Getting Started

Welcome to the Orinda Aquatics College Planning Site

"I was contacted by someone who tracks NCAA athletes and pairs them with companies who are looking for graduated athletes. I don't think I've ever appreciated my past as a swimmer so much! Companies are looking to hire disciplined, dedicated, goal-setting, and passionate people who know how to manage their time. Athletes fit the mold perfectly, and I think programs like Orinda Aquatics really build up the character of not only an athlete but a well-rounded individual."   Thanks so much, Katie Ure


Coaches Introductory Letter


The coaching staff of Orinda Aquatics could not be more proud of the tremendous academic history of

our athletes.  Not only have they embraced character as a dominant theme in their lives,

but academics as well.  They are true leaders as student-athletes and role models as individuals.

Our swimmers have not only committed themselves to academics at the highest level, but they

have achieved this while remaining dedicated and successful year-round athletes.  It has been our

ultimate goal that our graduating swimmers not only continue to be athletes at the collegiate

level, but that they love the sport of swimming, continue to improve, become leaders on their collegiate

teams, and are ultimately better people. What OA graduates have accomplished speaks for itself. For

example, of the nineteen seniors graduating in the Class of 2010, 16 will be intercollegiate athletes, and they

had an average GPA of 3.8.  That is truly impressive and would certainly rival any club program in the

nation. And our swimmers have unquestionably made an impact in terms of character and leadership

at the collegiate level.  We are very proud of all of them.  



Because so many of our swimmers have enjoyed their experience at Orinda Aquatics, they want to

continue to enjoy the competition, discipline, and the camaraderie at the college level.  Swimming in

college is possible for everyone as there are literally thousands of collegiate swimmers with

varying levels of competition and commitment. No matter what level of swimmer you are, there is a

potential collegiate program that can be an excellent fit for you. The key is finding a program that

meets your own academic, athletic, and personal objectives. While swimming in college does require a

serious commitment of time, often collegiate swimmers perform better academically than their peers,

because of the personal discipline and time management skills.


Our goal for this section of our website is to assist you throughout the process, year by year, as a

student and as an athlete. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but if you break it down into

steps, parents  and swimmers can actually enjoy the process. Each year, swimmers come to us

and are unsure where to begin. This may even occur as late as September of their senior year. While

starting late does not mean that you won’t find a great program that “fits”, it is a lot less stressful

and more viable options may be available if you start the process early. The key to success is to first

define for yourself an academic, athletic, and personal profile: Who are you and what are you looking

for.  Like building a puzzle, begin with the corners, and then the borders, and gradually and methodically

work your way into the final piece of the puzzle.  We hope that this information will assist you in

narrowing down the search and provide you with answers to many of the questions you may have

along the way.


Again, as a part of the OA philosophy and long-term process, finding the right college and swim program

go hand in hand with the time you have committed as an Orinda Aquatics swimmer.  We wish all of you

the very best on this journey and know that we will be with you every step of the way.  In conclusion,

we would like to sincerely thank Margot Woodward for taking on this project and creating an information

source and a path that will assist every Orinda Aquatics swimmer in fulfilling their academic and athletic dreams. 


   Ronnie and Donnie   


Please click on the following for more information


Overview Summary: (see "OA History" for college acceptances)

Getting Organized



A College Analogy: Excitement vs. Anxiety

- Don’t “drive” yourself crazy!

  If we told you that when you graduated from high school you were going to get a brand new car (may already be true!) you would most likely be very excited.  But which one; an SUV, a sports car, a sedan, a convertible, an economy car?  The only thing you have to do is first, a little soul searching, and second, a little research.  What is the best fit for you?  Big, small, safe, inexpensive, great sound system, side air bags, two seats, four seats, storage, red, white, lime green, will you be going off-road?  Since you will be driving this car for four to five years with no trade-ins, let’s be sure we find the right one.  So take some time and THINK!  Ask friends, look around, go to websites, order information packets, talk to dealers – be an information sponge!  Since there are so may to choose from let’s come up with a list of about ten that meet your preferences and objectives.  Next rank the cars in terms of best overall “package”. What seems to have the best fit?  What makes sense for you for the next four years?

