercise diligence
It took Rose six years to get his degree. Alton Lister, the former Golden State Warrior who is now head coach at a community college in Phoenix, worked for 10 years to receive his. Former Sacramento King and Chicago Bull Lawrence Funderburke is on the verge of getting his BA. “Athletes with degrees are taken more seriously in the business community,” Funderburke tells OT. “But like anything else in life and sports, you gotta want it.”