Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I identify college swimming programs that are good fits for my child?
This takes a little legwork. Once you have a sense of what kind of colleges your child is interested in (big vs. small, academically selective or less so, etc.) use collegeswimming.com to navigate to the web sites for potential schools. All college swimming programs, from top Division I schools through the smallest Division III programs, have team web sites. They all include results from recent meets. Compare the times from these meets to your child’s times. You will pretty quickly get a sense of which schools your child can successfully compete at. In addition, look at the results from the many college swimming conference championships that are held each year to see how your child fits in. Supplement what you learn on line with conversations with other parents and coaches. Then contact the schools that look like reasonable fits to get more information, and talk with coaches and current swimmers to identify programs that you are comfortable with.
2. Can swimming help my child get admitted to his or her schools of choice?
The answer is generally yes – but only up to a point. Swimming can often provide college applicants with an edge in the admissions process. At many schools coaches will work with admissions officers on behalf of recruited swimmers. But at the end of the day applicants need to fit within a college’s academic profile. After all, no school (or coach) wants to admit student athletes who are unlikely to succeed in their coarse work. Coaches are often straightforward in communicating academic requirements to prospective swimmers and their parents. This is good for all concerned.
3. Where can I get information concerning NCAA rules governing the recruiting process?
The NCAA has issued complicated rules that govern the recruiting process. They include limits on the timing and manner of communications between coaches and prospective athletes, and are too lengthy to explain in this document. A table that summarizes these rules can be found at the following link:
It is important that swimmers and their parents learn and follow the rules during the recruiting process to avoid putting coaches in an uncomfortable position.
4. What is the NCAA Eligibility Center and how does the academic eligibility process work?
The NCAA Eligibility Center evaluates high school students’ academic records to determine whether they are eligible to participate at the Division I or Division II level.
To register with the Eligibility Center, you must complete the Student Release Form and amateurism questionnaire online and send the eligibility center the registration fee ($50 for domestic and $75 for international students). This Student Release Form does two things: 1) It authorizes each high school you have attended to send the eligibility center your transcript, test scores, proof of graduation and other necessary academic information. 2) It authorizes the eligibility center to send your academic information to all colleges that request your eligibility status. The registration process must be completed on-line. Prospective athletes usually register during their junior year in high school. The following web link will connect you to the Center:
5. What steps should swimmers take during their junior year?
Train hard and continue to perform successfully as an athlete
Do well in school, and start noticing which academic areas interest you. Junior year academic performance is especially important.
Make sure you are taking tough courses- colleges prefer students who challenge themselves.
You should take the SAT’s in the spring- especially if you are applying early. Consider taking them more than once, since colleges will combine scores to give students the highest overall result.
Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center
Start thinking actively about where you would like to go to school. Make a list of 10-15 colleges that interest you. Consult with your parents, friends, and counselors to get their input on schools.
Evaluate swimming programs from different schools. Research team and conference results to see where you’d fit in. Don’t be afraid of contacting coaches to get information about their programs. Emailing a coach is a great way of both learning about and showing interest in a particular program.
Make unofficial visits to schools in which you are interested. Keep a journal with notes about what you like or dislike about each college. Inform your teachers that you will be missing work.
What about financial aid and scholarships?
College costs continue to escalate, and paying for college is a major challenge for many families. Swimmers and parents should get an early start in exploring opportunities for financial assistance. Some basic advice:
Make use of your high school counselors, college financial-aid office, and the Web. Call the financial-aid offices of your top-choice schools, let them know you’re a prospective student, and ask if you have all the forms needed. You don’t need to be planning to attend a specific school in order to call and ask questions or even set up a meeting with financial-aid officers. It’s best to find out your options before applying.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is as important as filling out your college application. If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you won’t be eligible for federal aid. Check in your counselor’s office for a form, or apply online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Scholarships are one way to cover the cost of education without getting into debt. Give yourself plenty of time to search for scholarships and write essays. You can get scholarships based on your ethnicity, academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and special skills.
Due to the high cost of schooling, scholarships and grants often don’t cover the cost of your education entirely. In this case, you may find yourself relying on loans. Federal loans, such as the Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan or PLUS Loan, are examples. Both the Stafford and the Perkins loans are taken out in your name. Your parents, on the other hand, can borrow through the PLUS loan program. Ask at your school’s financial-aid office to see which lenders they prefer. Then, shop around to see who can offer what you need.
In addition to the financial aid options mentioned above, many Division I and II swimming programs also offer athletic scholarships to talented swimmers. The NCAA allows each Division I swimming program 9.9 scholarships for men and 14 for women. In Division II, schools are allowed 8.1 scholarships for men and women alike. Not all swimming programs are “fully funded” however – some offer fewer than the maximum number of scholarships and some none at all. So you will need to explore the issue of scholarships with each of the schools you are interested in. Not surprisingly, the swimmers with the best times are most likely to receive scholarship assistance. To gauge your likelihood of qualifying for a scholarship look at a team’s times from the past year. In addition, look at times from the relevant conference championships to see if your child would score points. Then talk to coaches at your targeted schools about scholarships during the recruiting process – but be realistic about your child’s abilities.