Swimming in College Information

-Recruiting Timeline

Swimming in college and understanding the 'recruiting process' is something we want to help our Senior/High School team swimmers better understand as there is a lot of information and interest in this topic.  This, and more information, will become part of our website.

4 pieces of good advice from the Coaching staff:

  1. Expect to do some homework and work on your correspondence. Get some help, but college coaches want to hear from and about you. Your parents have a part in this, but it is up to you to compete for a spot in a college swim program. Compete!
  2. Take your ego out of the process as much as possible (athlete and family). The goal is to find the right place for you, with the correct mix of academics and athletics. Find that place...and then work out the details.
  3. While in high school, you are not a member of the NCAA, or bound by any of its’ rules. The colleges and coaches are bound by rules, and will let you know what they can and cannot do as they go.
  4. Find schools that have the major you want. Your college diploma will be more important than your swimming times after graduation!

During your Freshman/Sophomore Year:

There are many options for your swimmer if they desire to swim in college.  Start searching for universities on the following webpages:




The National Collegiate Athletic Associate (NCAA) is the governing body of most college sports. Your first step towards playing your sport at the college level is to register with the Eligibility Centers (formerly called the Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse) through NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA. Doing this is establishing your academic eligibility for College Athletics.

Know the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Requirements.  There are certain core high school courses you will need to take to be eligible to swim in college.

What you should be thinking/doing     

1.  Set up your academics

a. Eligible for Honors/AP programs? Other programs?

b. Where do most graduates go to college?

c.  Get to know your counselor, and let them know your goals (don’t worry they can change)

d.  Complete the PSAT or the ACT equivalent

e.  Consider taking SAT/ACT Prep classes (rule of thumb: taking these prep classes is worth 100 pts on the SAT)

2.   Let your high school swim coaches know your goals/map out your strategy

3.   Start thinking about colleges and programs of interest

4.   Whenever possible, take an unofficial visit. Particularly easy if we attend meets at/near institutions of interest to you. Or you can accompany a parent on a business trip or during a family vacation and make a visit at a college that interests you. 

5.  If at a national/sectional meet, you can approach a college coach as long as these two items are true:

a.  You have completed your last event for the meet

b.  Your THT/High School coach has released you to go talk to that college coach.

What Colleges can do:

1. During your freshman/sophomore years, the college coaches can send you a questionnaire in response, and some general team info, but NO recruiting materials can be sent to you. Typically they will send you a questionnaire or profile in the mail through your high school or the swim club. Fill them out, and return them. The school will add you to their mailing list and you will get information about that School and Team. You can always let a school know you are no longer interested later.

2. Keep track of swimmers of interest to them, both locally and nationally.

3.  Can talk to swimmer or parent if you initiate the conversation, either by phone or in-person

4.  Cannot return a phone message left; you must successfully initiate contact

Important homework for you and things to think about:

Find out about the academic reputation of the school. 

Check out the team records and coach’s history with the program. You can visit the college/athletic page of the college website to see this information.

Use this list of questions HERE to begin compiling your list of important questions to ask and get answers from coaches, academic counselors and yourself!

Send the coaches of the programs you’re most interested in a cover letter. Include with the cover letter an athletic resume including the following information (most teams have questionnaires posted online):

  • Your name, birthdate, address, phone number, email
  • GPA and test scores
  • Training background
    • How many workouts per week, yardage, hours per workout
    • If you’ve done weights or a strength training program, running, medicine balls---all dryland information
    • How many years you’ve been swimming
  • Competition background
    • Send them a record of your times/improvement
  • Any/all other activities you’re involved with in school or in your community (e.g. taught swim lessons for X years to pre-school children, lifeguard, Community Outreach programs)

Be sure to send them updated letters/info annually!

During your Sophomore and Junior Year:

After you have begun your junior year, the college coaches can begin sending you official recruiting material.

You should be sending updated information to them, and narrowing your list of universities/colleges.

Sign up/register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (Used to be called NCAA Clearinghouse).  You can register online on the NCAA website  and the registration fee currently costs $80.

NCAA created a helpful checklist for your swimmer to review before registering with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Be sure to read this checklist before you register.

You should also consider signing up for the NAIA Eligibility Center and/or NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Eligibility Center. Many NAIA and NJCAA schools offer the opportunity to swim and could be a good fit you. If there is chance your swimmer will be looking to swim at an NAIA School or wants to attend a NJCAA school for a two year program, it is a good idea to visit these sites. You can register online on the NAIA website or the NJCAA website.  The registration fee currently costs $80.  The NAIA website has helpful information and a checklist for high school student athletes to read before registering. The NJCAA website has a really helpful pamphlet for prospective student athletes.

July 1 between your Junior and Senior Years

What you should be thinking/doing

1.   Should have a list of schools that you have whittled down a little bit. No magic number, but something you have been working on.

2.   As part of the process, you should have researched the conference results for each school of interest, and are comfortable you can compete at that level and above for that school. Results are pretty easy to find through the college team websites. Coaches want athletes who can score at the conference level. If not the first year, then the second year. You may have to sell yourself a little if that is not the case.

