I have had conversations with assistant coaches/recruiting coordinators at several schools to get a sense of how they recruit and what they look for in student-athletes.
Here’s a summary of tips:
- A lot of coaches rely on collegeswimming.com to help identify potential recruits. Swimmers can create a profile and keep it updated with their best times. The website does pull in some meets and automatically updates times, but it does not pull in every meet. So it is important to the swimmer’s profile is current. Currently, collegeswimming.com only has recruits through the 2021 class. I imagine the 2022 class will start appearing on the website soon.
- If a swimmer is interested in a university, they should send an email to the coaching staff with their best times during sophomore year. There are rules on when schools can communicate with swimmers (more on this later), but if the swimmer reaches out, the school will usually put him/her into their recruiting database. This is also a good opportunity for the swimmers to tell more of their story (examples: I have only been swimming for three years, I am a multi-sport athletes, I have a 4.0 GPA, I was sick for a big part of last year, but I am back to being healthy, etc.)
- There are services out there that connect recruits and colleges. A big one is NCSA. This service is a tool that helps connect potential student-athletes and colleges. I highly recommend you look into using this service.
- If coaches contact you after June 15 of your sophomore year, do your best to respond even if you aren’t 100% interested in the school. If you would have told me when I was a sophomore that I would graduate from Iowa, I would have thought you were crazy. I had zero knowledge about Iowa, but thankfully I kept my options open.
- Cast a wide net. A lot of swimmers have a desire to compete at Division I (the highest level) schools. It’s great to have big goals, but is extremely competitive to even land a walk-on (no scholarship) spot at a D-I school. Most middle tier D-I schools require a minimum of Futures cuts, and many of the top tier D-I schools won’t even bother talking with a swimmer unless they have a minimum of Junior National cuts. If a swimmer isn’t fast enough to swim D-I that is OK! Division II and III and NAIA schools are still an outstanding option and often times a better fit for the swimmer. So, have big goals but also be open to lower division schools.
- Unless you are a premier high school swimmer (Olympic trials level or faster), the swimmer needs to put in work in the recruiting process. If you are the best, you can sit back and the schools will be fighting over you. But, most swimmers, are not in that position. You need to standout above the crowd. You do this by having great communication and showing the coaches you want to be a part of their program.
- It is extremely rare to earn a full-ride scholarship in swimming, so it is important to try and obtain academic scholarships and financial aid if needed.
Throughout the high school process, there are different things the swimmer must accomplish academically and athletically to put themselves in a position to swim at the next level. The NCAA has a helpful timeline that gives specific steps as far as registering for the NCAA, SATs, courses, etc. You can access this checklist by clicking here.
Here is another timeline with my suggestions on what the swimmer should do in the recruiting process. Please note, rules are constantly changing, so I will do my best to update this timeline:
- Start identifying factors that you would like to see in a college (examples: geographic location, what you want to study, the level of swimming you want to compete at, do you want to go to a big school or a small school, etc.).
- Compile a list of schools that meet your criteria. Some schools may meet all the criteria; others may only meet a few. Just cast a wide net and create a relatively big list (15 - 40 schools)
- Continue to add or adjust potential list.
- Early spring create an email with your best times and information. Begin to start reaching out to potential schools.
- Talk with school counselor about process of academic scholarships.
- Effective May 1, 2019 coaches can begin to contact swimmers beginning on June 15 after their sophomore year.
- Swimmers should continue reaching out to schools even if they don’t hear from the school.
- New rules allow recruiting trips to happen after August 1 of the student-athletes junior year. A recruiting trip is where the university pays for the student-athlete to come visit the campus and meet the coaches/team. Usually these are overnight trips and are a very valuable way to determine if the school is the right fit. Swimmers are only allowed a maximum of 5 recruiting trips throughout the recruiting process.
- Continue to educate yourself on academic scholarships and be aware of potential deadlines.
- Your list should be narrowed to 5-10 schools and you should be trying to line up recruiting trips to these universities.
- If a decision has not been made yet continue the recruting process. It's still not too late to find a good school.
- After the recruiting trips create a list of what you liked and didn’t like about the school. Make it as detailed as possible (did you like the team, did you like the coaches, do they have a major that interests you, how’s the weather, etc.)
- When it comes to making a decision, be sure you talk with you parents and coaches but ultimately the decision has to be made by the swimmer.
- October 1 — sign up for the FAFSA for student aid.
- Explore all other academic scholarships you may be eligible.
I do feel a big part of the college process is the swimmer’s responsibility. They need to be compiling the lists, sending the emails, communicating with coaches, etc. It’s not the parents responsibility to do this for their child. I am ALWAYS open to helping our swimmers to the best of my ability. It is important for the swimmers to continue to communicate where they are in the process with me.
I am sure this is overwhelming, but I want to do my best to educate everyone on the process.
Please let me know if you have any questions.