Swimming in College

One of Swim Melbourne's objectives is to get kids swimming in college.  We feel that swimming in college is an experience that is hard to match.  And it doesn't matter whether it's a Division I, II, or III school, those 4 years are the most memorable in your life and swimmers will take those learned experiences on their journey through life.  So this page is to help with making that dream real for those swimmers.

NCAA Resources

Division I Toolkit

Division I Eligibility Standards

Division I Recruiting Guide

Division II Toolkit

Division II Recruiting Guide

Division III Toolkit

College Swimming

NCAA Clearinghouse

Do you want to swim in college?

Splash magazine had an article that pointed out that serious swimmers usually have two dreams: to swim in the Olympics and to swim in college. The first dream will come true for two out of every 10,000 swimmers in members of USA Swimming. The second can come true for 100 percent of all members of USA Swimming. The key is finding a program that’s right for you, no matter what your ability. Not everyone will be able to swim for a NCAA Division I powerhouse like Auburn or Texas, but there’s no shame in swimming for a smaller Division I, II, III, or NAIA school. If you find one where your teammates share similar values and goals, one that will foster your growth as a student athlete, your experience will be a rewarding one.

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 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 student’s academic ability. The vast majority of swimming student-athletes receive financial aid through academic related scholarships, grants and student loans, not through athletic scholarships. Whether you end up earning a scholarship or walking on, families must try to pick a school looking at certain parameters.  

Picking a school for you

  • Does the school have a swim team?  Swim Melbourne's goal is to have all swimmers on the team swim in college. The club understands the benefits of being part of a team. If the school has a team, start to show interest in the program.
  • Involvement Level. Evaluate what your desire is to be involved not only in your swim team, but around campus and other activities. Will the team commitments allow you time to be involved in say Greek life or student government?
  • Can you get accepted? It is very important to review the acceptance standards of any and all schools that you are interested in attending. If you are unable to meet these standards, it can make your desire to swim on that school's swim team a tougher road.
  • Academic Offerings. If you know your intended major, or even if you don't, it is important to review all of the academic offerings each school has. If you are undecided, do you have plenty of options to explore at the school or are your options limited?
  • Public vs. Private. Public schools are funded heavily by state and government monies while private institutions are funded by tuition, endowments and donations.  Public institutions normally have an "in-state" cost for those students who are residents of the state and an "out-of-state" cost for those who attended from a different state. These prices differences can make schools become more reasonably priced for your budget or put them out of reach.  Private schools most often have the same pricing for all types of students, in-state and out-of-state.
  • Division I, II, and III.  Generally speaking, NCAA divisions separate schools by the level of competition and the resources of their athletic departments.  Division I schools have the biggest student bodies and the largest athletic budgets.  More than 350 schools provide opportunities to over 170,000 student-athletes.  Almost 300 schools are part of Division II. Division II schools offer fewer athletic scholarships due to their smaller athletic budget.  Division III is the largest of all NCAA divisions, with 444 institutions and more than 170,000 student-athletes, but they have the smallest athletic budget.  
  • Expense.  Review the different types and all options each school has in terms of scholarships and financial aid. While some schools do not offer athletic scholarships, they could have more academic offerings than others. Schools have academic based scholarships; need based scholarships and private scholarships that students must apply for.
  • Location.  Where is the school located? Is it located in a part of the country that experiences all four seasons and maybe you are only used to mild seasons? Are you going to want to visit your hometown often to see friends and family? If so, is this a car ride away or maybe a flight?  Additionally, does the location of this school require long travel trips for team activities? When making team trips, do you travel by bus or plane and how much time do you spend making these trips?
  • Size.  For some people, attending a large college is just what they are looking for—classes with 300 people and a campus with tens of thousands. For others, a small intimate campus is more ideal.
  • Conference Competition.  It is possible to gauge the level of a swim team based on how they perform within their conference. Conference championships play an important part of all athletic departments. A good check for your ability to swim at a given school is to check your times against the times posted at the conference championship. Would you be able to swim and score points for your school?

Before starting a college search it may be helpful to create a list of the most important aspects to YOU of attending a college. It is important to note that any college experience is what each individual makes of it!

What does swimming in college look like?

  • Practice Requirements (20 hours a week)
  • Class Requirements (12 credit hours minimum)
  • Social Life and Family Life Balance
  • Four-year commitment
  • Student-Athlete resources (tutors, early class registration)
  • Vacation and Breaks may be different

Recruiting Trips

Any visit to a college campus by a college-bound student-athlete or his or her parents paid for by the college is an official visit.  Visits paid for by college-bound student-athletes or their parents are unofficial visits.  During an official visit the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for the prospect, lodging and three meals per day for both the prospect and the parent or guardian, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event.The only expenses a college-bound student-athlete may receive from a college during an unofficial visit are three tickets to a home sports event. 

It is EXTREMELY important to remember your visit to a college and meeting with the team and coach can be your one and only chance to make a good impression in person.  It is important to consider what you are wearing.  Do you look like you are truly interested in the school and are dressed to impress the coach or do you look like an unorganized, unmotivated student? (Side note: DO NOT WEAR ANOTHER SCHOOLS GEAR!)  And remember to get your questions answered. Don't be passive in the experience.

Remember on a recruiting trip, coaches and teammates are doing their best to get you to their school and team. Try to remain objective about the experience. This one weekend with a coach and team may not be the best representation of what your college career will look like at that school. Think about your next four years there, not just a single weekend.As much as you are judging a team, coach and campus, they are doing the same to you. They want to know if you will fit in with them. Put your best foot forward and enjoy your time getting to know the team, but know how to balance having a good time and being a responsible recruit.


National Letter of Intent.  A college-bound student-athlete when the student-athlete agrees to attend a Division I or II college or university signs a National Letter of Intent for one academic year. Participating institutions agree to provide financial aid for one academic year to the student-athlete as long as the student-athlete is admitted to the school and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules. The National Letter of Intent is voluntary and not required for a student-athlete to receive financial aid or participate in sports.  Signing a National Letter of Intent ends the recruiting process since participating schools are prohibited from recruiting student-athletes who have already signed letters with other participating schools.  A student-athlete who has signed a National Letter of Intent may request a release from his or her contract with the school. If a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent with one school but attends a different school, he or she will lose one full year of eligibility and must complete a full academic year at their new school before being eligible to compete.

Verbal Commitments.  Verbal commitment is the phrase used to describe a college-bound student-athlete’s commitment to a school before he or she is able to sign a National Letter of Intent (“NLI”). A college-bound student athlete can announce a verbal commitment at any time. While verbal commitments have become popular, they are NOT binding on either the college-bound student-athlete or the school. Only the signing of the NLI accompanied by a financial aid agreement is binding on both parties.  As stated, verbal commitments are non-binding, but student-athletes should think about how changing a verbal commitment can make them look if they are still looking for the team they do want to join.

Walk On/Non-Scholarship Athletes.  Any athlete who does not receive athletic monies is considered a "walk-on" athlete. These non-athletic scholarship athletes may receive academic aid from the school or private donors.