 Once you rank your cars, you need go from information mode to test-drive mode.  It is time to get serious.  Go to the lot.  Take it for a spin.  Talk to the salespeople.  Ask A LOT of questions.  Once you get to this level of understanding you may begin changing your list.  You may find out that the SUV you had your heart set on gets only ten miles to the gallon (and doesn’t fit the budget).  And do not stop the process just because the first car you drive, you “fall in love with”.  More often than not, it won’t be the car you end up driving.

 Also, please remember, it is your parents that “taught” you how to “drive” and most likely will be paying for this “car”.  Seek their insight and guidance first.  While you may know a great deal, your parents have been driving a lot longer than you and have the objectivity that you may not have.  They probably know you better than you know yourself and more than anyone want to see you in the right car.

 Remember, not too many people that get a new car are unhappy!  So it is with college, the vast majority are happy wherever they end up.  So turn the stress and anxiety into an exciting adventure! Yes, it may be that your first choice is not available, but remember you have nine other cars on the list and hundreds on the lot.  And any one of those is a lot better than no car at all!  Best of luck and drive safely!

Donnie & Ronnie


Coaches' Letter to Orinda Aquatic Parents:

Please be involved in the Process!

Dear Orinda Aquatics Parent,

 You and your child have embarked on a journey through four years of high school. It is an expedition full of twists and turns and if your final destination is college admissions, it is best to begin this journey knowing what to expect en route.

 The college admission process doesn’t start in the fall of your child’s senior year. For many kids, it begins when they walk into class on the first day of school their freshman year. The classes they choose, the activities they participate in, the grades they receive, and their participation in sports will all be a part of their college application. Along the way, many factors may need to be considered. The ultimate decision should be a family decision made in conjunction with the coaches (if your child is swimming in college). Hopefully, this guide will help you and your child be more prepared for the admission’s process when their senior year arrives.

 This letter is addressed to you, the swimmer’s parents, because you need to be a part of this process. Choosing a college will be one of the most important decisions of your child’s young life and he/she will need your guidance. Not only will your child be choosing a college to attend, but they will also be selecting the city or area they will be living in for four to five years! In addition, this choice may have an affect on the job and career path that your child pursues after college. And when those applications start coming in with their Part I’s and Part II’s and letters from coaches, and essays and teacher recommendations, and various deadlines, (all this on top of intense school work, SAT’s, ACT’s, and the normal swim schedule), they will also need a secretary, a counselor, and a friend – YOU!

 College application time is both exciting and stressful. You as parents can share in the excitement, and perhaps, help ease some of the stress. You must understand the big picture, your role (see “The Parents’ Role”), your coaches’ role, and the steps that need to be completed along the way.

 Best of Luck!

 Ronnie and Donnie

Where to begin? OA "Jumping Off Grid"!

January, 2011

Dear Orinda Aquatics members,

I am very excited to offer this new tool as a compliment to our College Planning section of the OA website. Our “Jumping Off” tool provides a list of approximately one hundred colleges and universities to be used as a “jumping off point” for researching schools and collegiate swim programs.  It is designed with the OA Swimmer specifically in mind as we have over twenty years of experience placing swimmers on collegiate swim teams. While we are all different, there are some OA trends which we have tried to capture for you. We recognize that getting started may be daunting for many and we hope that you will use this to initiate your efforts. Finding a “fit” does not necessarily mean that you will be recruited, but it is a place to start. It is to be used in tandem with the website as finding your “academic fit” should be the first priority.

The “Jumping Off” list is comprised of many different colleges throughout the country with the aim of providing a cross section of schools based on region, size, academics, division and swimming ability. By no means is the list complete but it does include a range of colleges from large to small, east coast to west coast, national times to far western times along with a wide range of academic achievements. Considerations for initial inclusion on the list were OA’s track record of placing swimmers on these collegiate teams (shaded), our community trends, and academics.  As the list was initially based on season-to-date results, it will be reviewed at the end of the Championship season. For recruiting purposes, it is recommended that you look at the team’s top 3-4 times in your best events. However, depending on the school, there may be an opportunity to walk onto a team.

Note: The list does not include Junior Colleges throughout the country of which many have very competitive swim teams. Many of those teams’ results are listed on (NJCAA and CCCAA).

