By Allison Peters, Swimming World College Intern

READING – I remember the day I decided to swim in college. I was driving home from practice with my mom my senior year and she told me if I wanted, this could be my last season ever. I told her, “Mom, I’m not finished yet.” I had fallen in love with the sport when I was eight years old. By middle school, I had all of my own and my teammates’ times memorized along with age group records and Junior Olympic qualifying times. By high school, I was familiar with practically every race Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe, and Brendan Hansen, three of my idols, had ever swum, and I could tell you any Olympic record without a seed of doubt. Even if you’re not quite as swim-crazy as I am, I promise, if I can do it, so can you. Swimming in college has given me some of the best memories, introduced me to some of the greatest people, and given be so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had without it.

1. Automatic Support System

Having this made the transition from high school to college much smoother. The day I stepped onto campus, I had swimmers swarming me wanting to get to know me. The feeling of knowing that I had people to confide in and turn to for help was extremely comforting. There is no way I could’ve gotten through three years of school without my teammates. From simply receiving guidance from older swimmers on what classes to take, to the bond we all formed after the tragic passing of one of my teammates, Matt Rein, we’ve been there for each other no matter what. Honestly, some of my teammates have turned into soul mates.

2. Possibility of Scholarships

Division I and II schools are able to give out scholarships for sports. Do not be discouraged just because you think you’re not fast enough. Even I, a current NCAA Division III swimmer, was recruited by Division I coaches to swim on their teams. It never hurts to try.

3. Avoid Freshman 15

While a lot of my college and high school friends gained the notorious freshmen 15 (pounds), I was able to continue to eat just as much as I pleased and stay the same weight. A lot of people go to school and binge on the freedom of eating whatever, whenever – mac n’ cheese at 1 a.m., anyone?

4. Switch Up Your Training

Maybe you hit a slump your senior year of training and your mindset right now is, “I’m barely making it through this season, how can I do four more?” Truth be told, you can. I came to college a burnt out breaststroker who did my best times my junior year of high school. My college coach saw new opportunity in me to become a distance swimmer. Although I sometimes say otherwise, I absolutely love it. I was able to place 10th at my championship meet my freshman year in the mile, and it was only the second time I had ever swum it! Not only will you have more opportunity to swim different events, you have completely new training in a completely new place with a completely new coach. Sometimes our bodies get used to doing the same thing for so many years, and we hit plateaus. A fresh start can do wonders.

5. Training Trips

I’ve been lucky enough to go to a school where we go to Puerto Rico to train just as temperatures plummet on campus. Each school is different. Some schools don’t even leave campus for a training trip. This is a great question and something to look into when you go on your school visits. Although it’s really not the location that matters, it does give me great incentive to get through a tough practice and know that right after I can go to the beach and fall asleep to the sound of waves.

6. Special Perks

I’m pretty much your typical swimming addict. You’ll find me back in the pool probably a week after championships are over. The best perk I could ever ask for (which comes in handy with my crazy class schedule) is getting to use the pool whenever I want! With my student ID, and the permission of my coach, I can get into the pool even when there aren’t open swim hours. There is nothing more calming and relaxing than having a whole pool to yourself. Another perk is having another place to shower, aside from the crowded freshmen dorm bathrooms. These dorms are never as pretty as they look on TV shows. Mine at school always smelled or was short on warm water. Join a swim team and you have a whole locker room just for you and your teammates.

7. Resume Booster

A lot of employers will be very impressed to see that you not only were able to manage a full class load, extracurricular activities and work, but four years of training as well. It shows complete dedication and hard work for something you’re passionate about. It will make you stand out from that other guy who is applying for the same job and had the same GPA as you.

8. Bragging Rights

You can call yourself a collegiate swimmer! Only eight percent of swimmers will be able to go onto this level. If that doesn’t make you feel special, what will?