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 Links
General Collegiate Swimming Information
NCAA - National Collegiate Athletic Organization
NAIA - National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
NJCAA - National Junior College Athletic Association
General College, Scholarship, and Financial Aid Information
FinAid! - Financial Aid, College Scholarships and Student Loans
Savingforcollege.com - Funding College and 529 Plans
FastWeb - Scholarships, Financial Aid and Colleges
Degree Directory - Colleges, Universities, Career Schools and Online Degree Programs
National Association of Higher Education Loan Programs
CampusTours - Virtual College Tours
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
US Department of Education
FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid
ACT, SAT, PSAT National Merit Scholar Testing
College Board - SAT Registration, College Admissions, Scholarships
ACT - Student Site for ACT Test
Achievement Testing Study and Preparation Links
College Search Sites