Simone Biles is considered the greatest gymnast of all time and the world is watching her compete at the Olympics in Tokyo. But when she’s not competing, Biles is also a college student. She studied business administration at the online University of the People.
Simone Biles Was Homeschooled in Order to Train Full-Time as a Teenager
Biles has not been in a traditional classroom since she was a middle school student. She switched to a home-schooling program when she was a freshman in high school in order to focus more heavily on gymnastics, according to The Undefeated. She trained for six to eight hours per day from the time she was 14, according to the Academy of Achievement.
Biles told the outlet it was a challenging decision because she had to give up on having a traditional teenage experience, like going to the prom and participating in after-school clubs. “I missed, like, all my friends at school and stuff. But I mean, in the end, it worked out.”
Biles was named to the Academy of Achievement’s 2017 class. It’s a non-profit educational organization that spotlights high-achieving people in order to inspire younger students. In an interview with the organization, Biles acknowledged that her rigorous training schedule and homeschooling program made it difficult for her to have many friendships as a high schooler. She said she relied on family for support.
Simone Biles Is a Global Ambassador for the University of the People & Launched a Scholarship Fund
Biles enrolled in the University of the People in 2018 and majored in business administration. She told VOA News at the time, “I think it’s a good time to start, so that you don’t wait too-too long to start. So that you won’t want to go back. I could have picked any time, but this was the perfect opportunity.”
As for how she chose business, Biles explained, “I’ve always wanted to work in the business industry. My mom’s always worked in business and my brothers, too, and they’ve been very good at what they’ve done so hopefully I will, too.”
According to its website, the University of the People is tuition-free, non-profit and accredited in the United States. Students do have to pay exam fees. (Forbes reports the fees are $100 for undergraduate programs and $200 for the MBA program).
In addition to being an undergraduate student, Biles is a global ambassador for the school. Biles also partnered with the school to launch the “Simone Biles Legacy Scholarship Fund.” The fund helps students pay for course Assessment Fees and prioritizes students who spent time in foster care like Biles did when she was very young.
In a promotional video for the university, Biles wrote in the description why she wanted to help support foster children:
Being a foster child myself, and knowing what it means to have the odds stacked against you, I decided to give a hand in opening this scholarship fund for foster kids and others and hope others will join me. At the end of the day, life circumstances shouldn’t define you or keep you from your goals. I believe in the power of hard work. I know that dedication and desire can make the impossible possible and I want to help remove barriers that keep a college degree out of reach for those that truly want it.
Biles Committed to UCLA Before Deciding to Go Pro
Biles initially planned to attend the University of California Los Angeles and compete at the collegiate level. The Los Angeles Times spoke with UCLA gymnastics coach Chris Waller, who had persuaded Biles to commit to the program back in 2014: “Frankly, I don’t think there has ever been a more dominant athlete, male or female, in any sport in the world. And I will share that years ago I saw her training in practice skills that she wasn’t going to use for three to four to five years. She was that far ahead.”
Biles signed a letter of intent in November 2014, the Dallas Morning News reported. As the outlet reported in March 2015, Biles had planned to delay attending UCLA until after the 2016 Olympics.
But in July 2015, Biles decided to turn pro and signed with a sports agency. In a news release shared by NBC Sports, Biles explained, “While I am grateful for the opportunity to compete collegiately, I feel that the chance to make my dream come true is right in front of me. In order for me to be the best gymnast I can possibly be, I want to be sure that I have the necessary support and guidance in handling opportunities and demands outside of the gym.”
Of course, the rules are different now. The NCAA ruled in June 2021 that student-athletes could profit from their fame without violating the rules, as ESPN reported. Before, athletes had to forgo endorsements if they wanted to compete at the collegiate level.