Swimming in College

So You Want To Swim In College (Start HERE) Lots of Links to Additional Information

Coach Mike will help guide all BLUE WAVE high school swimmers during the college decision-making process, recruiting, and scholarship opportunities.
You must register with the NCAA by the end of your Junior year, or you will be ineligible for Div. I or II university recruitment.
By September 1st of your Junior Year you’ll know if they’ve locked onto you.  That’s the date that Division I and II schools may begin contacting you by mail and if you’re good – expect a lot of it.  Some schools send you mail periodically, while others are relentless in their use of the US Postal Service.   (Prior to September 1st of your Junior year coaches may only send you an athletic questionnaire and camp brochure.) 
The next stage comes prior to the start of your senior year.  After June 15th, Division II schools may begin calling you once per week.  Two weeks later (July 1st), Division I coaches begin exhausting their cell phone limits.  July 1st also marks the first date that a college coach may contact you off-campus and coaches put plenty of miles on the road visiting practices and meets.
Before and during your Junior year in high school is a great time to start this process of college selection.
When planning visits you would like to minimally disrupt your school, training and competition schedules as little as possible. In order for this to occur you have to do your research. The best way to accomplish this is:
  • First, decide what part of the country you would like to go to school in. This narrows the list significantly.
  • Academics are the most important reason to attend college. What are you interested in studying? Look for schools that have the programs that are going to allow you do pursue that certain area.
  • If the school has what you would like to pursue then see if they have a swim team?
    • How do you fit into the swim team right now based off your current times and their team’s records and current competition results?
    • How long has the coach been there?
    • Will you be a big fish or a small fish?
  • Some additional items to consider:
    • Do you like the area the school is located in?
    • Do you want to attend a large school or a school?
After doing the above and compiling a list of schools we should sit down and look at what you have come up with.
Some items to consider:
  • At your level of swimming and what you want to achieve taking the minimal amount of time off from training to visit colleges would be something to shoot for. Visiting a school from Friday (so you can see classes and campus life during school) to a Saturday would be the best option. Seeing that we do some of our best training on Saturdays you could come in on Sunday as an option to minimize training interruptions.
    • We step up training over winter break and will be doing a training trip over Spring Break which will jump start your summer season. These are not ideal times to take off if you are serious about reaching your goals.
  • Narrowing your list of possible visits to about 3 schools would be ideal. It will mean you will have to do your homework and research, research, research! I will help you with this if you would like.
    • Just a thought: If a college coach asks you “how many schools have you visited or plan on visiting?” and you state 6+ then his/her thoughts are going to be “this person is not dedicated to their goals. They have missed so many training opportunities! They should have done their homework.”

College Recruiting: There is often a misconception in the college search process that if you are not recruited or have not been offered a scholarship you must not be very good. That view is completely false. The fact is that most colleges just do not have the finances available to offer every good swimmer a scholarship. Another fact is that most colleges do not find out a student-athlete is interested in their program until that student has made "First Contact."

Many families assume that colleges are going to call them first. The reality is that most collegiate swimming programs do not have the manpower to search for athletes. Most coaches rely on meet results from large meets such as Sectionals or High School State, prospective student questionnaires, and through professional recruiters (not sports agents) whom a student-athletes pay a fee to have them send information to schools about them.

With the scholarship limits that are imposed by the NCAA, most college coaches are going to be looking at a students academic ability. The vast majority of swimming student athletes receive financial aid through academic related scholarships, grants and student loans, not through athletic scholarships.

Athletic Scholarship: An athletic scholarship is a one-year contract between you and a Division I or Division II institution. A school can reduce or cancel a scholarship of you become ineligible for competition, fraudulently misrepresent yourself, quit the team or engage in serious misconduct. During the contract year, a coach cannot reduce or cancel your scholarship on the basis of your athletic ability, performance, or injury. An institution may choose to not renew a scholarship at the end of the academic term provided they notify you in writing and provide you an opportunity for a hearing.