3.  Make sure that academics are set and match up with schools you are looking at. It is okay to reach for a school you really want to attend! 

4.  You have tried, to the best of your ability, to make an unofficial campus visit to your Top Choices. Communicate to the coaches when you are planning to be on campus, as they may be able to meet with you and tour the facilities. They may also set you up with an appointment or meeting with an academic advisor/admissions person for more information.

5. Check out the applications process and any requirements for your Top Choices a year out. Are there essays you may need to write? What are they like? What are the GPA requirements?

6. Take ACT/SAT. Take them early in the year, so you can consider retaking without going into your senior year.

7. Let THT coaches help you by letting the college coaches your Top Choices know of your interest, and act as your advocate!

8. Register with the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA Eligibility Centers if you have NOT previously registered yet.

What Colleges can do:

1.  Send you a media guide/questionnaire.

2.  Correspond by US Mail and Email (personal and bulk letters), not limited at all.

3.  Some colleges will arrange a ‘junior’ day unofficial visit that you may want to attend.

4.  This one is new, tricky and only applies to the top 1-2% of recruits:

a. College coach can make one phone call to an athlete in March of their Junior year, in order to set up:

b.  One visit in April of the recruits’ junior year that must be at the recruits High School. College coaches can meet with Athletes and Parents, as well as school personnel and coaches.

5.   A lot of college coaches will take advantage of the call in March, but the visit in April has not become a widespread practice as of yet.

College coaches can officially begin calling you on this date.  They may only speak with you once per week, but may send unlimited mailings and email. 

During your Senior Year: Most of the work should be done by now!

What you should be thinking/doing:

1.  Have your list whittled down to 5+/- colleges/universities/schools

2.  Work with your parents, counselors, your THT coaches and your Top Choices to determine if you are interested in a Fall Decision or Spring Decision:

-There are TWO (2)  “signing” periods for scholarships if you are offered one…..early (November) and late (April).  There are pros and cons to both.  If you take your visits early and are sure of your decision, then by all means, sign early!  It takes a load of pressure off your shoulders in the spring semester!   Some coaches may say to wait….they may have more scholarship money available in the spring semester to offer.   This is a gamble…..maybe they will, maybe they won’t…..it’s not always a guarantee.   ---Some coaches may offer a full scholarship (room/board/tuition/fees/books)…others may offer a partial scholarship, which can include any of those segments.  Division I and II schools offer athletic scholarships, Division III only has academic scholarships.  If you are not sure, then do wait until the spring.   Give yourself more time to think over the decision, and make the one that’s right for you.  Let your THT coaches’ work as your advocate during the process

a.  Most schools will have to offer you Fall Decision for it to be an option.

b.  Spring Decision (April) may be better situation for most, if you can wait.

3.  Applications should have been acquired through the summer, completed and submitted in a timely manner. Most will require your high school to fill out a section, as well as your teachers. Give your teachers and counselors plenty of time to complete, and monitor their progress in relation to due dates.  This is important to keep track of so you don't miss any key dates or deadlines.

4. Schools may offer you an ‘Official Visit’. Set up a schedule of visits in the fall. You may take 5 “official” visits (where the university pays for any/all of your trip) to college campuses.  These 5 visits must be to 5 different Colleges/Universities. Most visits happen then, regardless of Fall/Spring Decision.

What Colleges can do:

1.  As of July 1, after junior year, college coaches are allowed to contact a recruit by phone, one call per week. Not all schools will call once each week.

2.  Set up their Official Visits.

3.  Walk the athletes through their Applications, and keep apprised of its progress.

4.  Set up In-Home visits with some of their recruits.

Important homework and things to think about:

Be sure to take a copy of the list of questions (see following page) with you on your visits, to cover all your bases.

Keep a journal/notes of your visits….write down your impressions of each place….what you liked, what you didn’t like, etc.   Put down as many details as possible, so that you can compare the campuses after you’ve visited a number of them.  Remember, you are choosing the place where you want to be happy for the next 4 years of your life!

It’s very “romantic” to be recruited….having college coaches paying all this attention to you.   Be sure to get your questions answered, and keep your eyes and ears open to what is best for you!

If you decide you’re really not interested in a particular school and the coach continues to call you, please tell him/her you’re not interested.  It’s a difficult thing to do, but it will save both of you time in the long run.  If the coach gets mad or says mean things to you for not wanting to join his/her program, then it probably confirms that you didn’t want to swim for this person anyway!

Your High School guidance counselor can help you through this process, too…he or she can help you with financial aid information and getting your test scores sent to places before your official visits.  You may also have resources to tell you about the academic reputations of the schools you’re interested.   Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get help!   The more informed you are, the more easily you’re going to make the best decision for yourself!

Good luck with your journey and process!!


Unofficial visits: You may go to any campus “unofficially” (where you pay for all your expenses) as many times as you like, and at any point in the selection process…during any year of school.

Official VisitTrip to campus financed by the host school, including transportation, meals and housing. The trip is limited to 48 consecutive hours. Parents may accompany at their own expense. Limit of 5 visits to 5 different Universities.