Skating on solid ice: Waterloo Engineering student shares how to balance studies and athletics with success

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Fourth-year student Keiara Raitt grew up in a hockey family, hitting the ice for the first time at the age of four. Now, seventeen years later, she not only skates with the precision of a seasoned athlete but also navigates the rigorous demands of an architectural engineering program at the University of Waterloo.

Keiara has been a key player on the Women’s Hockey Team for the past three years – unfortunately she didn’t get to play in their first year of studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Missing that first year was tough, but it allowed me to focus on school and figure out university life,” Keiara reflects. Once back on the ice, the team grew from strength to strength, culminating in this year’s historic fourth-place finish at the U SPORTS National Championship—their highest ever.

As the first Women’s Hockey player to be enrolled in an engineering program, Keiara is no stranger to breaking new ground. Being a varsity athlete often means missing classes for practices, games -or traveling to other universities. This is tough in any program, but engineering is known for being particularly demanding.

Proactive communication is the key to Keiara’s success in balancing hockey and engineering. She makes it a point to inform professors about their absences well in advance so she can catch up on missed work. The Waterloo Engineering community has shown tremendous support; peers share class notes, and professors provide links to livestreams of Keiara’s games, cheering her on to “bring home some hardware.”

Keiara’s coaches prioritize academics over athletics, ensuring she never forgets that being a student comes first. Open communication with the team and coaches helps Keiara keep everyone updated on their academic progress and capacity.

Being a varsity athlete has honed Keiara’s skills in accountability, discipline, and time management — skills that are directly transferable to engineering and co-op opportunities. When interviewing for coop jobs, Keiara has made sure to emphasize that finding a balance between hockey and work is important, and employers have been happy to work with her to accommodate this.

Keiara hopes her experience encourages others who might be torn between two ambitions.

“You can work towards your athletics while pursuing an engineering degree,” Keiara says. “Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s not possible”.