How hard is it to just start rowing in college, especially at a D1 or Ivy League school?
It’s hard but the degree to which it’s hard is largely determined by you. The biggest adjustments don’t come from learning a new sport, because regardless of what sport you try to pick up, it’s always going to be tough at first. The hard part is adjusting to waking up early several days a week, having practice six days a week (sometimes twice a day), and just learning how to manage your time better. Even if you’re a rock star at time management and self-discipline, joining the team will seriously test those skills.
If you have a demanding course load, it can be tough finding a good balance, especially if you fall behind earlier and have to spend a few weeks/months playing catch up. Once you find the balance though, it gets easier. You learn where your time needs to go and personally, I think, makes you a better overall student. If you have a hard time managing your time and/or you’re not very disciplined when it comes to getting things done, rowing probably isn’t the sport for you.
A lot of rowers pick the sport up in college – just look at the number of people on the national team that were walk-ons as college freshmen. It can be done but like I said, how tough it is is going to be determined by you and how disciplined you are at managing everything else in addition to crew.