Prior to beginning any recruiting process, swimmers need to gain a general idea of the kind of college experience for which they are looking, and establish a way to limit the search based on their interests and preferences. Some common questions that you should answer are:
location (rural or urban setting)/distance from home
size of the student population (from small at 1,000 to large at 35,000+)
public vs. private
costs (tuition, room and board, etc.)
financial assistance packages
campus resources (labs, libraries, computer access, etc.)
placement success/internship and co-op programs
faculty contact/classes taught by full-time doctorally qualified faculty
degree of pressure to excel
safety (campus, community)
student body (diversity, gender, etc.)
social life (Greek organizations, sports, school spirit, etc.)
housing options (dorms, apartments, living at home)
realistic entry expectations (based on typical student admitted)
There is an excellent questionnaire linked below at "Five most important college recruiting considerations" that you can use to help narrow your choices.
Once you have an idea of the kind of school you wish to attend, the part of the country in which you want to live and the size of the college/community in which you want to live, you can start to think about swimming programs and how you might fit in athletically.
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.
Swimmers should be prepared to contact those schools in which they have an interest and provide the coach at those schools with a swimming resume and DVD. The resume should include all relevant swimming accomplishments (both club and high school), academic accomplishments and standing, and test information. The DVD should include a small variety of recent competition swims so the coach has an idea of the capabilities of the swimmer prior to starting the recruiting process.
In addition, your CATS coaches can assist in the recruiting process in whatever way works best for you. CATS coaches can make contact with college coaches on your behalf, follow up with college coaches after your first contact, help with determining which schools are the best fit for your needs, and any other way you want. Do not hestitate to involve your coaches in your college search process.
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
College Swimming 101
Five most important college recruiting considerations
NCAA Prospective Student Athlete - Eligibility Center
Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete
Gollege swimming recruiting trip tips
Ottati: The college odyssey begins
All You Need to Know About Being Recruited for College Swimming
College Search Sites
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
CollegeApps.com - Get In To The College of Your Choice
FastWeb - Scholarships, Financial Aid and Colleges
Scholarship Resource Network Express
Degree Directory - Colleges, Universities, Career Schools and Online Degree Programs
Vault Education Center
National Association for College Admission Counseling
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
ACT - Student Site for ACT Test
4Tests - Free Online Practice Exams
Number2 - Free Online Test Prep
Barron’s Test Prep
College Power Prep
Kaplan Test Prep
Test Prep Review
How to Study - Study Skills/
Free Tuition for Smart Kids
Guide to Finding the College That Fits
Hidden College Cost: Rising Fees
How I Did on the SAT
Pre-Pay Your Way to College
The Incredible Climbing Cost Of College
The New Battle Over Financial Aid
Who Needs Harvard?