1. Let the NCAA know your intent.
Back in my day it was known as the the NCAA clearinghouse (sounds more like a sweepstakes, and for some athletes, it takes on that type of importance…), these days it is referred to as the NCAA Eligibility Center. To declare eligibility head on over and register online here: http://www.eligibilitycenter.org. It costs $70 if you are an American or Canadian student, $120 for other international students.
2. Make sure you are taking the right classes.
Seems like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed by how many students believe they can get by on their athletic prowess alone.
As per the 2015/2016 NCAA eligibility requirements, here is the bare bones list of courses student-athletes looking to play Div 1 athletes must possess:
- Graduate from high school (duh)
- Finish 16 core courses within four consecutive academic years:
- 4 years of English
- 3 years of math
- 2 years of natural or physical science
- 1 supplemental year of English, math, or science
- 2 years of social science
- 4 years of bonus courses from any of the above categories or a foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy.
3. Swim/Train FAST!
Everything else on this list – while important – isn’t as critical as this and school. It’s as simple as this – the faster you swim, the harder you are going to be recruited.
4. Be mindful of your social media presence.
We live in a world where our personal lives are splashed across vast social networks. Be attentive to what people will find when they Google of enter your name into Facebook. Having a profile picture that shows how fun and awesome you are is great and fine, but keep in mind that programs aren’t looking to bring on party-animals, they are looking for smart, intelligent and responsible young people.
Marketing companies call this type of thing “reputation management.” I call it “Don’t post embarrassing pictures of yourself doing compromising crap on Facebook.”
5. Build a list of schools you have a crush on.
Here’s the fun part. Day-dreaming about the awesome schools that you want to attend. Grab a pen, a piece of paper (okay, okay – a tablet will do as well) and let’s get to day-dreaming.Break your list down by—
- The dream schools.
- The realistic, yet still also quite dreamy schools.
- The fall-backs.
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There will be overlap between all three, but knowing which schools you want to attend will help you narrow your activities moving forward. Write it out, tape it up to your wall, and have that list visible on those nights where you don’t feel like doing your homework.
6. Check out the schools.
Research is a lot easier these days with the whole interweb thing. Beyond the official site for college teams, swim news sites also carry stats, news and results for your prospective schools. The coach’s profile on athletics department websites are almost always fairly thorough as their website is also used as a recruiting and promotional tool for their programs.
Looking at the line-up on the current squad can also give you an idea of what their coach will be looking for next year. Let’s say that you are a freestyler. If school A has three senior freestylers not coming back next season you know that program is going to be on the hunt for a new freestyler whose name might just rhyme with yours.
Another benefit of ye olde interweb is that it is easy to reach out to former and current swimmers from the school and get the low-down. Building those connections into referrals down the road can help you appear even more attractive to coaches. Approaching them is simple – let them know you are considering going to their alma matter and to see if they have any hints, tips or pointers they’d be willing to share. Sometimes this is a good way to get a peak under the hood of the program, especially the unvarnished parts you don’t see on a brochure or on the website.
7. Visit the school.
Official visits are paid for by the institution, including transportation and room and board. Each institution does this step differently, but while you are there take the opportunity to talk to fellow athletes and view the common areas of the campus (student union building, etc) as well as the pool and strength training facilities.
8. Make the call.
In your senior year you will get the opportunity to choose the school and program you are going to attend and represent. By now you should have a fair indication of which schools are down to bring you on, which are on the lukewarm side, and which have showed no interest (you’ll show ‘em!).
The over-riding component of your decision at this point will probably be the financial package that is being offered. Full ride? Partial ride? While finances are crucial, balancing this with the opportunities the coach and swim team bring. A partial ride might be worth it if you get to train with a top tier program, and vice versa if the swimming isn’t that important and the education is priority 1 through 3.
At the end of the day, your decision should be rooted on getting a kick-butt education and setting yourself up for the next stage of your life, whatever that may be. One way to consider your decision is to ask yourself, “If something happens to my swimming career where it ends or I retire before I finish school, is this still an institution that I would want to attend?”
Or you may want to just send an email initially:
(SAMPLE INTEREST EMAIL)
ALSO, you may just want to send a typed letter:
(SAMPLE INTEREST LETTER)