KEY Swimming Presents . . .

Preparing for College

Tools and Tips to Help You, and Your Parents, Get Ready for that Next Chapter in Your Life


There’s nothing more satisfying than to be part of a team, and swimming is no exception. The YMCA of the USA, its affiliates and, most importantly, its coaches, take great pride in recognizing that they’re just not developing swimmers, they’re developing human beings . . .

Believe it or not, everyone’s swimming career will eventually come to an end. For some, it might be before high school ends. For others, graduating from high school might mean the end of a swimming “career.” Still others will venture out into the world and swim for a college . . . but only a chosen few will EVER be Michael Phelps . . .

Ever hear the saying, “Show a man to fish and you feed him for a day…teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The core values of the YMCA (caring, honesty, respect, responsibility) are meant for the individual child to carry throughout their life. It is the responsibility of every YMCA employee, coach, and official to teach these core values to each and every child they come into contact with on a YMCA pool deck. Indeed, these individuals should lead by example; constantly demonstrating the integrity necessary to uphold these lifelong values and to solidify these values in the children they teach so that they will become a lifelong lesson for each and every child.

Any organization can teach a child to swim, but what does that child do when the competitive swimming is over? What will they have learned as a result of the time they spent in a YMCA program?

In the spirit of the core values of the YMCA, as well as a desire to help our High School Juniors and Seniors prepare for their college swimming careers, KEY Swimming is proud to have developed this page to help them, as well as their parents, answer as many questions as we can on the process of what it takes to become a collegiate swimmer. We have included many “Tips” and suggestions you might find helpful, and we encourage you to browse the selected web sites for information and help.

Also, keep in mind that this will be a “living” web site; information will be updated, changed, or simply added to, as is necessary to maintain a comprehensive site. Of course mistakes can, and probably will, happen so, to that end, if you find inconsistencies or something you feel needs to be corrected, please let us know . . .

The parents adding to this site have been through it so there is, and will continue to be, a wealth of knowledge from those of us who have been there.

So, start browsing, enjoy yourself and, above all, ASK QUESTIONS . . .

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Colleges may already be looking at you, but do NOT assume they are only looking at times. Stroke technique, grades, practice schedule, commitment, body style, etc., all might play an important role in a college coaches interest in you. Indeed, it was only AFTER my daughter signed with her college that we learned they had been watching her since her freshman year, were impressed with her times and her GPA, but were also impressed with her stroke techniques and overall body style. It was what they were looking for . . .

Head Coach Eric Wentzel and the rest of the KEY Coaching Staff want to help make your college swimming dreams come true, and they are ready, willing, and able to help all our high school swimmers during the college decision making process, including recruiting and scholarship opportunities . . .

But understand that much of this is your responsibility, and no matter how much the coaches want to help you, ultimately, they can’t do it for you. Hopefully, the information provided here will be of tremendous benefit to you . . .

Many of the below articles will help you get started, and they provide broad-based information on many college recruiting topics.

In addition to the articles and web sites added by the parents of KEY Swimming, we would also like to thank the following organizations for their data gathering efforts:USA Swimming, NCAA, Missouri Valley Swimming, Cincinnati Marlins, and the Dayton Raiders



I. Where to Start:


In addition to the below sites, you should also be able to receive some help from your school guidance counselor who should have, among other publications, the latest copy of the NCAA rules and regulations regarding the College-Bound Student Athlete . . .

College Swimming 101

Every year many swimmers graduate from high school and swim for a university or college. USA Swimming’s Convention Education Committee compiled a list of resources for coaches, athletes, and parents on the process of becoming a college swimmer.


How To Handle College Recruiting

For the high school athlete and his or her parents, recruiting can be a very positive culmination of a fine youth athletic career, or it can mean weeks of irritation, frustration, and anxiety, leading eventually to a much-regretted decision about the athlete's future education and athletic opportunity.

Playing the recruiting game demands a well-thought-out game plan. What follows are some guidelines to how the recruiting game is played and how to end up a winner.


College Board: College Planning Made Easy

This is perhaps one of the most important web sites you will ever visit for college recruiting. There is a WEALTH of information at this site, and we encourage both you and your parents to spend time browsing this site and the information it provides . . .

The NCAA Eligibility Center (Formerly the NCAA Clearinghouse)

Equally as important, if you’re planning on swimming in college, you MUST go here and learn about this site. The NCAA will require you to register through their Eligibility Center (Clearinghouse) and college coaches will use this site for information on you.


High School Swimmers, you MUST register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (Clearinghouse) by the end of yourJunior year, or you will NOT be eligible for Division I or Division II recruitment . . .


FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, ensures that all eligible individuals can benefit from federally funded or federally guaranteed financial assistance for education beyond high school. We consistently champion the promise of postsecondary education to all Americans—and its value to our society.

Federal Student Aid plays a central and essential role in supporting postsecondary education by providing money for college to eligible students and families. We partner with postsecondary schools, financial institutions and other participants in the Title IV student financial assistance programs to deliver services that help students and families who are paying for college.

Today, Federal Student Aid performs a range of critical functions that include, among others:

  • Processing 14 million student financial aid applications each year;
  • Disbursing more than $80 billion annually in financial aid to students through schools;
  • Enforcing financial aid rules and regulations;
  • Partnering with schools, financial institutions and guaranty agencies to prevent fraud, waste and abuse;
  • Educating students and families on the process of obtaining aid and other college funding;
  • Servicing millions of student loan accounts;
  • Securing repayment from borrowers who have defaulted on their loans; and
  • Operating information technology systems and tools that help manage our $400 billion loan portfolio.