One side note, while the information in the website has been made public, this list will not be as it is specifically tailored for Orinda Aquatics.  If you need a copy and/or more thorough instructions as to how to use this tool, please contact myself, Ronnie, or Margot.  Additionally, if you have any questions, feel free to contact Margot at

I realize there are numerous website and college filters, but I am not aware of one so selective and swimming specific.  I want to again thank Margot Woodward for her generous time and her ongoing dedication to Orinda Aquatics and our swimmers.






OA "Jumping Off Grid'
2011 Recruiting Range Time Standards
Examples (SCY):
Jr National
50 Fr
100 Fr
200 Fr
500 Fr
100 Bk
200 Bk
100 Br
200 Br
100 Fly
200 Fly
200 IM
400 IM
Jr National
50 Fr
100 Fr
200 Fr
500 Fr
100 Bk
200 Bk
100 Br
200 Br
100 Fly
200 Fly
200 IM
400 IM



Now...Getting Organized:


Develop a Personal Information Filing System:

It is highly recommended that during your high school years, you keep track of your achievements and activities both in and out of the pool. It is amazing how many details we forget over time and yet come fall of your senior year, you will need this information for all of your college applications. Armed with this “log”, you will be prepared to paint a complete picture of yourself as a college applicant and as a team member.  In one consolidated folder or in a tabbed binder maintain, at a minimum, the most recent copy of:

  • an unofficial transcript/report card
  • most recent USA Swimming top times report
  • a copy of all College Board/standardized test results
  • major achievements/awards (both academic and athletic) and their description
  • club memberships
  • activities/community service: include dates, hours and descriptions
  • leadership positions and their description
  • employment/internships: include dates, hours and descriptions
  • travels, etc.

Clean up your “Facebook”/Social Networking pages/establish your Email Address:

Before initiating contact with coaches, establish a dedicated email address for communication with college admissions/coaches.  This address may actually be a school’s/coach’s first impression of you and needs to make the correct impression. This address needs to be a positive and “professional” reflection of you as a PSA. Additionally, make sure your “Facebook Page” or other social networking sites are “in order” and private. These have become useful tools for college admissions officers, coaches and employers to research their potential students/employees. This may also be a coach’s or potential new teammates’ first impression of you. It is highly likely that as soon as your “host” swimmer learns your name, they will try to familiarize themselves with you via these sites. It is a small swimming world and even though your page is private, swimmers know other swimmers who may be able to get access to your information. Please make your best effort to ensure that there isn’t anything on your page that you wouldn’t want your potential new coach or teammates to see.

Organize a College Filing system: Keep records as you research

As you research colleges and their swim teams, we recommend that you begin a filing/folder system for each individual school as navigating the various college and athletic websites is extremely cumbersome. It is often very hard to find the information you are seeking and then to find it again at a later date. To save yourself time and duplication of effort during the application process, as you research schools, take note of or print out for each school:


  • Website address
  • Address
  • Phone Number and Fax Number
  • Deadlines for Applications:  Early Decision, Rolling Decision, Regular Decision, etc
  • Are decisions binding or non-binding?
  • Testing Requirements: Standardized tests and score requirements, number of Subject Tests required, AP Tests
  • Copy of the Application: Common Application, Supplemental Applications, Specific College Applications, Honors Colleges (print out copies if available)
  • Letter of Recommendation Requirements and forms (on-line or mailed?)
  • Essay questions and personal statement requirements (Usually not available until the summer before you apply)
  • High School Course requirements
  • Other

Swim Team:

  • Coaches’ Names and titles, address, email address, phone number and Fax number
  • Coaches’ Background and number of years on the team
  • Athletic questionnaire
  • Athletic Conference
  • Historical Conference Results (list other teams in the Conference)
  • Recruiting information available on their website. Some coaches spell out exactly what is required of a  PSA ie one college may make it clear that they will NOT contact you, it is up to the swimmer to prove to the coach how much they want to swim for them, while others will contact you only if you are a National Level Swimmer, etc. Be familiar with each school’s procedure
  • School colors and school mascot (good for cover letters and conversations with coaches!)