Remember a coach cannot offer you a "four year full-ride scholarship." They do not exist. Each student athlete award is reviewed annually. It is important to ask current collegiate swimmers if they are still on scholarship. Parents, it is not uncommon for a college program to offer and renew an athletic scholarship for the first 2-3 years of college and then ask the student to pay full tuition for the remainder of their college career.

National Letter of Intent: The National Letter of Intent is administered by the Collegiate Commissioners Association (not the NCAA). When you sign the National Letter of Intent you agree to attend the institution with which you signed for one academic year in exchange for the institution awarding financial aid, including athletics aid, for one academic year.


College Recruiting Timeline

Freshman/Sophomore Year

  • Start searching universities on the webpage
    • Find schools that have the major you want (your diploma will be more important than your swimming times after graduation!)
    • Find out about the academic reputation of the school
    • Check out the team records, coach’s history with the program
  • Send the coaches of the programs you’re interested in a cover letter, with an athletic resume including: (send them updated letters/info annually!)
    • Your name, birthdate, address, phone number, email
    • GPA and test scores
    • Training background
      • How many workouts per week, yardage, hours per workout
      • If you’ve done weights, running, medicine balls---all dryland
      • How many years you’ve been swimming
    • Competition background
      • Send them a record of your times/improvement
    • Any/all other activities you’re involved in
  • During your freshman/sophomore years, the college coaches can send you a questionnaire in response, and general team info, but no recruiting materials.

Check Initial-Eligibility Requirements. There are curtain courses you will need to take to be eligible to swim as a Freshman in college.

Junior Year

  • After you have begun your junior year, the college coaches can begin sending you official recruiting material.

You should be sending updated information to them, and narrowing your list of universities to select from.

Sign up NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. You can do it online at It currently costs $50.

July 1 between your Junior and Senior Years

  • College coaches can officially begin calling you on this date. They may only speak with you once per week, but may send unlimited mailings and email.

Senior Year

  • Once your senior school year has begun, you may take 5 “official” visits (where the university pays for any/all of your trip) to college campuses. These 5 visits must be to different campuses. You may go to any campus “unofficially” (where you pay for all your expenses) as many times as you like, and at any point in the selection process…during any year of school.

Be sure to take a copy of the list of questions with you, to cover all your bases.

Keep a journal/notes of your visits….write down your impressions of each place….what you liked, didn’t like, etc. Put down as many details as possible, so that you can compare the campuses after you’ve visited a number of them. Remember, you are choosing the place where you want to be happy for the next 4 years of your life!

It’s very “romantic” to be recruited….having college coaches paying all this attention to you. Be sure to get your questions answered, and keep your eyes and ears open to what is best for you! If you decide you’re really not interested in a particular school and the coach continues to call you, please tell him/her you’re not interested. It’s a difficult thing to do, but it will save both of you time in the long run. If the coach gets mad or says mean things to you for not wanting to join his/her program, then it probably confirms that you didn’t want to swim for this person anyway!

There are two “signing” periods for scholarships if you are offered one…..early (November) and late (April). There are pros and cons to both….if you take your visits early and are sure of your decision, then by all means, sign early! It takes a load of pressure off your shoulders in the spring semester! Some coaches may say to wait….they may have more scholarship money available in the spring semester to offer. This is a gamble…..maybe they will, maybe they won’t…’s not always a guarantee. Some coaches may offer a full scholarship (room/board/tuition/fees/books)…others may offer a partial scholarship, which can include any of those segments. Division I and II schools offer athletic scholarships, Division III only has academic scholarships. If you are not sure, then do wait till the spring. Give yourself more time to think over the decision, and make the one that’s right for you.

Your High School guidance counselor can help you through this process, too……s/he can help you with financial aid information, getting your test scores, etc sent to places before your official visits, and may also have resources to tell you about the academic reputations of the schools you’re looking at. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get help! The more informed you are, the more easily you’re going to make the best decision for yourself!

Good luck!!!


So You Want to Swim In College - Start HERE 

General Collegiate Swimming Information

General College, Scholarship, and Financial Aid Information

ACT, SAT, PSAT National Merit Scholar Testing

Achievement Testing Study and Preparation Links

Miscellaneous Information
College Search Sites