This is a complex, multifaceted mission that calls on a range of staff skills and demands coordination by all levels of management. Consequently, Federal Student Aid—the government’s first Performance-Based Organization (PBO)—emphasizes tangible results and efficient performance, as well as the continuous improvement of the processes and systems that support our mission.


II. College Questionnaires

For college questionnaires you receive via your coach(es) or your school:

If you are absolutely “dead set” AGAINST going to that particular college, don’t fill out the questionnaire. However if you’re interested, or even curious, fill it out and send it back. This is an easy way to start getting your name out to colleges. Our recommendation would be to spend as much time as necessary filling out the first one you do and make it as complete and accurate as possible. Before you send it back, copy it so you can use it as a template for the next one.

Research college questionnaires on your own:

There is NOTHING stopping you from doing your own research, going out to college web sites, and filling out on-line prospective student athlete questionnaires. Many colleges have this, and they are generally easy to get to through the athletic department links at the various college sites.

. . . and which college sites should you look at? From experience, we suggest looking at the times which were posted at the most recent league championship meet for a variety of colleges. Find those schools where you feel your times are competitive, and go to some of those sites. You don’t necessarily need to limit yourself to these colleges and/or leagues, but they provide a good place to start . . .

We also suggest . . .


III. Marketing Yourself and Planning the Visits:

OK, it’s the summer between your junior and senior year, and you’re ready to start visiting colleges. As you have probably already discovered, NCAA rules state that you can make as many visits to as many colleges as you want at your own expense. While there, you can take the initiative to speak to the coaching staff of the swim team, but you have to initiate all the contacts. This could be a good place to get your club coaches involved . . .

The rules regarding official visits differ from division to division. For Division I, II, and III official visits, the university can pay for your transportation and 48-hour stay. You are allowed to take official visits to five (5) different Division I and II universities or schools. There is no limit to the number of official visits you may take to a Division III school.


College Recruiting: Marketing Yourself (How to Standout From the Competition)

College-bound student-athletes often struggle to effectively market themselves academically and athletically. Even supremely talented and attractive student-athletes encounter difficulties in promoting their abilities. Two student-athletes of the same academic and athletic caliber might be separated by a strong initiative for successful self-marketing. This article focuses on how to stand out from the other swimmers.


College Recruiting: The Big Trip (Tips for Taking Official Visits to Colleges)

Recruiting trips to universities are one of the best ways for you to find out where you will best fit in, and where you want to study. The rules regarding official visits differ from division to division. For Division I, II, and III official visits, the university can pay for your transportation and 48-hour stay. You are allowed to take official visits to five (5) different Division I and II universities or schools. There is no limit to the number of official visits you may take to a Division III school.


Planning Your College Visit

By Eric Wentzel, Head Coach, KEY Swimming

College visits are common for seniors deciding on where to attend school and swim in college. Below are just a few sample questions that I feel are appropriate to ask. You will gain insight into the college program you are considering swimming for, making your decision easier.  Chances are you will spend plenty of time with the current athletes and the coaching staff around the campus and possibly off campus. I believe being yourself is crucial and I believe that you will know in your heart afterwards or during the visit if you might be a good candidate for that school.


IV. Additional Recruiting / Recruiters

Be Recruited

Join the largest and most successful online network connecting high school athletes and college coaches. Register for free today . . .


NCSA Athletic Recruiting

The largest recruiting network of college coaches, NCSA empowers athletes to maximize their athletic swimming scholarship and life potential by connecting the best of sports with the professional and business community and beyond.


V. Additional Resources


National Letter of Intent

NCAA Information on the National Letter of Intent


College Swimming News

NCAA College Swimming


VI. Articles of Interest:

Why College Swimming?

By Chelsea Walden-Schreiner, Splash Magazine (March/April 2011)

Opportunities abound for swimmers looking to swim in college. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit, whether it’s an NCAA Division I program or a college club team, and involves careful consideration of both academic and athletic goals.

College Swimming FAQs

By Mike Gustafson, Splash Magazine (March/April 2011)

Many age group swimmers wonder: should I swim in college? This article has some FAQs to help guide you, inspire you, scare you and enlighten you about some truths and urban legends of college swimming.

So You Want To Swim in College?

 By Mike Watkins, Splash Magazine (March/April 2011)

Thousands of high school swimmers embark upon the college recruitment journey each year. But what should they look for in an academic and athletic program – and what are their prospective coaches looking for in them.


Wanted: Female Players (6/16/2007)

By Russell Adams, Wall Street Journal

Thirty-five years after Title IX, colleges struggle to fill women's teams . . .


College Recruiting - NCAA Academic Progress Rates: Swimmers Succeed (6/6/2005)


From Indy in May has come not only the 500 but also the NCAA's revised Academic Progress Rates for 6000 teams in 41 Division I sports for the 2003-4 academic year . . .


College Recruiting - A Coaches' Perspective: An Interview with the Head Coach of American University

USA Swimming

Excerpts from a USA Swimming interview with Mark Davin, the Head Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Coach at American University in Washington, DC. Davin was recently named Colonial Athletic Association "Men's Coach of the Year," his second consecutive honor.


College Recruiting - What Coaches Want: Traits Most Coaches Look For in a Swimmer

USA Swimming

To improve chances as a college applicant, it is important to consider the recruiting process from a coach's perspective. In doing so, potential recruits are able to understand a coach's desires and make themselves more attractive candidates. While not all coaches seek the same swimmers, talents, and characteristics, they do share common needs. The following is a list of traits (in no particular order) that NCAA swimming coaches might find desirable. Assess yourself in each of these categories and attempt to improve in weaker areas to enhance your appeal and attractivenes.