Pro tennis player and Edinburgh Napier student, Emily Appleton, is studying for a degree while competing and training to qualify for Wimbledon. We caught up with Emily, who has most recently competed in the Rothesay Classic WTA 250 in Birmingham, to find out how she is settling in to life as a student athlete. 

Emily started her tennis journey from a young age and was just three years old when she started getting to grips with a racquet. It’s no surprise, since her father Michael Appleton is a former professional tennis player. Emily and her siblings enjoyed tennis but for Emily it turned into a passion that she wanted to pursue. With her dad coaching her up until she was 18, Emily had the opportunity to turn professional when she was 17 with support through a Sky Sports scholarship.

Now 22 years old, Emily is regularly competing in competitions while studying for a degree at Edinburgh Napier. Inspired by her doubles partner, Ali Collins who is also a student at Edinburgh Napier, Emily started studying in January 2022 for a degree in Business and Enterprise Sport. This degree is fully online and can by studied anywhere, which is great for Emily who has based in England. It was designed uniquely for athletes and coaches who are at the top of their game who wish to study will competing. She joins athletes from a range of different sports who are all working towards a degree while competing.

Just like starting her professional playing career in tennis, deciding to study for a degree has been a new learning curve for Emily, but it’s one that she is enjoying immensely. As a student athlete, Emily is able to tap into a range of support from the University through the Dual Career Policy. This provides flexibility around a student’s pattern or study assessment to enable them to prepare for or compete at major events.

“When I was in touch with my module leader during the first trimester, they are so aware that our timetables are completely different from everyone else. We can’t always attend the drop-in session or get back to emails as quickly. They’re flexible and give you extra time if you need it to submit coursework. It’s been a great experience so far and I’ve felt really supported”.

A university highlight for Emily has been the feedback she received on completion of her first module in Accounting for Business. She thought this number crunching subject may be a bit boring but was surprised to find it was a lot of fun. It helped that the module leader played tennis too! The positive feedback has excited Emily about her future of studying while competing. 

We asked Emily what advice she would give to another athlete thinking of undertaking a degree while playing sport and she had some encouraging advice.

“It’s a no brainer, definitely do it. It took me way too long to make that decision. If I could turn back time and do this when I was a bit younger, I would. It’s been a breath of fresh air to have something alongside tennis”. 

When thinking about the future, Emily’s plans are to get to the top of the game. Off the court, she’s not quite sure what that will look like, but with a degree behind her she can confidently pursue a career in the sports industry when her professional playing career comes to an end. 

In the meantime, we’ll be cheering for Emily on the court and supporting her in the (online) lecture theatre! 

Supporting student athletes

Learn more about our Dual Career Policy and how we support athletes to study while they are competing to future-proof their career.